How I Would Script is a weekly column at The Open Man by Joseph Nardone. In it, our favorite, most handsome Internet Scribbler maps out how he would recreate whatever TV show or movie that is on his mind. Have a suggestion? Hit him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Reboots are coming under attack. Often tagged as Hollywood’s lazy attempt to profit off nostalgia, we are sometimes doing a disservice to creative minds that might be able to make something awesome even better.
Obviously, the history of reboots is a mixed bag at best. For every new iteration of It, there’s Rob Zombie’s ill-fated Halloween 2 — or whatever the hell has happened with the Transformers franchise.
This Internet Scribbler is not blindly against attempts at recapturing some previous magic. It is why, at least partially, How I Would Script exists. There’s ideas or concepts for creative projects that are worthy of another go around.
That brings us to the Resident Evil franchise; a series of movies so loosely based off the video games that the little cannon used to intertwine the two quickly falls apart.
Basically, for every game-related head nod the movie franchise gave, it took it away in great haste by making that material entirely worthless to a connection point.
To be clear, I liked the first Resident Evil movie. While the main character was not in any of the video games, it did take place in the mansion (kind of) where the first game’s story laid. After that, with a few random winky faces towards the games, it became more a movie that fell in the action genre than the first three games, which were all firmly grounded in horror.
At the same time, it could have been a conscious decision by the producers of the franchise. When Resident Evil 4 (the video game) hit, the horrors of the first three gave way for a more action heavy, fast-paced structure.
For me, it is when I turned on the video game franchise. Having been introduced to it when Resident Evil 2 dropped, then falling in love with everything about it, RE4 wasn’t recognizable to me. It took place in the same universe, but it wasn’t anything like the other games.
As it always is with these How I Would Scripts, everything is pretty much preferential. You might love the original Resident Evil movie franchise, as well as the usage arc the games went along, but there is reason to bring up a new version of the franchise…
THEY. ARE. ALREADY. REBOOTING. IT.
Yup. We are barely over a year removed from Milla Jovovich putting the Resident Evil franchise to bed, and now those slick, money-hungry folk in Hollywood want another go at it.
My gut reaction to hearing this was, well, not great. Nausea swept over my bell as if I just drank lukewarm milk that is a few weeks expired. Then my mind defied all logic — “What if,” it began to ponder. “The people put in charge of this franchise brings it back to its roots?”
That is unlikely to happen. Still, the what-if of that scenario is just too hard to ignore.
Pack your backpack with some goodies, kiss your spouse goodbye, and join me for a voyage to a place that properly reboots the Resident Evil franchise.
It Is Horror. Not Action.
What do you guys think of the Alien franchise? First one was great. Some would argue the second is even better. After that, it falls off a cliff. Even myself, who sincerely believes Prometheus wasn’t nearly as bad as its reputation, recognizes this.
One has to wonder what exactly happened to that franchise; why something that appears so rich with fans dying for it to be great, so filled with potential as there’s nothing holding it back, shit the bed?
It is because it was a horror franchise that quickly became one falling under the action genre (though, Alien Covenant is really neither and is the worst installment since Sigourney Weaver was fighting aliens in a prison-planet).
Resident Evil’s premise is about zombies, an evil corporation, and people battling both. In the movies, it was about a lady named Alice who acquired superhuman powers and was able to clone herself at some point — or something.
As are most movies like this, the plot to each installment never fully connected and any grip on a closer-to-reality-based structure gave way for a more Jason X approach.
Alice was an action hero. She’s much closer to John McClain of Die Hard than she is to Ripley of Alien(s). It worked, briefly, but as soon as the franchise did the RE version of sending Jason Vorhees to space — giving her “powers” — we could see The Fonz jumping the shark a few lakes away.
We need the first installment of the reboot to leave audiences feeling claustrophobic. An aura of looming fear has to be around every corner; mot only with jump scares, but with a forever flowing sense of confusion, hysteria and an encompassing terror that would only be rivaled by having sex for the first time.
Our heroes — more on this later — need to be regular people in this universe. No special powers or weird grip on what is happening. Especially not in the first movie. Our characters should be so petrified that we are leaving terrified for them.
Characters Are Just People (From The Games)
Again, I don’t hate the Alice character. She was fine for what the movie franchise was trying to do. And hell, props to Milla for pulling it off, as the way her character was scripted, she should have probably came off far more soft-core porn than it did. That is a testament to her as an actor. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.
But she was still a woman who quickly became a damn superhero. We already have DC and Marvel shoving that hogwash so far down our throats as is that I’m currently defecating random Batman figurines as you read this.
It is relatively unimportant to me which character(s) from the original games are the lead, but there needs to be a more solid connection point. After all, if I’m going to invest in another handful of Resident Evil movies, I don’t want a re-imagination of a franchise that was already re-imagined.
Leo, Jill, whoever else have you, introduce these people in the first movie. You can have non-video game side-characters, no issue at all. That is as long as they’re not scripted as stereotypes.
We Start With The Mansion
The first Resident Evil movie did touch on the mansion from the video game. However, it touched on it as softly as you would touch a baby that just came out of a woman’s womb — assuming you’re not an evil person.
We don’t need the franchise to go in the same chronological order of the video games. I do recommend that the first two, though, are the mansion followed by Raccoon City — and not the version of Raccoon City in which it departs the walls-closing-in-feel of the video game for some open-world, sandbox-y feel.
There’s an important part to starting with the mansion. It is our origin story. Where the outbreak began before hitting Raccoon City, then spreading to become a worldwide epidemic.
We get our introduction to our main characters, The Umbrella Corporation gets a slight hello, and we start our franchise off by mostly doing a version of George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead in a farmhouse, but in this movie it is a mansion.
The Umbrella Corporation Is More Complex
Man, how The Umbrella Corp. factored into the movie franchise was one of my biggest pet-peeves. While I completely understand wanting to make them the face of evil, each new movie created a “new head face” for the company. Wesker was around, though his story-arc was all over the god damn place.
Not to mention that anything as big as Umbrella can’t be painted with such a broad brush. It can’t just be only evil. There has to be levels to this.
For my version of the franchise, we won’t really hear/know about Umbrella until the last quarter of the movie. For the majority of it, our characters are just trying to survive zombies in a more traditional zombie like way. Near the end of the film, we get our first peak at who is responsible for the outbreak of the T-Virus.
This is something good the Resident Evil franchise has done over the years. Most zombie movies or games don’t ever really explain how the zombies came to be. The Walking Dead hinted it would reveal such a thing with its Fear The Walking Dead spin-off, but we never got it. Even our heralded zombie godfather, Romero, only hinted at stuff falling from the sky as the reason.
With Resident Evil, we have a clear-cut starting point for the dead walking. It is a corporation messing around with some DNA, creating the T-Virus, and it breaking from the scientific laboratories.
In my version of the franchise, I prefer Umbrella to be less intentionally evil and more unwitting evil-doers. A corporation that meant well — hell, even thinking the T-Virus could cure some disease — but it simply not working out that way.
When the zombies begin to happen, a power struggle happens near the top of the corporation, essentially breaking it into two factions. The first being those well-to-do scientists who wanted to help mankind and now want to do everything possible to help the virus from spreading. The other, those businessmen and women of the company who feel like shoving the entire incident under the rug is what is best for the company’s bottom-line.
I do NOT want The Umbrella Corporation to be just outright evil. They can be a more powerful Apple or something, though the propose of their business model is to never be solely focused on creating undead weapons.
Think about that for a second, as it was one of the least logical plot points of the original franchise. In that universe, the corporation — one that should have a primary objective of making money off LIVING members of the human species — randomly decided that it would create weapons of mass destruction for countries that wouldn’t exist, as they were under attack from the T-Virus situation.
Suspending disbelief in movies is on thing. Understanding what the hell Umbrella’s actual goal in the original movie franchise is another.
Important Characters Should Die
Alas, here is my usual biggest issue with all forms of entertainment that deals with death all over it, but ignores the fact it should be playing a heavy role in the storytelling.
In the very first Resident Evil movie, they killed off Michelle Rodriguez’s character. I thought it was brilliant, specifically because she may have been the most famous actor in the movie (at the time of its release).
We need more of that. Unlike the original franchise — which KEPT BRINGING THOSE PEOPLE BACK SOMEHOW — all deaths need to be final. They also, as importantly, need to have meaning.
Death in any creative medium should result in at least these two things taking place.
- Emotional impact.
- Advancing the story.
A monumental issue I have with a lot of movie/TV show deaths is that it might resonate, but only for a few episodes. Sure, some programs might do a random callback to a character lost a few seasons prior, but it’ll forever bother me when a character loses his or her son/sibling/lover in the first part of a show, then it becomes an afterthought shortly thereafter.
