Day 212: The Man and the Final Chapter; ‘Recognize’

WARNING: If you have not yet seen Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and are PLANNING TO, please be aware that possible [SPOILER ALERTS] may be ahead! You are forewarned!

resident-evil

So last night I went to see Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The last installment in the Resident Evil series starring the beautiful, talented, and totally killer Milla Jovovich.

Look let’s be absolutely honest. First of all, if you haven’t seen the others, you probably have no reason to be watching this particular one either. And if you have, as I have, been an avid fan and watcher of these particularly terrible-yet-oh-so-good zombie horror/action B-movies, you’re going to watch this regardless.

Wait a minute…so…who’s actually gonna benefit from this review?! Ahahah. Oh well.

code-veronicaMy history with the Resident Evil series goes back further than 2002, when the first Resident Evil film hit theatres. In case you didn’t know, Resident Evil was, and still is, a video game series way before it was a zombie movie franchise. I remember buying my PS2 and it came with a copy of Resident Evil: Code Veronica. The RE series always had an incredible sense of environment and pace to create a permanent sense of dread. I was very young then, and the first time you wake up and escape from your cell and you start to climb up the long, dark, empty stairway, it was too much for me to even finish. That’s right. I didn’t get further than ten minutes into my very first Resident Evil game.

Since then the franchise has gone through a lot of different growths and changes, and I’vebiohazard changed as well as a person and a gamer. Still we were always in a very elongated and faint but ever-present orbit around each other. Every couple years I’d find myself going back to the latest Resident Evil game, testing the waters once more. There were some good, some bad, and some terribly, terribly bad. Horrible controls, bad voice-acting, glitchy animations. But still, I loved it. And the most recent one, Resident Evil: Biohazard with its VR mode, is an absolute NIGHTMARE. A wonderful return to the very essence and nature of Resident Evil. Survive. Scream. Repeat. It’s a great thrill ride and the true stuff of nightmares. Is it any wonder why I love this series so much?

The movies have been much more consistent. Consistently what is certainly up to interpretation, but consistent nonetheless. Fast-paced action, rock star soundtrack, so so so many zombies. And a lot of Milla Jovovich side-boob. But they were always fun, always exciting, and a great distraction. The story, though threadbare, was always at least just enough to keep the suspension of disbelief going. The movies were pretty well done too, with excellent CGI, effects, and a palpable sense of dread when necessary.

So I have to be honest with you. As a final send-off of what has been a big part of my life…Resident Evil: The Final Chapter…kind of…disappointed.

Let’s talk about cast. Now if there’s one thing you can rely on in a Resident Evil movie, it’s that the cast is always disposable. You will go through characters faster than a teenage boy through tissues. That’s fine. In the zombie apocalypse, we don’t all get to retire at the dinner table on a Sunday evening. Some of you are going to get eaten. But at least, the movie gives you enough time to give a damn. To care. In the first film, we follow a team of elite operatives who are sent to actually try and contain the situation and save the world from the outbreak. They are the best of the best, a highly trained team who works together. So when one falls, you feel the pain of loss. You see them grow weaker and either lose morale or lose themselves to anger. In the second, we felt for US agents trying their best to help a city on the brink of collapse. In the third, survivors who have found each other at the end of the world and are trying just to survive and cling to hope. And so on and so forth. But in this film…honestly I can’t even tell you a single person’s name. And that’s a real shame. Because a nameless body among hundreds lost to the horde really doesn’t mean much to anyone, does it? But one strong, well-developed, recognizable and relatable character lost…even if it’s just one, you feel that. Only one other regular from the series made it back to this one, though we get no explanation as to why or how the others are missing. So we don’t even get to mourn the fallen. Instead we’re just immediately introduced to even more people (why introduce new people in the LAST installment of something) who die almost as quickly and as unremarkably as they are introduced. I wish I could have cared about them more. But maybe they were going more for the body count.

Story wise…for a zombie movie so clearly ready to kill off its stars…I was surprised by howmila-shooting ‘Disney’ the ending was. It seems the Sunday dinner table was in fact set with an extra table for someone from the series. I also couldn’t quite get the thinking behind the villainous Umbrella Corporations’s reasoning. It seemed like at the brink of extinction, everyone would find it in their best interest to continue on in a certain way. In the beginning of the series Umbrella Corp was just another pharmaceutical company that got way too big for its britches, took on more than it could, and tried desperately to cover it up. But by the end they were both the saviors and the plague. They couldn’t quite make up their minds about how to portray the company. This leads to plot holes and some very questionable decisions.

The music was great, and the zombies were varied and provided action, horror, and some great opportunities for creative violence. The sequences were scored well, choreographed with skill, but honestly…whoever their cinematographer is should be SHOT. This is one of the few times I actually find myself angry about cinematography. The action sequences were made with so many consecutive jump cuts that I almost got nauseous. I had plans to watch the movie in IMAX 3D and now I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t know how I would have handled it. I craved the few and rare moments of crappy dialogue just because it provided a needed respite from the frantic frenetic camera jumps of the action sequences. It’s a shame too, because often times camera shifts are used by directors to avoid having to justify the action or to cover up poor choreography or lack of actual skill.

I love the Resident Evil series, I honestly do. And I will still watch the first five films, with the first and second being my absolute favorite. They will always be one of my favorite guilty pleasures. As a ‘goodbye’ for the series, I wish there was more chance for ‘goodbye’. I would have liked to see some characters return. There were still some left alive in the previous movie. And the setting was in fact Raccoon City again, where the whole series started. But since they ended the film with a nuclear bomb, there were no reminders, no familiar landmarks to recognize, no tearful flashbacks. Just (literally, this is what they called it in the film) the ‘Pit’. And that’s kinda where I feel they left all our memories.

Day 212

Man: 180 Loneliness: 32

Day 70: The Man and the Day the Plague Wiped Out Ironforge

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It’s time to combine two of my favorite things! Zombies and video games. We’re going to talk about an epidemic that affected 6.5 million people worldwide. We’re going to talk about the spread of a disease that wiped out whole cities just from contact. We’re going to talk about one of the biggest online games in the world. And we’re going to talk about how all of it became one of the scariest, realest, and most relevant examples of real life simulation in gaming history and what it means for our society.

We’re going to talk about September 13th, 2005: The Day the Plague Wiped Out Ironforge.

World of Warcraft was first released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004. It was a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that let players create characters who would explore the fictional game world of Azeroth. Much like the real world (hence the ‘role-playing’ part) you would take care of your character avatar, leading them on quests, fulfilling tasks, interacting with other players, and growing stronger over time learning new skills and talents. The game grew quickly in popularity and after just one year reported more than 6 million active online subscribers (hence the massively multiplayer aspect). You could run on your own, join factions or guilds, fight against other players or computers, and basically live a life of adventure by proxy.

One popular aspect of the game was ‘raiding’, wherein players would work together to explore vast and complex dungeon systems and ultimately defeat a dungeon ‘boss’ for the promise of vast wealth and powerful weapons and armor. Blizzard kept appetites sated by constantly releasing new and exciting dungeons with varied bosses and level design to keep players on their toes.

On September 13, 2005 Blizzard released the Zul’Gurub raid and its end boss, Hakkar, on the world of Azeroth. One of Hakkar’s abilities, Corrupted Blood, was designed to be so hakkerthat only high level characters could challenge him. When your character became infected with Corrupted Blood you would take a small amount of damage repeatedly over time. Higher level, more powerful characters would be inconvenienced but ultimately could continue to fight him with little interruption but the weaker characters would almost certainly die before time ran out. Additionally, any characters within proximity of the infected would catch the disease and also take damage over time. It was a dynamic feature that promised smart, strategic gameplay. But there was one huge oversight. Your character could be accompanied by pets who could in turn catch the disease. Although the ability was programmed to end over time after leaving the vicinity of the dungeon, this only affected the characters. The pets, therefore, went unnoticed, unaffected, and when entering a crowded in-game city, could infect other players and other computer characters.

The entire world was thrown into chaos following the swift widespread pandemic that affected almost every character. Animals and pets were unaffected by the damage and could run around and infect everyone it came into contact with. Non-player characters (like civilians and shopkeepers) were asymptomatic but still carried the disease.

