‘Resident Evil’ Reboot’s Casting Decisions Are Already Showing Signs of Illness
Pale skin. Heavy-breathing. Disappearing iris. We all know too well how perfectly-healthy humans can turn ill and end up being zombies in Resident Evil. Though originally released as far back as in 1996, there is no doubt that many adults today still remember the fear and terror of playing Resident Evil for the first time at night, alone. Even until today, many still wonder how a game console, a puny TV and crappy resolution were able to give them a good deal of nightmare.
Then came Resident Evil (2002), a live-action movie based on the game with a leading character who was a total unknown — Alice. Not being a Redfield or a Valentine, Alice continued to confuse the viewers — players and non-players alike — and I would totally forgive anyone who thought that Resident Evil was a zombified twist to the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland. To clear up the air, Alice was in fact a custom-made character created by director Paul W. S. Anderson to make his live-action movie less predictable to the viewers, by large those who had already completed the game(s). And I swear to you that she was born of an idea as complex as “a Caucasian woman stealing Ada Wong’s red dress”.
After almost two decades and five sequels later, the Capcom horror game is ripe for a reboot. Naturally, Milla Jovovich won’t return as Alice, and her director-turned-husband, Anderson, won’t be directing as well. This opened up the possibility for a reboot where we will get to see the original characters actually calling the shots in-film, which is exactly what we will be receiving. Earlier in October, Deadline reported that the reboot will be helmed by Johannes Roberts, the mastermind behind 47 Meters Down (2017), and six key cast members of the reboot have been confirmed. Kicking off the list is the gorgeous Kaya Scodelario from the Maze Runner trilogy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) in the role of Claire Redfield. This is followed by Hannah John-Kamen as Jill Valentine, Robbie Amell as Chris Redfield, Avan Jogia as Leon S. Kennedy, Tom Hopper as Albert Wesker, and Neal McDonough as William Birkin.
Now, I don’t have any complaints at all about not seeing Jovovich in this reboot — after all, her Alice kind of messed up with the original characters of the game when Anderson introduced the latter in the sequels with half-baked roles. But at least, there was one good thing about Alice, in a way that she was such a stray bullet — she did not have to conform to any arcs established by the games. This is no longer the case with the reboot, and now that the wild card no longer exists, the original characters have to basically adhere to the original plot laid down by the games.
Of course, six key characters in a film based on video games doesn’t sound bad at all. That is, until you realize that six of them are literally from two groups with pretty much their own individual story-fabric. If you are veteran of the Resident Evil game franchise, or someone who was unlucky enough to be tortured by the first few titles when they were released in the 90’s like me, you could instantly tell that Chris, Jill and Albert Wesker belong in the first 1996 game, and Claire, Leon and Dr William Birkin belong in Resident Evil 2.
I won’t go too crazy with what happens in-game for those characters, but let’s just say that both Albert Wesker and Dr William Birkin are powerful enough — as villains in the games as well as with respect to their character development — to command their own individual films. There is no alpha and beta here — both of them are apex predators in their own rights, and they don’t really work together. Which begs the question: How faithful can this reboot be towards the original storyline which many of us had experienced in-game?
As much as I remain skeptical towards the idea of Wesker and Birkin sharing a single film, it is even more alarming to see Chris, Jill, Claire and Leon being bundled together. In case you are wondering, the first and second Resident Evil games took social distancing to the extremes in the 90’s even before the birth of Covid-19. The protagonists didn’t gun down hordes of zombies discussing what to have for next breakfast, and they were usually cornered and forced to take their own isolated paths to survive. That is what made the first two games so iconic at the first place, and if Johannes really wants to ‘recreate the terrifying visceral experience’ like what she has said, the last thing she needs to do is grouping four protagonist from two Resident Evil games together and let them have fun blasting through zombies in Raccoon City, Avengers-style.
While the news of Scodelario donning Claire’s red jacket for the upcoming reboot of Resident Evil is certainly a positive one, the rest has been a mixed bag, to put it simply. If you have seen John-Kamen as Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), you can somewhat tell that she fits the mould of Jill Valentine and that she has sufficient kick-asserie and range to carry the famed S.T.A.R.S. member. Yes, I still think that Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider, post-Jolie) would be a terrific Jill Valentine, and I am secretly wishing for that to happen, but it is what it is.
Honestly, I have not personally seen Tom Hopper or Robbie Amell on screen, and thus I can’t predict much about their respective roles in the reboot. But Avan Jogia and Neal McDonough? Man, where do we even start. I had last spotted Jogia as a hippie-slash-pacifist in Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), and I can tell you that he’s the exact type of character whom the audience would like to give a good, hard slap before handing him over to the zombies. Neal McDonough had a couple of villainous roles before this, but none stand out more than the major getting hilariously trash-talked by Jim Carrey’s Dr Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog. What’s worse, Jogia playing the cool, manly Leon S. Kennedy, or McDonough playing one of the most iconic bosses in Resident Evil?
Taking Alice out of the equation is an overwhelmingly positive signal that the reboot is off for a great start, and perhaps, this is that very moment that fans of the games and film series have been waiting for. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the film franchise setting itself free from Anderson’s grip after almost two decades. For once, they have the chance to make things right, which could be accomplished by staying faithful to the first two games and giving them an accurate silver-screen translation. But from the way that things are going, the reboot looks set to become an even bigger screw up than Resident Alice.
Originally published at https://www.thefilmaddict.com on November 7, 2020.