Resident Evil: Resurrection
September 2010: The fourth instalment in Paul W. S. Anderson’s clunky, functional game-to-screen series Resident Evil chugs to respectability at the box office and a sequel looks inevitable.
Star Milla Jovovich chats to the press about a potential follow-up. “We’ve been talking to a lot of fans on Twitter and stuff, so it’s probably going to be one of the first movies where we really talk to fans to see what they want,” she reveals.
The resulting survey of thousands of Resi hardcore reveals a near-unanimous verdict. “Go back to the beginning,” the hordes say, “And this time don’t cock it up.”
A series worth saving
First appearing on PlayStation in 1996, Resident Evil invented the survival horror genre as it now exists, and went a long way to jumpstarting the still-cresting wave of neophyte zombie love.
Its reward was a flaccid, predictably flashy film adaptation that junked the character and intelligence of the games in favour of Milla Jovovich popping undead heads for 90 minutes.
But it deserved better – and the fan survey underlined a demand for a new start.
The fans speak and the studio listens
November 2010: To the incredulity and excitement of everyone except Paul W.S. Anderson, Sony announces that the overwhelming response from the fan community has convinced the studio to reboot Resident Evil.
First on the agenda is the fans’ number one plea: ditch Anderson, whose jaded, dumbed-down approach has failed, as fast as possible.
The search for a new director begins.
The new director
February 2011: Sony’s announcement causes an eruption of conjecture and an apocalypse of flamewars, with names from Sam Raimi to Zack Snyder being thrown into the entirely speculative hat.
Then comes the official word, which raises a fair few eyebrows. Or indeed, all the eyebrows – Christopher Smith, the British director of Severance, Triangle and Black Death, is given the nod to both write and direct.
The internet does an instant Alderaan, but a growing group of Resi purists support Smith, pointing out his proven record of handling smart genre material with strong characters.
Jog on, Jovovich
March 2011: Milla Jovovich, star of the original series, reveals in a red carpet interview that she won’t be returning for the Resi reboot, and she has no idea who might replace her.
The response is mixed but upbeat – Jovovich did a solid job of carrying the franchise, but Alice was clumsily grafted into the Resident Evil mythos and the geek hivemind isn’t sorry to see her go.
In a dark corner of the Sony executive offices, men in suits begin to sweat gently while thinking about who to put on the next Resident Evil poster.
Casting the net
May 2011: A waiter called Brian from Sacremento with a huge dimpled chin apparently reveals through his Twitter account – Bri77InTheMovies – that Sony are holding auditions for the part of Chris Redfield.
It’s the first indication of the new film’s direction, and the internet latches on to the info teat with a hungry sucking maw. Rumours are rife that the reboot will be more faithful to the game, deviantart fills up with weird airbrushed pictures of Chris with massive pecs, and military-grade slashfic is written.
Brian doesn’t get a callback.
Picture credit: Redfield37
June 2011: Blurry pictures of someone who might be Katee Sackhoff with dyed dark hair in what could be a Jill Valentine costume test show up on Dark Horizons, with over 700 increasingly lurid and fervent comments dissecting the image pixel by pixel.
Sackhoff’s publicist no comments the pic, but says her client’s contract with CBS for CSI: Crime Season Investigation allows her to do feature work off-season.
Sackhoff’s lawyers issue a cease and desist warrant to JillDilsTheUndead.com, forcing the site to remove obsence photoshopped images of the actress in various necrophiliac scenarios.
The new S.T.A.R.S.
July 2011: After all the teasing, a frenzied orgy of cosplayers at the San Diego Comic-Con witness the unveiling of the film’s new cast.
A lumpy nerd sea of too-tight green vests and bulging flak jackets whoops itself hoarse as Katee Sackhoff is confirmed as Valentine, and Jeremy Renner is revealed as Redfield. A man wearing a spray-on beard who shouts “We want Ryan Reynolds!” is stomped unconscious.
Bri77InTheMovies tweets that he’s moving home to Oregon to help his dad run the family business.
In by a Wesker
July 2011: Just as the Comic-Con panel is about to end, director Smith stands up and says he has one more special announcement to make.
“I want to introduce you to our very own Albert Wesker!” he teases, stoking the crowd to the point of spontaneous combustion with a mention of the game’s central villain. “It’s… Danny Dyer!”
Several of the crowd are sick.
“Just fucking about. It’s Christian Bale!”
The story goes viral
August 2011: As filming is about to start, an early version of Smith’s script is leaked and reviewed online.It reveals that Smith’s film takes in the plot of the first two Resident Evil games – the first half focused on exploring the mansion at the heart of the zombie outbreak from Resi 1, and the second half dealing with the outbreak itself as it reaches Raccoon City from Resi 2.
Ain’t It Cool News call the script a ‘sensitively crafted weave of the series’ best moments’, SlashFilm praise Smith’s eye for a set-piece, and CthuluGonnaCall.com give the script six re-animated penises out of five on the anticipation scale and raves that it will be ‘the best film since Jesus.’
Drawn to comment on the leak, Smith claims the script is quite out of date, but that he’s aiming for an “Psycho meets Escape From New York” feel.
The shooting starts
Aug 2011: Filming begins at Mentmore Towers, which doubled as Wayne Manor in Christopher Nolan’s Batman and will now become the mansion on the edge of Raccoon City.
Smith announces he won’t be shooting in 3D as it's 'a crock of shit.'
Christian Bale is super nice to everybody.
Las Plagas is coming
September 2011: During on-set press visits, Smith casually mentions that the studio has already approached him about making a sequel if his reboot is successful.
Smith goes on to say that he’s already started drafting a new script ‘based on Resi 4 and the whole Spanish cult, Las Plagas thing’ and that he’s worked a cameo for Leon Kennedy into the first film to prepare for the sequel.
It sounds too good to be true – like hot women who claim they’re interested in your Halo Reach kill/death spread – but once the quotes are confirmed Smith’s stock rises higher than ever with Resi fans.
Le boo or le cheer?
May 2012: The reboot is screened – controversially – out of competition at the Cannes film festival.
The front of the Grand Théâtre Lumière is covered by a huge animatronic zombie head with a moving jaw and a complex hose arrangement enabling it to dribble ‘saliva’ on to guests as they pass down the red carpet.
Despite the gimmicky promotion the film is praised for its tight storytelling, claustrophobic feel, and for reaping the benefits of taking its game source material seriously.
The full outbreak begins
August 2012: The film is released to good reviews and feverish fan reaction. The metaphorical corpse of Milla Jovovich is carried offscreen.
In a piece of takeover marketing Sony arrange for the film to receive a 100% Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the picture of a bad tomato replaced by a tiny rotting head.
Nobody gets it.
Resident Evil returns
September 2012: Sony announces that the Resident Evil reboot has made exactly one dollar more than all the Paul W.S. Anderson films put together, and that justice and balance have been restored to the universe.
Smith officially signs on to make the Resi 4-inspired sequel, along with Bale and Garrett Hedlund, who filled the Leon cameo in the first film.
And, just for one day, the internet is quiet.