Love them or hate them; or simply just hate them and those
involved with them, the live action Resident Evil films have
been quite a financial success. Much like the game that spawned
them, Capcom probably never imagined how successful the brand
would be as a film. Not just for them, but for everyone involved
Of course it could have been a very different story, and even
the first film took over 5 years to appear from it's first ever
announcement. Throughout however the fans made vocal noise about
the idea of a Resident Evil film, be it in support, suggestion,
or disgust; and sometimes all at once. In this two part feature,
we trace the project through its development hell; what was,
would could have been, and maybe even look forward to what might
happen with the franchise in the future ahead.
January 14th, 1997.
A late announcement is placed on
that had an atypical and simple headline not uncommon within the
trade print. It says simply:
Constantin buys 'Evil' rights.
But already we're getting slightly ahead of ourselves.
After Resident Evil's original runaway and then record breaking
success on the Sony PlayStation in 1996, a clear goal of
expanding what was now emerging as a new possible franchise hit
for Capcom started to take place. Not only were their plans for
the extremely obvious, sequels for the game brand on consoles,
but also included what could at the time be considered a more
interesting risk. The original game mostly wears it's
inspirations on its sleeve, and it was clear one of those is
zombie films. And people obviously saw the possibilities this
twist on the zombie horror Resident Evil was could be capable of
as a film.
According to Constantin Film, they approached Capcom about the
franchise, but the description of the situation (found in the
films production notes many years after the fact) also makes it
sound as if Capcom was already looking to sell the rights to a
studio anyway. Either way someone in an office at Capcom's head
department in Osaka sometime in the later part of 1996 thought
this might be a gamble worth taking for this new title. In Japan
that announcement happened slightly early, the fact a movie was
going ahead was actually announced in mid-December 1996 almost a
month prior to Variety’s posting.
And so we return to Jan 1997, where Variety has published the
studio’s official announcement. Capcom has struck a deal with
the small German film making company. Who have just purchased
the rights to the game for the silver screen and also in its
first announcement attached Alan McElroy, author of the
"Spawn" comics, to pen
the script for them.
This may not seem like such a big issue now, to license your
very newly created videogame brand on the perchance someone will
then actually go make something out of it. These days big new
IP's can become multimedia events in and of themselves, but back
in the mid 1990's this was not so much the case. And it was made
even more interesting by two very important things in the
Firstly is the above history of said small German film company,
Constantin Films. While having produced some successful
independent films, at the time the company was mostly known in
the US for the film The
Neverending Story. And otherwise was notorious everywhere
else for making a $2 million dollar
Fantastic Four film
with shlock filmmaker Roger Corman.
The latter would be seemingly unremarkable except fact the film
made was never intended to be released, and made only so they
wouldn't lose the rights from Marvel Comics. The film was needed
to begin production by the last day of 1992 in order to retain
further rights, and so filming started on December 28th that
The whole story has been recounted time and time again from Stan
Lee, to actors involved (who were never told of the plan of non
release and even did promotion for the film), and it's a very
interesting and embarrassing account of greed, that would sadly
pay off in massive dividends about a decade or so later after
when 20th Century Fox made a multimillion dollar picture in
which they had to pay Constantin for.
The second, and perhaps more important note, was the then also
very recent event that was
Street Fighter: The Movie. A movie that Capcom not only took
very large stakes into as a company when it came to the film
production (by being
the film production company) but also backward in cross
promotion (to this date I believe it's still the only game
turned movie to be turned back into a fully released game with
the title "Street Fighter:
The Movie: The Game" at Arcades and on home consoles).
When the film released in December in 1994, pressure was
on for it not to become another
Super Mario Brothers. Nintendo’s famous creation was released as a
film the year previous to bad reviews and poor box office which
saw it making back not even half its production costs.
Capcom however got lucky. While critically panned heavily by
fans and reviewers alike, the self-produced title made back
almost three times its budget with a worldwide take just short
of $100 million in cinemas. However given Capcom's success in
self-producing a financially successful Hollywood film, it was
surprising that they would then on-sell movie rights for another
franchise rather than just continuing the same trend they had
with their previous film. It's very speculative, however maybe
the pure confidence put forth that the movie would make a profit
when the reviews were so poor, that inspired the idea to sell
the rights to Resident Evil where Capcom could have less
production involvement but still rake in the license cash that
lead to that decision in late 1996.
Additionally it may have been bolstered by the fact that in
August 1995, several months after
Street Fighter - New
Line Pictures released Paul (W.S.) Anderson's
Mortal Kombat. When
compared to Street Fighter
Anderson’s Mortal Kombat
film had fared better by game fans, and slightly better by
critics. Then raked in slightly more cash than
Street Fighter did
seemingly due to it. If this latter point is especially true,
several years later there would be quite a lot of irony to
Anderson's success in 1995.
In May 1997, Capcom reconfirmed the partnership and that the
film was going ahead during the
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) gaming event. This was done while
promoting its new upcoming titles with plans that the movie will
be underway by the end of the year for release by the later part
of 1998. In the first of many, many bits of internet speculation
to come, most said likely Halloween.
However movies don't really happen overnight. And thus when you
make an announcement in Jan (which you only just reconfirm in
May), it’s all just words on a page. And so it's not very likely
much new will be said for many, many, months to come. Capcom's
own internal struggles with making a sequel to their own hit
game was the main focus of 1997, and as the year went on a final
release date for the video game sequel was locked into Jan of
1998. With this a clearer marketing plan would go ahead for
And so, engrossed into the continued success of the
Biohazard/Resident Evil brand, in late September and early
October 1997 Capcom spent approximately $1.5 million USD on a
live action commercial for the game, directed by legendary
Zombie film director George A. Romero in downtown Los Angeles.
Combined with the added costs of broadcasting this commercial,
the budget reportedly exceeded the actual production costs of
the game it was for when released at the time. And so it goes
without saying that it was also the most Capcom had ever spent
on a commercial up until the time. However given the successful
sales and promotion of the game when it launched in early 1998,
Capcom probably considered the gamble as money well spent.
