So the central conceit of the Resident Evil franchise is that an evil virus, escaped from an underground lab and created by a malevolent corporation with their own private military, has floated out into the world, and infected all the humans, transforming them into hungry undead ghouls. What’s more, it also infects animals, making for killer skinless Doberman pinschers in the first Resident Evil, and a flock of wild-eyed killer zombie crows in the third. Dobermans are scary enough by themselves, but make them slick with their own dripping viscera and hungry for human flesh… well, that would have made a dandy movie monster in itself.
The virus also mutates some people into giant mutant monsters. In the first Resident Evil film, our heroic badass Alice (Milla Jovovich) did battle with an eight-foot-long quadripedal humanoid creature with a long, lashing tongue. In the second, a peer of hers had been mutated into a faceless bazooka-toting supermutant. Even Alice herself began to mutate a bit, as she eventually started developing telekinetic powers of her own. The virus is not only resilient, but knows the importance of workplace diversifying.
And while the name of the franchise does have the word “Resident” in it, another notable facet of the series is that, well, zombie viruses spread. The evil may be resident, but zombies are men of the world. Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth film in the series, will be released in theaters on September 14th, and at this point in the in-film chronology, the zombie virus (called The T-Virus) has long ago wiped out the bulk of humanity, leaving only scattered survivors. Seeing as the tagline for the film is “Evil Goes Global,” perhaps it’s time to look at the important political issue of zombie globalization. The way the zombies go global over the course of the five films is actually a fascinating chronological study. And guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to do some delving.
Resident Evil (2002)
The bulk of the first Resident Evil film, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, takes place in a vast, cafeteria-looking underground lab, where The Umbrella Corporation has been tinkering with the very fabric of life, but also seems to make casual consumer products. When their prize possession, The T-Virus, is accidentally unleashed, the lab automatically seals itself off, protecting the people above in the fictional Raccoon City (that is the name of the town; it’s not actually a city populated by raccoons). In the complex, the hundreds of lab workers all die, and are then resurrected as braindead walking corpses just waiting for some tasty human flesh to venture by. And while Alice and her military cohorts, over the course of the film, do their darndest to contain the zombie threat (even going so far as to collapse the tunnel leading into the underground lab, it still manages to escape; one of the final shots of the film is Alice, alone, standing in the ruins of Raccoon City, waiting for zombies to appear.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Alexander Witt’s sequel picks up exactly where the last film left off. We find that Raccoon City has indeed been infected, but the Umbrella Corporation’s private military has managed to cordon off the entire town, trapping the uninfected inside with the undead. Alice is still there, this time protecting someone who may possess a cure, and eventually learning the true insidious plot of the Umbrella Corporation (hint: it has something to do with creating genetically enhanced super-soldiers; but, let’s be honest, what evil plots don’t involve super-soldiers these days?). Eventually Alice must do battle with the aforementioned bazooka supermutant in the streets of Raccoon City. And while she does manage to defeat the beast, the second film ends with a similarly chilling note as the first: an infected person manages to escape Raccoon City. We all know what that means. It’s time for the zombie apocalypse to begin in earnest.
Indeed, in between the second and third films, the T-Virus spreads over pretty much all the world, killing most of the people and animals, and turning the dead into flesh-hungry monsters. I think we can all imagine how easily the T-Virus spreads, so seeing it in a movie is irrelevant.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
I suppose “extinction” would immediately follow “the apocalypse.” Actually, I think those two events would run concurrently.
Famed Aussie director Russell Mulcahy (The Arena, Razorback, Highlander, The Shadow) takes the reigns of what is most certainly the most global of the franchise so far. Not only are there detailed maps indicating that the T-Virus has indeed spread all over the world, but, no longer trapped in a lab or a walled-off city, Alice and other survivors are free to roam the countryside in armored school busses, avoiding the ghouls and seeking shelter. Big cities are dangerous, as zombies tend to hang out in them, but big cities must be traversed for supplies. The need for provisions leads Alice and her post-apocalypse cohorts into Las Vegas, which seems to be slowly disappearing inside the desert. Unfortunately for them, Umbrella has (perhaps inexplicably) left entire storage crates full of zombies all over the city. It’s either kick ass or be eaten.
And now that the whole world is involved in this mess, it’s all Alice can do to find a cure and try to repopulate the planet with actual humans. I guess while humans shore up their numbers, the zombies would eventually starve to death. Do zombies starve? I guess it depends on which franchise you’re following.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Paul W.S. Anderson returns for this fourth film, which takes the series in a bizarre direction. At the end of Extinction, we learned that Umbrella, even though they had wiped out pretty much the entire planet, was still in operation, and was still tinkering with their super-soldier experiments. I would question the need for a military of super-soldiers when there are no countries left to conquer, but whatever. I don’t work for an evil zombie-making corporation. The quest Alice has in this fourth film is similar to the previous chapter: she seeks refuge from the zombie threat in a faraway place rumored to have escaped infection. The place is called Arcadia, although I’m not sure if they’re referring to Arcadia, CA (a suburb of Los Angeles), or are mispronouncing Acadia, the sought-after paradise of the Cajun people. Either way, we get to travel!
Indeed, by the film’s climax, we’re going to climb on board a supposedly infection-free aircraft carrier, and trek around. By the end of the fourth film, we’ve almost entered into proper road picture. Albeit without roads, and peppered with zombies.
The fifth film, then, will promise to be a Kerouac-like road movie, wherein the entire globe is the battleground, and Sal Paradise will be a hot, kick-ass chick in tight black bodysuits, shooting monsters in the face. Crazy, man. Crazy. Again, it comes out on September 14th.