That shit should haunt a person forever. It should alter that person’s mindset. Not always in a way that makes that person so bad ass that they’re unrecognizable, either. No real person walking on the planet could lose a loved one unexpectedly and then expect to trot about their lives like it was similar to getting pooped on by a bird.
That should be considered umpteen times when zombies are roaming around.
The Money Grab Is In Not Making It One/End Game
How many movies did the original franchise make? I know the actual number. How many it felt like they made — approximately 3.04 billion — is another story. It is why so many sharks were jumped so many times (though, credit to the movie makers, as fans ate each shark up on giant box-office draw at a time).
“But Joseph,” a curious reader is about to ask. “How does the movie company make money?”
By announcing this franchise as a hard trilogy. There will be three movies. No less. No more.
Moreover, we will be given actual closure with each movie earnestly linking to one another. When one movie’s plot ends, as do the stories for each character, the next picks up from there (mostly).
Trilogies, and them being done right, can be glorious entertainment. A neverending movie franchise (Hello, Halloween, Die Hard, Resident Evil, Police Academy, Alien, etc.) inevitably results in trash.
Trash, my friends, is bad.
I’m not going to script all three movies here, as we’re already over 2,000 words here and I have some living (before zombies come) to do, but I will give you the very basics of each movie.
Resident Evil: Takes place in the mansion. Our main four-six characters are introduced. Umbrella shows up near the end, but our only true villain at this point are the zombies. The scale of this entire thing at this point is ONLY the mansion and its immediate surrounding areas.
We close this movie by our heroes finding Umbrella operating underneath the mansion and them being met by a (good guy) scientist. He explains the T-Virus situation, power struggle happening within Umbrella, and how he believes the virus may have just reach Raccoon City.
Resident Evil 2: We open not with our heroes already in Raccoon City, but with a new main character already in it (beat cop, bartender, whoever) going about his normal routine. We don’t need the horrors right off the bat. Whatever s/he is doing gets interrupted when s/he looks outside his/her cop car/store window to see what looks like a single person making out with another (this person is not doing that, but eating that person’s face!).
Our heroes from movie one jump in to make the save. After that, they notice there are more zombies than the scientist believed to be in the city, then decide to take refuge in the bar/police station (I prefer the latter, for video game tie-in purposes) the introductory character works at. Movie goes on, our heroes are mostly in survive-and-advance mode.
The climax of this flick is them learning more about Umbrella, even being helped by the two factions of it, only to learn — after somehow surviving an onslaught of zombies — the T-Virus has spread beyond their local city.
Resident Evil 3 (Finale): We should have a lot of dead bodies in our wake — those of zombies and important characters alike. After our first two movies were solely about survival, with a little information gathering as they went, whoever is left of our heroes have to make a decision. Do they find safety somewhere (wherever they may be) or attempt to stop this by finding a cure?
The latter of the two is honestly lame as all hell. When people are faced with unimaginable horror, their first thought isn’t about what they can do to prevent or stop it. It is more about what they can do to find safety. Our heroes are going with that option.
This last installment in our trilogy is about the long journey our friends take as they look to find that safe haven. It could be an island, or an isolated part of the forest, or whatever. The where doesn’t matter as much as the voyage.
Clearly, the first two films are far closer to one-location settings. This one will be far more open. We see them hit the roads, try to get gas for abandoned cars, and see the devastation the T-Virus has left on the world while they were just trying like hell to get out of Raccoon City.
For me, I’d like our heroes to make it safe to wherever they’re trying to go. Sure, a lot of them have to die to get there, but that’s the point of good horror. Not everyone is meant to live.
Speaking of good horror, do you guys feel that pressure building in your nether regions? That’s right … we’re nearing our climax!
Prior to the final scene, we see the two factions of Umbrella uniting in an effort to try to find a cure. Good for them. They’re besties again!
Unfortunately for those silly bastards, all that in-fighting cost them too much time. As one of the scientists looks at one of his former colleagues-turned-rivals and says, “This is the cure!” they are to be overrun by a horde of their own making.
The movie closes with our heroes finding their safety-place while the camera pans out to see the worldwide devastation the T-Virus has provided.
That’s the close to our movie trilogy. Our characters “made it,” as best they could. They didn’t stop or prevent anything grand from happening because normal people can’t do such a thing.
Now that’s hard trilogy I explained earlier. We needed an ending to this so it didn’t become a shtick of a gimmick of a dumpster fire of a franchise. Less is sometimes more, especially for movies.
As for the spin-off Netflix series that I will be more than happy to produce (money from)…