This did not just affect your stereotypical gamers. The reason why World of Warcraft was so popular and had such a rich fan base was its universal appeal. Anyone who wanted a shot at adventure or at least a chance to reinvent themselves was on this game. You were witnessing an epidemic that affected teachers, lawyers, plumbers, stay at home mothers, deployed military, ministry, young, old, and all races. The world was literally dying and wedead-city had a front-row seat to the final curtain. People were acting out exactly as they would have in real life, and the sample size reflected that. This was not just the actions of 18-35 middle class males. Predictably, you had those whose characters had the ability to heal organizing and attempting to field recovery efforts in makeshift centers around the world. The game designers attempted to impose player quarantines to separate the sick from the uninfected. Players who could not heal and were willing to risk infection went out into the world to find players and direct them to safe havens where their characters could remain curse free and alive. Those who were infected were marked so those uninfected could know to avoid them. Some abandoned the cities for the relative safety and isolation of the more rural environments in the game. Others straight up decided to simply not play the game until the glitch was resolved. Worse yet though, were the ones who were infected and purposely and maliciously attempted to trick other players and infect them. Some would purposely get their pets sick and then, disguised as uninfected, infiltrate uninfected camps and unleash their animals.

We saw bravery during this time. We saw courage, fear, paranoia, and even malice. We realized how little we knew of each other and how unpredictable mankind really is, especially in moments of crisis. We saw the effectiveness and/or ineffectiveness of organized attempts to control sickness. Cities literally piled with the white bones of dead player characters. Mass exodus and refugee situations. A simulation of the weak and the strong, the old and the young, the poor and the privileged. Hospitals sprang up; quarantines and evacuation attempts were made; purposely planned attacks on populaces were executed.

The gaming community was witnessing a simulation as close to real life as possible short of actually releasing some sort of disease into the world. And they were not the only ones watching.

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Epidemiologists, behavioral psychologists, and even counter-terrorism experts began to take notice. They wanted this raw data because of how relevant it was to their fields. Remember that at the time, the world was dealing with a very recent SARS and avian flu outbreak. Epidemiologists were fascinated by how quickly the disease spread and the various factors that caused it. Animal carriers were now a huge concern as in the real world
ducks from Asia had spread avian flu to the western world. The ‘stupid factor’ was exemplified in players who, completely spared of the epidemic by not playing, purposely logging in to ‘see what was going on’ and ultimately contracting it themselves. Behavioral psychologists wanted to witness the madness, try to make patterns and predictions for behaviors and responses to things like quarantines and the knowledge of infection. They saw how many quarantines ultimately failed because, spared of the sight of the mass character deaths, many ‘didn’t take it seriously enough’. They were horrified by how quickly players realized the most efficient way of infected the largest population possible and the repeated efforts to implement these attacks. They wanted to know why those who helped were helping, observed the train of thought of the general population and decisions to either stay in the cities or take their chances in the countryside, and tracked the spread of paranoia among characters who could no longer identify the sick. Naturally, counter-terrorist agencies wanted to witness for themselves how biological attacks could take place in large populaces and how quickly it could spiral out of control. The best and most effective ways to create the most amount of damage and how to anticipate and prevent this from happening.

A variety of studies were done and released based on the Corrupted Blood Incident. Many more were based on future iterations and versions of this computer simulation. These studies could help us better understand how we react and how our enemies could react as well.

I’ve always wondered if a zombie apocalypse could actually happen. We like to assure ourselves that we have a plan set out for any possible iteration of disaster. Then something happens that tests every single one of us and we realize, humans are unpredictable. Behaviors are unpredictable. Disaster is unpredictable. These were not isolated cases. This was not just a population of gamers messing with each other. These were real people making real decisions in real time. We don’t have to be wizards or orcs or elves or mages. We don’t have to imagine a world of magic and monsters just to see how this can relate to us. The world was virtual, but the player decisions were very much real.

September 13th, 2005. The Day the Plague Wiped Out Ironforge.0

Day 70

Man: 53 Loneliness: 17