Ironically given the large budget spent on the commercial, while
seemingly at first intended to be used worldwide, it ended up
being locked into a Japan only release (for the most part, we'll
get back to that) to be used on TV and in cinemas. It was also
released with a "rental only" 'making of' VHS tape in Japan,
which contained behind the scenes video footage and the full
versions of the commercials made. The agreements of both these
conditions seemingly was made due to the actors involved,
supposedly mostly due the actor playing Leon - the late Brad
Renfro, who also made it so that his name could not be attached
outside Japan. Claire is played by soap actress Adrienne Frantz.
It's a seemingly puzzling event to spend so much money on an
internationally made commercial for a videogame that you want to
market to the world, however Renfro was quite a big deal at the
time. He was an upcoming teen star and already had quite a
following in Japan, and so of course this was big clincher to
the commercial and seemingly why the more restrictive deal was
put in place.
The "rental" tape of course was acquired by numerous sources in
the years since and the commercials and behind the scenes
materials themselves placed online.
The commercial was produced by Capcom's Keiji Inafune among
others, alongside a large Japanese media promotions company. The
visual effects work was done by "Screamin(g)" Mad George, who
was an unexpected boon for the US-Japan co-production as he
originally was from Japan and spoke fluent Japanese and
reasonably good English which furthered the production process.
Plus of course his effects work history in zombie, splatter, and
monster effects work was as well known as Romero's directing
history. Mad George's look was limited by the restriction of no
blood to be shown because of the intended mark of mainstream
television and cinema. Due to this heavy levels of blood or
missing limbs and the like were not allowed but the commercial
was given it's look with a dried blood, torn flesh and patchy
skin look which actually looked exceptionally great on camera.
The shoot took place at the Lincoln Heights Jail located in
Lincoln Heights in downtown Los Angeles, a well used filming location
for numerous films, TV shows, and music videos until 2010 (the
location has just in the past few months reopened access for
possible filming). The location was dressed in its front and
some interiors to look like the Raccoon Police Department
(R.P.D.) supposedly as from within the game. The shoot was
quick, done over a few days, and shot all at night, with
Frantz’s work done in one night and Renfro's over the course of
Due to the scope of the material,
Capcom had its internal team which did the “making of” but also
brought in heaps of press from Japan to come and cover parts of
the shoot and interview those involved. Surprisingly though
hardly anyone else from any other international media was
informed - possibly again due to the contract restrictions. The
one exception to this was Japanese based English writer Norman
England, who was given complete access to the cast and crew (and
provided most of the details and images I've included in here
from his Romero Dawn Of The Dead fan site
The Zombie Farm).
As mentioned, some parts of the shoot were used overseas. Visual
elements of the commercial were used in the US promotion such as
shots of zombies, Frantz as Claire screaming, and the building
used in it were inter-cut in a rapid pace from Japanese
originals with scenes for the game in US television commercials.
It is a real surprise that in Capcom's most costly commercial
enterprise to that date, in the end the US market which was
seemingly very important for the brand missed out on where is
spent most of it's advertising budget.
As Romero worked on his commercial for Capcom, the film's
content was fueled further online when a poster, clearly fake,
began to do the rounds on the internet. No source for the poster
ever came forward, so it was never noted as to where it really
began from, it however got something right that stuck with the
production for years to come; a tag line.
(A) secret experiment... (A) deadly virus... (A) fatal
A version of the tagline would appear both on this 1997 poster
but yet again on some posters in 2002 when the film finally
launched. We can only assume the person who worked on the
official campaign in the end saw it, liked it, and used it.
Either way it was the first mark the film had left behind since
it was first announced.
When the commercial's existence broke in the English media
towards the end of 1997, the Resident Evil film had already been
discussed at length and of course immediately Romero's name was
attached as a possibility to direct. It was simple math for a
lot of people. Legendary zombie film maker does zombie game
commercial; seems very easy to make him be a zombie film
director based on zombie game.
Capcom themselves certainly liked the idea and found the
commercial event a complete success, and so the discussions went
forth between the company and the German film production house
they'd sold the rights to for Romero to get on board. While he
at first declined, eventually he was convinced to further
consider signing on seemingly due to how smoothly the commercial
was taken and how passionate he was about the material.
At the same time "the internet" did what it does best, providing
further rumors and speculation. Mostly at the time to the
unconfirmed reports of production problems and still at the time
if Romero would even be involved as it would be some time before
this became public knowledge. When Romero's name wasn't rumored
as attached, instead George Sluzier's
name would. Sluzier's main credit at the time was
The Vanishing and was
at the time working on The
Commissioner which would be well received in 1998. It was
expected his slate after finishing
Commissioner would see
him work on the film, with a projected stated date supposedly of
around March 1998 working off McElroy’s script.
Actors rumored too were a wildcard draw selection of the then
hottest name talent. So names like Jason Patric and Samantha
Mathis (with fans hoping not to drag her Super Mario Brothers
history into it) were named as considered for Chris and Jill.
Sometimes you'd hear some interesting ideas like Bruce Campbell
and the like thrown in for good measure as well for unspecified
roles. These rumors would stick through well through 1998 as
less was officially said on the film and more was unofficially
rumored. What didn't help either was the constant fan-hope
driven tinkering of the movie's page on the
Internet Movie Database
(IMDb) which saw these and probably many other wild ideas flung
onto it's listings on an almost weekly basis.
Back in the actual franchise world however, a plan was hatched
for the release of the game for the US which would be a specific
promotion. Placed as a bright yellow star on the cover of every
launch version in Jan of 1998 and listed in numerous print and
online ads was Capcom's crossover prize promotion - enter to win
part of the Resident Evil 2 sweepstakes. The main prize was a
role on the upcoming Resident Evil movie - at that point still
planned to lens later in 1998. No purchase was necessary, as
long as your entry reached Capcom US by the incredibly ironic
date of April 1st 1998, you were in with a chance to win.
In March of 1998, Fangoria
ran a byline in their news that McElroy was still attached and
the script was still in the writing process with no director
attached, however this was undermined by numerous reports the
following month that Romero was indeed going to be attached and
would not only be directing but also writing the script. These
rumors eventually turned out to have more meat behind them when
Fangoria, once more,
interviews Romero and he mentions that he is indeed interested
in working on the production but would not comment further only
igniting more rumor discussion.
