Resident Evil: Degeneration caught my eye immediately because of a familiarity with the series, but until recently I didn't have the time to view it.
Though I'm not the biggest fanboy of the Resident Evil videogame series I can honestly confess that I've completed multiple play-throughs of both the fourth and fifth installments; also, I've had opportunities to catch up on the story from other games via friends, the internet, etc. With this solid RE background I came began the movie with a veritable amount of hype but sensible expections.
A lot of the hype came from the stunning visuals. At times throughout the movie the line between live action and CGI blurred because of the impressively sharpened character models, environments, and believable imitated movements. This impressive style and quality of animation felt only marred by a few statuesque character motions, and the main "G-Virus" creature that appeared out of place when compared to the rest of the CGI models--almost as though it was copy-pasted onto the screen from another film.
If you watch the English dubbed version, as I did, you'll probably recognize most of the voices from current generation videogames and anime. These voices on the most part fulfill their roles adequately, but some of the lines felt flat or uninspired--such as the prattling of the innocent-girl stand-in, or the semi-evil issues of self-concern on the part of the senator. Both of these examples, as well as others, stems from a core weakness in the series: the characters.
At times the RE games perform character development admirably. More often than not though they'll throw down a quick stereotype to fill gap in the story like the two characters mentioned above (see Sherry Birken and Spencer as two easy comparisons to the characters above). The two main additions to this particular film garnered significant developments than the gaggle of uninspired stereotypes, but didn't go as far as to break old molds of disinterest completely; a man doing anything for vengeance and a sister trying battling with herself for the power to stop him feels awfully familiar.
Leon and Claire appear for fan appeasement. Am I a fan? If you've read the review up to this point than you know the answer to that. Was I pleased? A little, yes. I liked seeing Claire and Leon together again but felt a little betrayed when the same characters that came on screen were the same ones that were left as the credits began to roll. Certain subtleties such as Claire winking at Leon as they both go to their not-really potential doom, and Leon offering Claire a ride provided instances of speculation for changes in character but ended up being little more than fan service with no follow through. The same with the potential romance between Leon and the heroine, Angelina, that also failed to follow through.
What more can I say about the story than it's RE? Well, I can say the continued struggle between the series' beloved zombie hunters and the diabolical pharmaceutical company, Umbrella, still feels fresh enough to work in yet another installment. I believe that how the movie keeps you guessing a little on who's actually "evil", and the reality of pharmaceutical company corruption in the real world are two elements that have the power to keep viewers coming back to something that is bordering realm of "too familiar" in more ways than one.
As the movie wrapped up I felt pleased overall. Though far from perfect, it provided a legitimate moment of entertainment that I think even those who aren't fans of the series might be able to appreciate.