Thursday, April 5, 2012

Downfall Degeneration Double review

Get out your zombies AND your necromophs! It's a special double review of Dead Space: Downfall and Resident Evil: Degeneration!
That's one of the necromorphs, right? I'm pretty sure it is.
I thought it was fitting reviewing these together. They're both animated movies based on action/survival horror videogame properties.  Dead Space, at least to me, always felt like Resident Evil 4 but in space.  So which animated horror will win out? Or will it be a double draw?!

We'll start with Dead Space: Downfall as that's the one I watched first. Downfall takes place before the first Dead Space game and recounts the events that befell the USG Ishimura.  It provides a story that gives greater detail into what you walk into when you start the game. It's hard to summarize what happens without spoiling anything if you haven't played the game or watched the movie.  If you have already played the game, it kind of kills the tension because you already know the outcome of the crew and why.  It's weird catch-22. If you play the game, it spoils the tension of the movie. If you watch the movie, it spoils the mystery of the game!

I can't really say that this is scary.  Although, I didn't think Dead Space was scary either, so maybe if you thought it was then maybe this will make you shit bricks! They focus a lot on jump scares, which if you know there's bad things going to happen, it's just not that creepy.  I was hoping they'd spend more time on the crew slowly driving mad.  That seemed infinitely more interesting and creepy.  In the beginning there are a couple of freaky moments with guys tripping out, but then they get right into the action after the necromorph shit hits the fan.

There is a loooooot of blood here. Extremely gory stuff with monster chomping, parts getting sliced off, needles going places and people getting chopped in half. It's pretty awesome if you're into the blood and guts. If not, well you will probably not enjoy this at all. Many of the creatures from the game make their appearance here, and it's cool to find out how they're all connected.  Half of the fighting is with guns and the other half is with these futuristic laser chainsaws. They're cool, but I wish they'd used the full arsenal from Dead Space. Where are all the plasma cutters and flame throwers and the force guns and the rotary saws?  I bet no one had enough money to buy them in the store. Damn this space economy!  It's also disappointing not one character used stasis or kinesis.
A travesty that no one ONCE force chucked an explosive barrel. 
The main story follows Alissa Vincent(Nike Futterman) and her team as she tries to save the crew and ship from the horrors of the necromorphs. Can she do it?! SPOILER ALERT: Probably not. I found it interesting learning exactly how things came to be and how everything went to shit(Hint: Religion spoils everything).  I couldn't find myself too invested in the characters because I already knew they weren't going to make it to the game, the problem with most prequels,  but it was a fun little story nonetheless. It's also nice to see the various touches they imported from the game: various places you'll walk through, tools you'll use, voice recordings you'll pick up and even characters you'll meet.  I love how they all have the health indicator on their back, and my favorite part was seeing it slowly drain away on someone dying!

It's mostly 2D animation with a slight anime style similar to The Animatrix and a few 3D parts thrown in. And for the most part it's very smooth, save some shoddy 3D shots(you couldn't animate leaves properly?).  It has a very disturbing and creepy atmosphere with lots of spurting blood. The voice acting is pretty good, and I was surprised they got a couple of actors from the original game!  Overall I was pretty happy with Dead Space: Downfall. I wouldn't say it was amazing or a nail biting horror film or needed viewing to enjoy the game, but it was some gory fun that did fill in a few of the holes. If you like the Dead Space franchise, you'll like this. On to Resident Evil: Degeneration!
Isaac is unamused at the degeneration of this evil resident.
I'm not sure why I was expecting this to be really good. I think it was a combination of Resident Evil 4 being such a great game and Final Fantasy: Advent Children being such a great 3D movie based on a game. But for whatever reason, this was not as good as I expected. Or at all.

Resident Evil: Degeneration involves Leon S. Kennedy(Paul Mercier) and Claire Redfield(Alyson Court) once again dealing with the T-virus and the G-Virus and all the other viruses in-between. Thankfully though, Umbrella has nothing to do with it this time. It's hard to figure out from the MASSIVE Resident Evil universe where exactly this takes place, but I'm guessing it's after the events of RE 4.  Umbrella has gone down, the outbreak and zombies are well known, and seven years after the events of Raccoon City people are starting to rebuild again. A new company has taken up the mantle of trying to create a vaccine from the breakout, but something fishy is going on...

When Claire Redfield comes home after a long trip, she's about to leave the airport when a plane crashes into it and a whole mess of zombies tumble out.  It sets off a series of events that will take our heroes onto all kinds of confusing adventures.

It started off interesting. They begin the movie with a smattering of TV clips setting up what happened in the past and what the world is like now.  Protesters of this new company that's doing bad stuff wear zombie masks and shamble around much like PETA protesters as bloody animal mascots.  And it is hilarious. How have they not done this before in an RE game/movie? Think about how amazing that is: Demonstrators dressing up as zombies to protest companies like Umbrella. This is the high-point of the movie, ten minutes in.  And it provides some nice little tension as you don't now if those are people or really zombies under those masks!
Obviously just one of those hippie protesters. Get a job you!
When the plane crashes and everything goes to shit, things progress as well as you'd expect them. There's some nice action, especially when Leon finally gets in there as he's mastered the headshot kill from all that experience from RE 4.  But then the problem at the airport gets resolved and everyones fine by the end of the first act. That's when things start getting boring and convoluted. And if you've ever played a Resident Evil game, you know just how convoluted they can get.  And none of it matters.

They set up this new company and these new villains and new characters and for what? I can't see that it adds anything to the story or to the overall Resident Evil franchise. It's not like they added a new plague like Las Plagas from RE 4 or delved into anything about the characters like RE 5. Leon and Claire are just sort of there. The main villain, who's supposed to be a twist is pretty boring, and gets captured at the end.  The main monster is a rip off of Nemesis, who uses the exact same virus that created Nemesis. The main characters spend an hour running away from and not killing him and then Leon magically kills him in one headshot, because...wait why couldn't he do that before?

They added a new character, Angela, who looks like a carbon copy Angelina Jolie with a permanent duck face.  She spends the movie staring blankly at people and not shooting zombies.  And sometimes breaks down crying. She is just awful.  Somehow she does not understand that zombies are zombies, even though the entire world knows(zombie protesters!) and Leon straight up tells her they're zombies. Why is she a part of this task force?  Oh her brother's a mutant terrorist? It's always the family connections! She's worse than Ashley.
Angelina Jolie, what are you doing in this Resident Evil movie? And why is your mouth open?
Right after they get out of the airport, someone announces that terrorists plan to release the T-virus if their demands aren't met by midnight, and in order to stop it, they go talk about their feelings and have tea. And I'm pretty sure half an hour later everyone has forgotten about that plot point altogether and moved on. There is no sense of urgency as they stand around and do nothing.  Halfway through the movie they introduce this completely new setting, and the entire rest of the movie takes place at this fancy lab.  Granted, it's this cool giant lab similar to the Hive in the first Resident Evil movie, but it's really jarring and just...confounding. Why didn't they introduce this place earlier? If this is where the main plot takes place, why did we need the bit at the airport at all?  It feels like it's two separate movies. Or a really bad videogame.

The animation is in 3D and it's...ok. There are a few nice shots, but mostly the animation is subpar at best. It really does remind me of one long cutscene from a Resident Evil game.  I'm fairly certain this was dubbed from the original japanese version as the lip syncing is way off. You just can't get away with it like you can in 2D. The voice acting is barely passable, although they do have Steve Blum, so points for that.

They have one good mutant at the end, who they ruin by stretching the fight and chase scene on by an hour. It feels like they were going to put another creature in there for a final boss fight, but ran out of time and ideas.  There are a few bits of action and one or two cool mutations, but I don't see what it adds to anything, or why you would need to see it. If you need a Resident Evil fix, play one of the games or go watch the first movie again.

THE GOOD: Downfall has lots and lots of bloody gory action, and a halfway decent story. Degeneration has...Steve Blum?

THE BAD: There's no tension in Downfall, and I feel like they missed a few opportunities adding scenes with more of the weapons.  But Degeneration beats it with boring characters, a convoluted plot, and really no reason to watch it.

THE VERDICT: Downfall kicks Degeneration's ass!  Downfall is pretty fun, and at least has some great action while adding a bit of story to the Dead Space mythos. Degeneration is a bunch of rotting zombie fluff that you'd be better off avoiding like the T-virus.

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