PSM magazine dredges
up old rumors again however furthering debate by still stating
old names are attached the same month leading to further online
Constantin Films announces CEO Bernd Eichinger as producer on
the film that month as well. Eichinger was a well known German
film producer, having just produced the Constantin production
Smilla's Sense of Snow
successfully the previous year. After this Eichinger would stay
involved with the entire Resident Evil film series production
until his death in 2011. With this in place, its expected
announcements on what's happening aren't too far off. Those
expectations are exactly correct.
It’s early July 1998, and Romero finally comes out and ends the
speculation. Via an interview with
at the Anchor Bay
booth at the Video
Software Dealers Association (VSDA) Expo he announces he
will be doing the Resident Evil film. He tells them that he only
signed on the previous week and that he will be directing and
To say this now seems like it was instant, but it seemingly had
taken many months for both a decision to come from Romero but
also negotiate the deal for the whole thing as well. But
somewhere along the way through this decision making McElroy was
dropped, and so Romero was then hired to provide a script for
the film as well, and submit it back to the company to see if
they would go ahead with his vision for the brand. If they were
happy then he’d be on board to direct.
Following this announcement he interviews with The Onion’s AV
Club and with VideoGameSpot where he details the movie
is to most likely be a R rated affair, and that Capcom would
like to have it out around the time a third videogame title is
launched. In September he does a brief interview with Cinescape
and confirms he is working on the script at the time of the
interview, and explains specifically how the chance of writing
and directing it exactly came about.
After Romero's announcement comes what will become a never
ending debate of what the movie should be about and what actors
and actress' that should be playing roles. Sarah Michelle
Gellar's name is attached with a role in the film, as is
Jennifer Love Hewitt and Maxine Bahns. Christopher Walken is
even labeled as a possible Wesker! However all end up being
denied and labeled, unsurprisingly, as purely fan speculation.
For the rest of 1998, rumor and discussion about Romero's
involvement goes on in the online community. Somewhere along the
line 20th Century Fox
is attached in some placement as distributor and constant story
rumors surround the project. Tom Savini, a long time Romero
supporter, is attached in rumors but once again nothing official
comes out of those either. By December it seems the movie may be
delayed to as far away as sometime in 2000. At this point had
Capcom produced an actual winner for their competition, it's
unlikely their prize to appear in the film was probably ever
going to come true.
On the lighter side, in January of
1999, Bruce Campbell officially ended rumors that had been going
on for almost 18 months or more saying he was in no way attached
to the production. Online chat Q&A sessions with Romero on
both begin being circulated heavily by fans. But both actually
date back from October of 1998. In them he talks about having a
well developed draft underway and is seemingly positive about
the production progress.
At around the same time a second poster appears online, with the
tagline "Evil Is Only A Word.... Reality Is Much Worse." Fox
again is attached on the image as well as an unlikely release
date of Fall 1999. All obvious speculation which seemed way off
the mark given how long it had been already.
In late Jan,
Ain’t It Cool News suggests some issues with the script maybe
happening originally via statements in
Electronic Gaming Monthly
However it was not considered major problems and speculated as
most likely just redrafting to tidy the entire project up.
By May however things didn't sound as well as everyone had
hoped. On the 4th of May, in an interview with the
Romero was asked how the project was going and his response did
not bode well. He stated he'd submitted a number of scripts and
had not received greatly positive response on them; however his
answer seemingly noted he was awaiting more word on the future
of the project.
“It's just been a mess. I did a bunch of drafts of the script
and, you know, the same Hollywood story... I don't know if it's
dead or what.”
What exactly was going on?
On the 25th of that month,
GameSpot ran an
article which provided Capcom's answer to that question.
At the 1999 E3 the week or so earlier, they had sat down with
Capcom's Yoshiki Okamoto (who would go on to be executive
producer on the finished film before later leaving Capcom) and
he was asked how the project was going.
"We know the movie is going to be out there someday. There is a
scenario coming, but there's no script yet."
No script? The reporter was seemingly confused. Following this
they asked then what had happened of Romero who had indicated a
script was well underway. An infamous response was given in
reply that would be forever quoted.
"His script wasn't good, so Romero was fired."
Following through in July and August more rumors came out based
on this news of Romero being off the film. Firstly was that
Romero was only fired from scriptwriting, that he would still
direct just not write. Writing duties would be now undertaken by
Andrew Kevin Walker, who'd written
Sleepy Hollow. There
was also rumored discussion that Romero never ever even played
or saw the game (seemingly this was already debunked by his
explanation in the much earlier 1998 Talk City interview which
explained his process) which added to the reason for his
fueled the fire with a story on July 12th 1999,
which included an infamous quote about things he wanted to
include, like "zombies in sunglasses," which was attributed to a
‘good industry source’ but never fully substantiated.
“Another good industry source told IGN that Romero lacked the
feel of Resident Evil. He essentially was turning Resident Evil
into Dawn of the Dead, instead of making it new and original,
the source added. ‘He wanted to put sunglasses on the zombies
and do other goofy stuff that didn't fit in at all.’”
If it ever was true, looking at what's happened with the film(s)
in the end, not making it “new and original” by making it like
Dawn and having
zombies in sunglasses seem like quaint problems by comparison.
As for lacking the feel of Resident Evil, it’s seemingly clear
in hindsight from Romero’s draft year’s later he wasn’t really
missing much of this aspect at all, especially again when
compared to the finished films. And so this “industry source”
IGN quoted was likely not really involved at all.
The annual tradition of new names for the talent pool also
worked up a new frenzy, with names like Bill Pullman, Bruce
Payne, Dolph Lundgren, and the like were mentioned in gaming and
movie media but all just crazy suggestions making the rounds
from a fan website's rumor section in the end. Later on the
suggestion that Andrew Kevin Walker is working on the script is
also debunked, the movie seemingly is pushed back to at least
2001. All this now leading the public knowledge of what was
actually taking place back to square one.
Romero moved on too. He was prepping a new independent project
called Bruiser, but
every chance fans got to ask him about “the
Resident Evil project” he seemed just as confused about what
had happened. At a Q&A session at the
Toronto International Film
Festival in September of 1999 his response was still an open
“I don't know. The Internet says yes, but I have no idea."
The following month, just as Romero himself implied, IGN’s
defunct SciFi section posts an article about the loss of
Romero as a figurehead while implying he was still directing.
The statement says if
they lose him, they risk loss of proper backing towards the
project from investors and balks at the idea of budget between
25-40 million, which actually was the amount when the final
product was created.. Obviously at this point however as far as
Constantin was concerned Romero was departed and wasn’t coming
back. Where these supposed insiders IGN kept getting were coming
from was unknown, but it’s fairly clear they knew nothing about
what was actually going on.
Then however - seemingly somewhere, somehow, details of Bernd
Eichinger's search for new directors came to light with names
attached. Two names were listed. The first was German film
director Rainer Matsutani, who had known links with Constantin.
The second was English director Paul (W.S.) Anderson. The
knowledge of this bore little fruit at the time other than
rumors, and at the time people potentially relished the idea of
the guy who did
being a possibility.
It had been considered a reasonably faithful and successful
attempt, so maybe Resident Evil might be in the right hands?
What however caused more controversy, and then possibly gave us
more understanding of Romero's script issues, was that it was
suggested Eichinger didn't like gory movies that much and was
looking for something less bloody. This was never 100%
confirmed, but in the production notes released for the film two
Eichinger only suggested he liked scary movies and didn’t think
the games were that gory or violent which gives this rumor some
Later in September, it was rumored that another greenlight had
been given with a new script started and other early
pre-production elements underway. It was also noted that
Eichinger so wanted to get the project started he was prepared
to step in and write the script himself to get it begun if there
were more issues. Upon reflection this thrust of production work
may have signaled that perhaps Constantin was in the same
situation as they were with Marvel, and risked losing the
agreement with Capcom if production didn't begin soon. If this
was indeed the case will probably never be known, but after all
this rumors came out to light everything went dead on the
project and no one seemingly talked anymore.
In Jan 2000, Romero did an interview with the
Director's Guild of
America's magazine publication. He now was officially
stating he was off the project. It began to further the idea
that the German producers had a different idea of what the film
should be was the likely cause of the issue, at least that’s
what Romero suggested.
"Resident Evil was a project with a German company. There are
two sides to every coin but I don't think they were into the
spirit of the video game and wanted to make it more of a war
movie, something heavier than I thought it should be. So I think
they just never liked my script."
The next month, more director rumors.
On Feb 3rd, Ain’t It Cool
Australian director Jamie Blanks, who directed
Urban Legend, is
supposedly attached and turned down directing the sequel to
Legend, named Final Cut,
for the gig. Even a supposed plot outline surfaces which doesn't
sound like it might be the most exciting film in the world but
at least seemingly makes the idea of an evil pharmaceutical
"The movie is set in the future where medicine has rendered
every disease curable. An evil corporation develops a new
completely incurable disease and starts testing it on people.
They plan to infect the world and then hold the vaccine ransom.
When people get infected they turn into zombies."
These rumors are never further substantiated and much like many
rumors, this is the first and last it's heard of.
It became clear, that while Romero had accepted he was off the
project, no one really got back to him to officially say that
was the case. Okamoto might have told
EGM he was fired, but no one certainly told Romero that in person
officially. In interviews for years onward he would always state
no one ever got back to him and in the end he just guessed after
a certain length of time that was it done, another dead end
On July 21st 2000, on his now defunct personal website,
Romero made lengthy blog-styled post which summed up numerous
open questions he’d been provided in a rant. Resident Evil was
covered, along with numerous other projects, and his frustration
was spilled out clearly on the page.
"But the biggest damn shame was
Resident Evil. We busted balls writing drafts of that screenplay.
I'm talkin' marathons, seventy-two hours straight. I really
wanted this project. I had directed a TV commercial for ResEv
II, and being on the set again with zombies (by Screamin' Mad
George), I was hooked. Deep in my heart, I felt that ResEv was a
rip-off of Night of the
Living Dead. I had no legal case, but I was resentful. And
torn... because I liked the video game. I wanted to do the film
partly because I wanted to say, 'Look here! This is how
you do this shit!'"
As we moved further into the 3rd year of pre-production
development, the way the project was going it was looking that
the project has gone from just standard development hell to
possibly just dead in the water…
In Part 2, we catch up to the official plans after several
months of no news and learn what the filmmakers have in store
might not be what anyone
ever expected. And we look at what the filmmaking
legacy of the Resident Evil movie franchise, so far, has left
RESIDENT EVIL: THE MOVIE
Part Two: Alice's Adventures in Zombieland
October 4th, 2000.
A late announcement is placed on
that had an atypical and simple pun filled headline not uncommon
from within the trade print. It says simply:
Anderson game to take 'Resident'
After several months of no news whatsoever, Constantin Film
confirms that Paul W.S. Anderson, director of
Event Horizon, and Solider;
is set to write and direct the Resident Evil feature film. Most
of the news is bland basic details for the trade. A budget of
approx 40 million USD, shooting in Europe, planned to make a
2001 Halloween date, and Anderson is producing as well with his
production partner Jeremy Bolt and Constantin's Bernd Eichinger.
All seemingly standard announcements. But it's the plot nugget
that is dropped in the article that makes the internet steaming
mad. The story blurb in Variety's article reads thus:
"Story focuses on a military unit that fights against a powerful
super computer that is out of control. In order to save the
world, the military unit must combat hundreds of scientists who
have mutated into flesh-eating undead due to a laboratory
A powerful super computer that is out of control?
What is going on here? What doesn’t help the first reactions
either that the subtitle to the article called it a “military
thriller” as well.
Any good will on the idea of this being anything close to as
faithful as Mortal Kombat
because Anderson was involved went immediately out the window.
Within hours protested discussions and howls of anger rage
through the community. Anywhere you go are comments which sum up
seemingly the feelings of almost all. Comingsoon.net staff write
a concise statement about what many people are feeling -
"If you're a fan of the video game Resident Evil and were
excited about the prospect of a movie based on it, [you should]
give up now."
Compared the expansive vocal group demanding change or answers
to the plans, there are a small group who say there is need to
wait and see what it's really about as the description might be
off base. There are thoughts it will be months until more
answers are given but instead, unexpectedly, some new answers
come in days..
[ALICE] A steely blue-eyed 21 year old woman with an
athlete's body, Alice awakens one day with no memory
of her past-she doesn't even know her own name. She's
still puzzling over this mystery when she runs into
Matt, evidently a police officer, who is in turn
joined by an elite commando team led by a man named One…
For anyone online these days a
Usenet newsgroup seems
like an antiquated way to communicate, in fact many probably
reading this may not even know what a "news group" actually is.
However for many early years of the internet, mail news
groupings were the main used discussion boards for general
social communication. Some of the long running sites online
still today began on them as they provided sometimes general
knowledge for you to look up (the
IMDb is a great
example of this) before something like
Wikipedia. They had titles like
Californian based news, or
alt.book.stephen-king for those who like Stephen King
alt.tv.simpsons if you wanted to talk about the episodes of
the latest season of the Simpsons that had just screened. You may
have seen these in web fronts these days such as
Google Groups where
you can still post into them and actually look back at archives,
including that of the Resident Evil group.
Let’s change gears here a bit however, where I got personally
involved. At this time I had been a long time subscriber to the
alt.games.resident-evil group since I first found it in 1997,
and it was my luck when I checked the group a week or so after
the Variety article to come across an interesting post, made on
October 15th, by a guy in New York. He said it was sent to all
casting agencies in the area, and seemingly one would guess
being a fan of Resident Evil decided to post it up for all to
The above quote about “Alice” was just the tipping point. The
provided specific details that matched up to the Variety article
but told us that the "powerful super computer" maybe just the
starting point for how much this might be nothing like what was
expected of "Resident Evil". Characters called One, Twelve and Rain in battle
with a "homicidal" computer to be forever known as called Red
Queen and the like. The
Alice in Wonderland references were so blatant but
questionably odd. What was more interesting beyond just this
though was the way in which it spelled out more or less the
entire film in each characters description; it seems we'd been
provided a very meaty spoiler on Anderson’s planned feature.
The reaction alone on the newsgroup was small with dissatisfied
disaster-in-the-making label attached, with nothing but simple
complaint based on the outline. There was some doubt at first of
course, but the guy who posted reaffirmed it arrived with many
other legitimate casting calls which he dealt with. When I saw
it, I couldn't just sit on this info without spreading it
further, as I was just as shocked as everyone else. At the time,
running my RE fan site A
New Blood, I wasn't covering the movie or anything else
but the games so the first place I thought of was my friend
Rammy's site Biohazard
Extreme. I immediately messaged him, shot him the link, and
'within minutes he registered his disgust on the internet' along
with the entire casting call. What happened next was
The news spread like wild fire. I'd personally never seen such a
blanket negative reaction to anything else in my life at that
point. I hate to think of the e-mails Capcom got that day and
the weeks following, but people set up petitions against the
film, threads on forums spawned what seemed like a million
raging fanboys and girls talking about the details. To say the
reaction was not great would be the worst understatement to ever
be made. I'd love to know what Paul W.S. Anderson thought should
he have seen the reaction online. Especially before filming a
single frame of a film that was also now quite spoiled as the
casting call hit numerous movie and gaming news sites linking to
Biohazard Extreme's continued coverage of the news and following
I actually kinda felt guilty in the end for even passing it on
in the end.
Away from my personal involvement,
what further fueled the fire once more was a couple of weeks
later on Halloween, in reaction on
Ain't It Cool News to
the movie's casting call reports, their reporter Quint posted a
review and breakdown of the then yet to be seen George A. Romero
draft in much detail.
When the fans saw what had been planned in his potential version
against what Anderson's casting call outlined of his plot the
whole angry fan cycle started once again.
It seemingly grew worse. Boycotts of future Capcom products were
often called by some, and once some casting announcements came
through later in November of Milla Jovovich and Michelle
Rodriguez many derogatory comments were made directly of them
and further boycott calls of their previous and any upcoming
work was also being touted. A title is given to the movie - "Resident
Evil: Ground Zero" - this seemingly is the least problematic
issue with the entire production according to the fans on the
internet at the time.
Outside of internet rage, the production moves forward.
Seemingly location scouting is done through Europe, firstly of
some unnamed mansion and other early scouting in England. This
is followed by reports of the director and producers looking at
locations in areas in of Germany and Latvia, specifically
military bunkers, bases, missile shafts, and other underground
locations. Eventually it is confirmed the film will be shot in
Now into early 2001, casting news continues as the main source
of further details. Firstly David Boreanaz is rumored as the cop
from the casting call. It is seemingly revealed later by him at
the Los Angeles Comic Book
& Sci Fi Convention that he passed on the role as with
filming due to start in March he wouldn't be free from other
work until mid-April, but that he was considering taking a
smaller role in the film if time would allow.
The following month it's announced Eric Mabius would be taking
the role Boreanaz passed on. Boreanaz instead is announced as
not appearing at all, instead taking a role in another film
(teen slasher flick
Valentine, directed by formerly rumored director Jamie
In March, Clint Mansell announces he will be scoring the film
via his personal website and James Purefoy is added to the cast
just shortly before actual filming is due to begin.
Just shortly after this, in the middle of the month just as
actual production begins, Constantin Films releases the first
image from the film. The picture is Milla Jovovich in a red
dress, holding guns, standing in what later turns out to be the
Red Queen laser hallway. Once more this only furthers a split of
difference to the online fan community, feedback on “why she’s
in a red dress?”, the futuristic looking hallway, and reigniting
some further hate for this version of “Resident
Evil” once more.
In April, as production continues, Constantin Film updates it's
website with production notes in German. It explains various
details such as confirming a recent rumor of well known German
host/actress Heike Makatsch being cast in a role, details on the
producers, FX techs, and the filming locations in Berlin
including a yet to be opened real underground tunnel system.
In late April and into May spies have apparently infiltrated the
set and the website "Resident Evil Forum" starts providing images and video from the
location. The few details are continuing to confirm the original
casting call was entirely correct and that little seems to have
changed from it even though it was made from an early draft
script. In a brilliant piece of mockery, one image they provide
is that of a memo distributed on set to tell people working on
the film to quit putting images from the set online.
Sony's Columbia TriStar division picks up the distribution rights, finally
ending the long standing
20th Century Fox rumor, and eventually places the film under
its newly formed Screen
Gems branding instead. And in doing so also ends the
Halloween 2001 rumor by announcing a spring 2002 release window
is where it will launch. This would be the beginning of a
success for Sony Pictures that would become so large, the
worldwide distribution rights of the Resident Evil films would
become it’s second biggest money maker behind the “Spider-man”
European TV shows and Film magazines visit the set and provide
behind the scenes details and footage, and once again more
details emerge. This material also makes it's way onto cover
mounted DVD's with certain magazine titles, both film and
gaming, throughout Europe.
Now into June and seemingly the actual production is over, and
Paul W.S. Anderson is tackling interviews on the subject of the
fan outcry as the film heads into post production. There were
articles in numerous magazines which Anderson defended his work
against the outcry. There is a lot of stuff at this time which
in retrospect seems very questionable but it’s worth looking at
this cherry pick of a quote from an article with Shivers
magazine in 2001.
“There was no point in using the Jill Valentine character from
the first Resident Evil game, as the fans would know she wasn't
going to be killed because she pops up in the later games. The
suspense dynamic of who is going to live, who is going to die
and what people's allegiances are, was only going to work with
While it’s arguable that Anderson didn’t write
Mortal Kombat when he
made it (he was the director only), it’s not hard to argue
against his statement of “new characters” at the time when you
can also say characters in the film he made in 1995 faced this
same issue (Liu Kang anyone?). And yet that never stopped him from directing
that project. Nor the point that people adapt books and plays
more straightforwardly in the same way and this has never
stopped them either. Later Anderson will change his mind a bit
on this idea, when writing the sequels and adding characters
from the games to the films.
Anderson also claimed in the same interview the film was
intended as a prequel to the games stories, an often repeated
claim made by him in and around the first films production.
Surprisingly even after all the sequels and obviously a
continuing clear point where both franchises split into
different ideas, he still stands by his statements about this
and labels it as such to this day.
In August a sneak peak roll is screened at the
2001 London Frightfest,
which manages to score mixed comments online from those in
attendance. Anderson also does a Q&A session which most just
repeats the same information he had mentioned in the behind the
scenes material around already, including that it is a prequel
and the like.
It is however later on the month that I get to post something
everyone had been waiting for at the time. Via a contact in the
Resident Evil newsgroup I was provided a copy of a script, which
I then posted up once I could find some more info on its
background. This was of course George A. Romero's October 1998
first draft written with his production partner Peter Grunwald.
I was already fairly confident at first as the content matched
the breakdown on Ain't It
Cool and elsewhere, but via George's now defunct personal
website I seemingly was able to confirm it was indeed their
October provides us with the news that Clint Mansell is out
and.... Marilyn Manson… of all people is in for the movie's
soundtrack. Reactions are seemingly mixed to this news, but
given all known about the movie for almost the past year this
seems almost not worth the eyebrow raising. It's later detailed
that he would team up with more traditional film composer Marco
Beltrami to do the work.
All references to the title Ground Zero are also dropped, after
the events the month earlier in New York. At first the movie is
renamed as "Resident Evil:
Genesis" and appears as such in test screenings, however
later it is announced that the movie will release as just "Resident Evil."
Those test screenings are done in California, and while people
are supposed to not speak about them, still some anonymous
reviews appear online which seemingly are average to positive
even though the film is in an unfinished state. And for the
first time in a long time, some more of the online community
begin to wonder if it won't be as bad as they first thought.
Finally before years end, with a proper release date now set for
March, Sony's Screen Gems holds a competition to create a movie
poster and provides numerous assets to do so. The competition
runs for about a month with prizes that included a limited print
run of your poster, a $2500 cash prize, and a private screening
at a location close to the winner. They also announce the first
full trailer will be attached to
The Mothman Prophecies
opening on January 25th, 2002.
After 4 weeks, official website provides the top 5 posters made
to be voted on and the winner chosen during Jan. By the end of
the month the trailer is added online and the winner of the
competition is announced.
March 15th, 2002.
A movie screen flicks past the production logos and provides up
a flying graphic which turns into the Umbrella Corporation logo
and flies back across the screen. Words begin to appear on the
The Events Leading To The Incident At Raccoon City
The words change, and a voice over begins...
"At the beginning of the 21st century, the Umbrella Corporation
had become the largest commercial entity in the United
After more than 5 years since it was first announced
Resident Evil had made
it to the cinema screen. There is little need to break down the
film itself, plenty has been said about the original film as a
piece of film work. Critically the film did mixed response,
financially only slightly better worldwide that Capcom's last
film Street Fighter,
but it was successful enough for what Anderson now refers to as
a “small film” to ensure sequels would be made. And mostly
financially successful ones at that.
Until the most recent film, the fifth in the franchise, each
sequel had made more money worldwide than the last. And even yet
the fifth technically hasn't been that much of a slouch, still
making almost $222 million dollars worldwide (easily more than
twice the original did). Currently all 5 films in the franchise
have made a combined total of almost $900 million just in
worldwide cinema takings, with countless more made in home video
But Anderson's legacy with these films has continued to provide
fodder for the online community to debate. Perhaps there is far
less voracity in the direct outcry and attack like there once
was when his plot appeared or the casting call hit the web
before the first film, at least in pure direct numbers. And the
films make money because there are people who enjoy them for
what they are, instead of what they are not. But every time a
film arrives, debate continues.
There is no denying that what Anderson has done for Capcom and
everyone else is provide a media stream that has been nothing
but successful in pushing forward the brand, even if the
surprisingly growing good box office and poorer critical comment
never matched up together. A mixture of the films content and
the press surrounding it each time a film comes out gets the
fans up in arms, but exactly why isn’t always clear or
consistent, growing and evolving just like Anderson’s films.
Anderson met with Capcom frequently throughout the various film
productions, wrote all the titles, and directed three of the
five of what we’ve had so far. Through almost every press
interview from the first movie until now, he stated he liked the
games, he was a fan, and this was important to him. In press
materials released (part of the films “Electronic Press Kit” or
EPK) in the UK, often put on DVD's as I mentioned earlier,
he specifically stated the following while on the film’s set:
"The movie rights were licensed from Capcom. So officially
Capcom had no input at all. You know we can turn Resident Evil
into an all-singing all-dancing disaster if we want to.
But you know, I really love the game and I really respected the
people who made the game. As I became involved, I went to Japan,
I met the creators of the game, I met Capcom, and I got
them as involved as I could."
He's later said that changes in his script were done after those
discussions, and those seemingly proved somewhat true (an early
draft of Anderson's script later appeared online which is more
or less the same except for the way the ending takes place,
which he has supposedly noted was changed from Capcom's
suggestions). But the idea of “meeting Capcom” - as if meeting a
company brand solves an issue - just seems an odd statement to
make, as if this was supposed to make fans feel better.
Realistically he met individuals working for the company on the
games who suggested things but making that statement he doesn’t
sound like he takes it seriously. And only more so by saying
that he could turn it into anything, which sounds like a jab
directly at critics. Because it was made on set in early 2001,
it maybe our first real understanding of how he felt about the
fan backlash to the his script after the reaction to the casting
To top it all off his claims of loving the game and being a fan
were continually undercut to game fan communities by most of his
additions in the films, and something that became more and more
obvious the more sequels were made. How he got to the idea of a
super computer at first and later super powered clones is an
entirely different debate not worth having here, but with the
deviation in the first film from the source alone it’s not
surprising that this only continued to grow with the sequels.
Was it ever a bad thing that the fans really did want something
a little closer to the franchise that had spawned Anderson’s
future right to print money for him and others? Constantin got
blamed early on for a lot of meddling. On one level as well I
wonder how Paul fared at first, if changes or restrictions were
put upon him to which made him write the script he produced the
first time. And how much the fussing fans really affected his
work with the sequels. Only he could tell us.
The Resident Evil movie franchise
is the biggest
video-game movie franchise currently though, at least for
overall box office (and given video-game movies track records
probably for some time still). So then if and when being
negative about the content, are we looking at it incorrectly?
Aside from fan quibbles and mixed reviews a lot of the time, the
movies are obviously doing something right in the world of
movies and money making. You don’t make almost $900 million from
doing something considered completely horrible.
Is blame misguided towards Anderson and co. for seeing an
audience that clearly does exist and just going for it? The
critics don’t like it that much, vast chunks of the fanbase
seemingly don’t either, but there is obviously large numbers of
people who go along and somehow get entertained to the point of
quite constant financial success for the films. People are
simply entertained by Anderson’s choice of work but I doubt
little if anyone will admit much artistic merits other than how
nice it looks.
There is however a difference between successful adaptations,
financially and critically. While Resident Evil is head and
shoulders above the rest when it comes to
box office success as a movie franchise, neither it nor
any videogame movie
has reached a successful critical reaction like say adapted
novels, plays, musicals, or even comic-books have as feature
films as well. Some of the statements that come from those
involved in the production of the movie, cast and crew, reek of
superiority based only on tickets sold but always seem to skirt
the idea that they’re seemingly never moving forward the art
that will prove that video-game adaptations are ever going to be
as good as other adapted products.
Reviewers mostly look upon them, and other game films, that
they’re loud dumb action spectacles, with simple stories, and
that’s all they’ll ever be. But no one really tries to prove or
say otherwise. It doesn’t help that no one really asks them
about this fact very often either, and often many say instead it
could be much worse. How many times have you seen something like
“Think it’s that bad? Take
a look at Uwe Boll!” as if it’s a proper excuse?
Often though videogame film makers feel like they have throw in
minor references or gimmicks into the film as if it is to equate
why it’s a “videogame film” (the FPS sequence in Doom anyone?).
This doesn’t help anything but grow the stigma of the “videogame
film” as loud dumb moviemaking with little in common with it’s
source but just a statement on the outside cliche supposedly
what a “videogame” is.
Paul W.S. Anderson is not immune from this either, as pointed
out above after balking at the idea of using game characters he
included Jill Valentine into the sequel as if to say to the fans
“Look, I listen and we can really connect these things together
even if it’s just in name and some look only.” While adding it
to a collection of loud dumb set pieces with women often wearing
Maybe it’s the simple idea that the Resident Evil films (and
basically most other videogames films) may not even be true
adaptations, they’re merely inspired by the videogames that also
stops this from being an accepted “leap to the silver screen.”
Even if this is true however, those involved won’t let you even
possibly consider it as an idea, instead trying to explain how
the two materials link together.
Paul, Milla, and producer Jeremy Bolt
may make some outlandish claims in the face of the fans at
times, like the Resident
Evil 5 videogame being in a “desert” because they did it in
the third movie (even though the game doesn’t really take place
in a desert much at all and Milla incorrectly saying the desert
was in game “four”),
or Milla telling us all constantly that it’s just a small number
of people with issues with the films
(my experience of the backlash and conversation every time a new
film comes out tells me it’s much more than what she says, but
much less than perhaps the most upset fans would hope would
change the producers minds). But often they’re correct too and
Capcom has altered games and reflected that sometimes their
ideas will be used or referred to.
The concept of the “Red Queen” computer went onto be used in the
games, there are often other nods to the movies in games as well
(from laser hallways to virus storage cases and branding logos).
Clearly people developing at Capcom have seen the idea that
including stuff from the films may attract those who saw a
Resident Evil film
before they’d ever touched a game controller, especially
now almost 11 years on since the first film released. As
shocking as that is for some game fans to accept sometimes.
Capcom staff however obviously stopped at coming close to the
idea of putting the character of Alice into a game however, no
matter how much Milla vocally protests this idea in most
interviews during the past couple of films.
At least for the time being, anyway.
And over the years, even if it goes against what he said in
interviews in 2001, Anderson started to riff on using actual
game characters, at least in name and/or general look, for his
films more and more and even beyond Jill, was able to often
create scenarios where those characters where they weren’t
automatically exempt from even being killed on screen. Many
believe this could have been done from the start, and may have
avoided many of the issues the franchise has - especially with
Alice often labelled as an overpowered character and/or “Mary
Sue” bad fanfiction type.
Either way, if both Capcom and Constantin set out originally to
create a unified idea, it is these sorts of things with the game
characters the do tie the brands together. And even when people
are tearing the films apart on Resident Evil fan forums, they
often do relish in the small nods Anderson does put into the
films that link back. But sadly as mentioned, this is all mostly
fluff, which again hides the idea that these works are not
directly adapted from their source but merely inspired as such
regardless of what small links or character names or looks
It’s a thought (and one that started this article to begin with)
to draw parallels to the creation and success (or lack thereof)
in regards to certain Resident Evil games and the focus of the
franchise towards more action just like the films. Both share a
certain level of detraction but the negative impact seems more
clear to the videogame franchise, with the latest main title
selling well short of expectations and receiving negative
reviews with hamfisted action and loose scope often being blame.
