It was just this past weekend that my R.A. came into my room and said something I’ll never forget…or at least that I haven’t forgotten yet.
He said, “You wanna go see Resident Evil 3?”
My answer was of course yes. So we grabbed some money and another guy from my hall and embarked on a twenty-minute odyssey to the movie theater. The movie was of course a horrible action movie. It has always surprised me how movies that can do so much with their settings just throw it all away in the name of pointless action. The t-virus with its strange mutations, including Alice’s psionic powers and how they affect her, the mobs of zombies themselves, and the umbrella corporation’s unlimited power are all rich places for a little social critique and a lot of character development. But I suppose when Resident Evil 2 was rated PG-13 for non-stop violence (I kid you not), the lack of most of these things was to be expected.
What I didn’t expect was zombie crows being demolished with a flamethrower: pretty bamf if you ask me.
But a lot of action movies have possibly interesting expositions that just turn into shells for pointless violence, so what? I expected it to be a pointless action movie, and you, reader…whoever you are, probably should have to. But something hit me the other day when Professor Clayton gave us our blog topic that hadn’t really struck me before, and that is that the Resident Evil games provide all these things the movies should provide. That is, they provide a lot more character development, plot, and identification with the characters than the movies do, which is really not something I have come to expect from video games. I’m not quite sure if it’s the games’ victory or the movies’ defeat that provides this juxtaposition, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s a lotta bit of both. We’ve already covered how the movie is just an action filled empty-husk made with a little bit of exposition and a little bit of character development, but what of the games.
I’ve played a few different games in the series, and they all share the creepy noises and jump-out-at-you moments that the movies love to use, but the only game I have truly perused in its entirety is Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube. The game, as opposed to the movie, limits its number of characters and provides a much longer time for the player to become accustomed to them (as any video game worth its salt will take longer than 2 hours to finish). Granted, most of the time there isn’t much character development when you’re running around as Leon owning zombies with the “Red 9,” but just experiencing the terror he is experiencing makes lets the player identify with Leon.
In addition to simple exposure difference, Resident Evil 4 has a number of movie clips that provide dialog, character development, and plot advancement. Not only do these clips provide do this, but they are also interactive. At the beginning, when I was taking a break from the game and put my controller down and was subsequently beheaded by a zombie with a giant ax when I wasn’t ready to press A, this interactiveness was really annoying, but in retrospect it made me identify more with Leon. It’s not exactly me being there, but it’s much closer to being with Leon than just sitting back and watching a movie.
But interactivity is really what video games are all about, so back to dialog, development, advancement. There was probably zero meaningful dialog in Resident Evil 3. They speak a little bit to strange “t-virus mutations” whereas the video game slowly reveals the strange cult los illuminados and the evil las plagas that they worship. As one plays through the game, they find out where the plagas come from and how they’re connected to the umbrella corporation and what they intend to do. During this time they meet dethroned lords of an ancient family and remorseful scientists who aided the evil cause and the president’s daughter. The characters have desires, goals, and feelings.
In the movie, the only real desire is to survive and destroy the umbrella corporation at all costs.
Without going into detail, let’s just say I find this to be the truth with most of the video games vs. movies made from video games comparisons. Most games are not quite so developed perhaps, but almost all the movies do just as bad a job as the Resident Evil movies. It doesn’t have to be this way. Especially with Resident Evil I feel that the setting can be opened up into, if not meaningful, extremely good movies, but as of now, that hasn’t happened. For now, it seems to me that movies should leave video games to themselves, as they do a better job of things generally better done in movies (you don’t expect as much dynamic character development in a video game as you do in a movie) than the movies that copy them do.