With the live-action Resident Evil franchise having come to its conclusion, Capcom’s cinematic interest in the series now rests with its alternative CGI animation canon. This third film, taking place in the same universe as the games, includes characters from the previous two – Degeneration and Damnation – but works well enough as a standalone story and an introduction into this lesser oeuvre for those who have yet to sample it.
The story itself is simple enough; chemically-created zombies are now a bioweapon, an asset that can be bought and sold on the black market. Glenn Arias is an arms dealer who lost his wife and family on his wedding day, during a government-led assassination attempt, and who is now seeking revenge on those who wronged him. Our three heroes – the square-jawed Chris Redfield, the square-jawed and slightly troubled Leon S. Kennedy, and the elfin-jawed Rebecca Chambers – are assigned to find and deal with Arias before he can execute a full-scale attack on New York City. Or just after he does, as it happens, this being animation and location budgeting not being an issue. There are a few developments on the usual Resident Evil themes, such as the manner of the infection’s dispersal and its ability to create targeting mechanisms in its victims, but on the whole this is business as usual for the series.
As you might expect, the characterisation here is peremptory to say the least. Our three protagonists are given back-stories, narrative trajectories and motivations that suit the superficiality that comes of being animated; the men are muscular and taciturn, while Chambers is doe-eyed and intelligent and Arias’ hench-persons (Maria and Diego Gomez) exactly the caricatures you would predict. Nothing is included by accident, and the Gomez’ mini-arcs play out in an entirely foreseeable manner. Diego is a creation with a veneer of tragedy who elsewhere might have been considerably more interesting; here he’s a visual effect and little more.
The animation itself is a step-up from previous efforts, with the faces – and especially the eyes – almost photo-realistic, which in combination with the motion-captured movement creates moments that are almost indistinguishable from live-action. The facial expressiveness is less convincing, though, leading to a slight “uncanny valley” feel that is nevertheless not too distracting.
Where Vendetta really succeeds is in its action scenes, which are kinetic, well-choreographed and expensive-looking, and exceptionally violent. The climactic sequence in which the film’s cast finally come face to face is dynamic and intense, and not a disappointment. Adolescent boys, the obvious target audience, will be nothing short of eminently satisfied with the bloodshed and decapitation on offer. More discriminating audiences might, on the other hand, find little else in Vendetta to tickle their brains.
Special Features: commentary / three featurettes / motion capture set tour / mission briefing / 2016 Tokyo game show footage
RESIDENT EVIL: VENDETTA / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TAKANORI TSUJIMOTO / SCREENPLAY: MAKOTO FUKAMI, JOE McCLEAN / STARRING: KEVIN DORMAN, REBECCA CHAMBERS, MATTHEW MERCER, JOHN DEMITA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW