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Culture

Resident Evil Comes Home to Germany

The box office hit based on a popular video game opened to big crowds this week in Germany, where the movie was originally filmed.

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Shooting up zombies proves to be a success for German film producers

Fans of the video game "Resident Evil" flocked to movie theaters in Germany this past week for the opening of the same named film. Although the action thriller was produced and filmed in and around Berlin, German audiences were not the first to see the box office success. That privilege was reserved for the crowds in America.

Like other big budget German films produced by Bernd Eichinger, "Resident Evil" was not intended for home consumption. Stars, action and million dollar sales are the producer’s goals. And for that, the film needs to be made for America.

So, despite the scenes filmed in Berlin’s dark and cavernous subway tunnels, the opening country house sequence and the few random cameo appearances by German stars, the film has very little to remind audiences of its German background.

As with Eichinger’s first big film, "The Never Ending Story", his latest production is purely Hollywood in scope. So far ist been very successful in this regard. It’s broken several records in the US. According to hollywood.com "Resident Evil" pulled in $18.2 million in the first three days of showing. It was ranked number two in the most recent US film charts and number four in biggest opening sales. For a German production, it is without a doubt the most successful film of all times.

Simple story

Despite all the hype surrounding the film, it’s really just a simple story about good versus evil and human against machine – with lots of action, violence and sequences reminiscent of video games. But that’s what the genre calls for, and that’s what Eichinger wanted.

The film takes place in the future. The whole world is under the control of the all-present Umbrella Corporation, an evil computer dictatorship which conducts genetic tests in a secret underground laboratory called "the hive". The film begins when one of the experiments goes haywire and a virus mutates, killing hundreds of workers.

The disaster takes on greater proportions when the viewers learn that the hive workers are not really dead; they’ve been turned into zombies. These "undead" are threatening to break out into the rest of the world and kill off the humans.

The situation looks pretty grim until the female protagonist sneaks into the laboratory and starts fighting off the zombies. Played by Milla Jovovich ("The Fifth Element"), the heroine is no soft doll; she’s a lean and very sexy combat machine. Unlike Laura Croft, though, Alice is a complete human being with all the emotional baggage the label brings. Video game fans and action movie goers alike will rally behind her until the dramatic end.

Violence sells

As is typical with the computer film genre, long violent shooting sequences are a fundamental element in "Resident Evil". For people with a soft stomach, it might be too much. Bernd Eichinger, however, doesn’t think so.

In an interview with the German news magazine "Spiegel", Eichinger defended the use of violence, saying it was all within the boundaries of decency, even somewhat comical in a way.

All the violence is "almost funny, because it’s so absurd. You can call it cult. And no blood flows either, even when the zombies are shot. But then they can’t bleed – they’re already dead," Eichinger said laughing.

"Zombie films are great!" Eichinger explained. "It’s the ultimate nightmare – you shoot down something and it pops up again. You can do whatever you want; it doesn’t go away. Zombies are perfect for film."

Not all viewers, however, were as enthralled with the violent shooting sequences as the producer. Some German movie-goers left the cinema half-way through the film, claiming the blood and gore were just "too brutal". Others were disappointed there wasn’t more.

In defense of his "balanced" use of violence, Eichinger said, " People want to be shocked when they see an action film. It’s like riding a roller coaster. When you get on, you want to experience the fear of riding a roller coaster."

Of course, violence also sells.

From computer to cinema

With more than 17 million "Resident Evil" avid video players, Eichinger’s decision to film the violent computer game was a cool financial calculation.

Although the film may take a few liberties – there’s the inevitable and somewhat awkward love scene – the video fans are certain to recognize their favorite characters in the action sequences. And if Eichinger and the Japanese game producer Capcom play their marketing cards correctly, the "Resident Evil" rage could turn out to be a financial success for both: a symbiosis of computer and cinema.

In an online forum dedicated to the movie, one fan raved about how much she enjoyed the film, "I saw the movie Resident Evil!! It was awesome, I can’t wait for the next one to come out." In the meantime, she’ll spend her time blowing away zombies on the computer screen.

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