Anderson’s latest film made almost half a much as the film
before it at the box office, but reviews stayed fairly
consistent. Still the films continue to push the same hamfisted
action and loose scope. The former considered more likely as a
failure, the latter closer to still a success.
But still I wonder how the franchise would have been under
George A. Romero? Or under a different production house? Or
another director? Or under Capcom themselves again? Would it
have been more true to the games but less financially
successful? Or even more so? We will never know these answers
because it didn't happen, but it leaves us with a good question
for the future of the franchise.
Resident Evil, as a film, hit at the right time to actually lead
a new zombie renaissance for cinema. Before its release there
hadn't been a mainstream zombie release for easily a decade or
more in cinemas but also potentially proved shuffling old
"Romero" zombies may have needed an update but also clear
reverence as well. It may not have been the main cause of the
following boom (I'd say 28 Days Later has a lot more to answer for it) but in almost every
production afterward Romero's original legacy was still somehow
linked just as it was with Resident Evil as the first out the
gates in early 2002.
By the year's end, there was the fast moving "not-zombies" rage
monsters (Danny Boyle refused to consider them as zombies in all
press discussions) appearing in
28 Days Later, as
mentioned, with seemingly no connection to older shambling
corpses. But two years on from it, Romero's
Dawn of The Dead was
remade by Zack Synder with fast zombies to success. Clever
zombie comedies began to appear much more frequently as well
with 2004’s Shaun of the
Dead becoming a cult hit based on its love of the history of
cinema zombies and just a witty general story of survival in
what people feel a zombie apocalypse would be like (and begun as
an idea, ironically due to
Resident Evil 2 in a very roundabout way).
Based on the success of zombies at the movies again, George A.
Romero himself then also got to return to the modern zombie
concept he began when he directed
Land of the Dead in 2005 for Universal and against expected odds it
released to quite reasonable critical and financial success for
him and the studio.
However it has been pointed out that when George went
independent again after Land, his results were not as
successful. 2007's Diary
of the Dead (starring future Resident Evil film franchise
actor Shaun Roberts, who'd also had a smaller part in Land)
received mixed to positive reviews but made limited box office.
2010's Survival of the
Dead however landed the director with both very negative
reviews and a worldwide box office take in the range of only
$140,000 when it cost $4 million dollars to produce. But by 2010
Romero may have failed to see the zombie glut that he released
These days zombies have returned in every form possible. Big and
low budget zombie films fill the shelves, books as well with
success (many of these like World War Z and Warm Bodies also
adapted to films) and games as well especially have had a
complete love affair with them for the last several years
especially. Even turning up in games where zombies normally
wouldn't have been considered before (modern-ish shooters such
as Call of Duty,
westerns like Red Dead
Redemption, Japanese gangster games like
Yakuza, etc. are just
a very few examples). We're spoiled for choice in regards to
what sort of zombie based entertainment we want to enjoy.
Resident Evil itself as a game franchise, seemingly in a fit of
difference, instead moved more away from traditional zombies for
most of the last decade, which also impacted on the more recent
Anderson films in ways not actually explained very well in the
Capcom has also gone onto self-produce other Resident Evil
feature films, those of a computer animated variety with
reasonable success. They allow them to tell stories linked more
into the game universe and directly with characters the game's
fans know and love. It is here perhaps many should put hope that
maybe Capcom will spend some time telling new stories that are
actual canon for the games fans. It proves that perhaps with the
right investment Capcom was always capable of telling its own
story as well and repeating their production success that they
had with the Street
Fighter film still.
Paul has said his series with end with the sixth and final
film. But as a financially successful franchise its unlikely
Capcom, Sony, Constantin and anyone else involved is going to
want to end it when there are profits to be made. Again even
Paul has been asked to speculate on that. Just recently the
6th film has been given a release date in September 2014, and
seemingly if rumors are to be believed will link back into his
first film by taking the characters back to the mansion and lab
where his series began. However, if the direction games are
going to be taking the time to be re-evaluated then maybe the
same can be said of the feature films when Anderson finishes.
We can only hope that instead of linking new stories into the
same universe as the current films (which personally I believe
is probably very likely to happen especially in direct to video
spin-off or sequels like those to Anderson’s Death Race take),
maybe it's time they look back to the simple idea that was the
only game story at the time the rights were sold because it’s
still a solid concept that could setup a film.
Where a local police special forces squad makes their way into a
forest at night to try and find their team members, instead are
attacked and have to escape into a mansion. Filled with zombies.
And monsters. And much more evil. And we will line up at the
cinemas to watch, likely passing posters as we make our way in,
which will hopefully displayed with the following tagline:
"They escaped into the mansion, where they thought it was safe.
About: Rob “Rombie” McGregor is a longtime Resident Evil and
huge general movie fan, and ran the websites
Resident Evil: A New Blood
from 1998 until 2003, and
ResidentEvilFan.com for several years from 2003 onward. He
currently works in film and television production in New
Acknowledgments: This has been a far, far, far bigger article
than I ever expected when I began. As a note I’d like to thank
several people and companies for their assistance with this
article, including my long time friend Martin Ramsauer (Rammy)
for providing me with a copy of materials I made many years ago
and some images for this article from his archives; Yama from
Biohaze for posting this onto his wonderful website; Sven from
Capcom-Unity for dealing with some inane related questions that
I knew were long shots but worth asking; Sony Pictures NZ for
providing me with recent materials (and tickets) and answering
questions related to the Resident Evil film franchise; SG79 from
on the Biohaze forums for giving this all a once over look of
this for me and general support; and all of the other fans and
friends who’ve supported my online endeavors for the past 15
years or so. It’s been very much appreciated.
I leave below referenced links and notes to most of my sources
where possible, if you’re wanting to read more on the films
origins these are great places to start. I also have to
acknowledge ComingSoon.net - for an archive of RE specific movie
news reports I originally used in 2002 for the bones of a
production chronology (which Rammy provided for me from his
archive). If there is something quoted and not cited in the
above article, it would come from that chronology.