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Face-Off: Resident Evil (2002) vs. Underworld (2003)

09.13.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we shined the spotlight on two of the most influential franchises in cinema history in a match up between the original Indiana Jones Trilogy vs. the original Star Wars Trilogy. In an interesting, but not unbelievable surprising turn of events, the exploits of our main man Indy scored the victory.

This week, thanks to the release of the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution, that is the name of the new one, right? Right! Too many to keep track of these days. We've decided to throw some love to the original Resident Evil that started it all by throwing it against another decent flick that spawned its own share of sequels in 2003's Underworld. The quality of said sequels is a matter of very justifiable debate, but these originals obviously did something right! But which one do you fancy more? Here's my two cents.
Story
Pulling elements out of video games Resident Evil 1 & 2 and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, our story begins with an idiot decides to contaminate an underground facility with something known as the T-virus, resulting in an artificial intelligence baddie locking down said facility. Meanwhile, a hottie with amnesia is abducted by some goons working for the Umbrella Corporation and is taken to the contaminated facility in question, which results in a battle against the Red Queen and her facilities mutated occupants. Pretty simple 'fight against all the elements that are trying to fuck up your day' plot, what worked in this case was its execution.
Selene is in the middle of a war between Vampires and Lycans that has been raging on for centuries, when she starts to fancy a human that was bitten by one of her Lycan foes, she finds herself in a conflict of interest between her enemies and Vampire brethren. There was something about this originally conceived mythology between vampires and werewolves that spoke to the genre fan in me, throw in the added ingredients of betrayal and forbidden romance and you have yourself a winner in my eyes.
Cast/Characters
Milla Jovovich has a commanding presence on screen, powerful, at times intimidating, seductive when she needs to be (those eyes), and she made for a great heroine here. For Michelle Rodriguez, this is the role that helped type cast her in that of bad ass chick that wields a gun, but the reason for that is that she's so damn good at it. The rest of the cast in Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, and and Michaela Decker as the Red Queen brought their game to the proceedings as well. Also, Jason Isaacs narrating your movie will not hurt at all.
A lot of the critics blasted the lack of character development and overacting by some of the actors in this movie, I say the type of movie we got here those larger than life performances were completely appropriate, I'm looking at you Bill Nighy. Then there's Kate Beckinsale and that lovely leather outfit of hers, she made for a strong heroine in her own right and carried the film well. One of my favorite performances in the film is that of Michael Sheen's as Lucian, dude delivered. Scott Speedman held his own as well. Don't know what the critics had a problem with, these characters were compelling enough to keep me invested.
Direction
Paul W.S. Anderson didn't have the technological advances that he was able to employ for future installments in 2002, so what we got here is a gritty, practical approach. And it still holds up in my eyes. While some of the zombies were created using CGI, the majority of them were forged with practical makeup and professional dancers to best capture zombie movements. And Alice's disposal of said undead was not without style, ten points. Real life desolate, dimly lit, and at times claustrophobic set pieces were also front and center. A lot of Resident Evil was old school filmmaking at its finest.
Much of the praise for Underworld came from the films gothic visual style. Len Wiseman gave us a visual feast, and in the eyes of many that was the films saving grace. The makeup and character design here was great stuff, I don't think you even have go get me started on the costume design. This whole film screams stylish, and the tone thankfully was translated into the sequels, which is what I believe kept them coming.
Soundtrack
With a team like Clint Mansell, Marco Beltrami, and Marilyn Manson...how could you not have a winning soundtrack? Throw in some tracks from bands like Slipknot, The Crystal Method, Static-X, Rammstein, Depeche Mode, and Method Man and you composed a must have in your CD case. Props to Manson for employing his range with this soundtrack and stepping out of his comfort zone. Now excuse me while I go listen to 'The Fight Song'.
The soundtrack for Underworld matched the films dark and Gothic tone, with guitarist Danny Lohner contributing to numerous tracks under the name Renholdėr. The most notable song on the listing is entitled (Bring Me the Disco King) by David Bowie, Maynard James Keenan, and John Frusciante. And nobody can count out the original score provided by Paul Haslinger.
Underworld
Well there it is folks. The original Resident Evil is a fine film indeed, but Underworld with its dark visuals and the very thought out vampire-werewolf mythology, and yes, Kate Beckinsale's wardrobe puts Len Wiseman's gem just above the line for me. Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen threw in two stellar performances that stole every scene they were in. But that's just me. Is the original Resident Evil the better genre film in your eyes? Let us know.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which genre film is your favourite?
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