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Who can figure Hollywood & the movie business?

Not me, that is for sure. Even harder to figure out is the film going public… and after a chat with Hollywood film producer and blogger Brian Linse the other day, I get the impression from him that even Hollywood cannot figure out the film going public.

Take two movies, both based on computer games. Firstly, Tomb Raider, staring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft: striking a Lara-ish stance

The Tomb Raider series of computer games were massive and more or less redefined the genre. I thought they were all quite gripping and am very eager to get my paws on the latest episode of Lara Croft’s adventures, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness.

Angel of Darkness: Lara Croft in all her pixellated glory!

As you might expect, I was rather keen to see Tomb Raider: The Movie, directed by Simon West. It had everything going for it: Angelina Jolie is an interesting looking woman and without doubt a technically skilled actress. Although she is not quite ready to challenge Gwyneth Paltrow for her crown as ‘Best-Yank-Actress-who-can-do-a-perfect-British-accent’, she is pretty damn good nonetheless.

The film clearly had a truly humongous budget, was adequately acted and tolerably directed in parts (with a couple startlingly bad scenes: it takes a certain perverse skill for a director to make a gratuitous shower scene with Angelina Jolie laughable for all the wrong reasons). Unfortunately the story line was weak, convoluted and confusing. Worst of all, the production was dire: it was almost as if it was three separate movies, casually spliced together, differently paced as if styled by three sets of completely unconnected film makers, then finally so badly edited as to make some parts of the story incomprehensible. Although Tomb Raider: The Movie was not utterly without merits, the overall effect was shockingly disappointing.

And yet, due to the Tomb Raider/Lara Croft brand name and massive marketing, this clunker rode out the appropriately scathing reviews and was by no means a commercial failure in spite of costing a great deal to make. A sequel is in the pipeline.

And then let us look as the second movie, Resident Evil staring Milla Jovovich as Alice.

Milla Jovovich as Alice: about to demonstrate how unhappy she is with her ex-boyfriend

The game that the movie is based on, similarly called Resident Evil is a big name in the Playstation console world, but it does not have anything like the brand recognition of ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Lara Croft’ with the general public.

Killer pixels: Veronica from the Resident Evil – Code V game

The Resident Evil movie, directed by Paul Anderson, clearly has a far smaller budget, it was marketed poorly to put it mildly and with the exception of Milla Jovovich (Fifth Element, Zoolander, Blue Lagoon, Two Moon Junction etc.) had a cast of more or less unknowns. Resident Evil had a simple but nearly flawlessly executed story, was artfully directed, skillfully produced and very atmospheric. It was well cast and Milla was excellent as the killer amnesiac conspirator known simply as ‘Alice’… and unlike the jarring T&A scene in Tomb Raider, the opening shower sequence with dazed Milla worked perfectly, setting the deliciously ill-at-ease tone for the whole movie.

In short, this movie rocks… vastly superior to ‘Tomb Raider: The Movie’ on every level. It has no pretensions to be high art or intellectually challenging, but it does exactly what it sets out to do with considerable flair.

And yet unlike the dismal Tomb Raider, Resident Evil almost immediately vanished off the screens and onto video/DVD. Fortunately, because it cost so little to make, the picture seems to have still made a profit and thus in this case too, a sequel is in the pipeline called Resident Evil: Nemesis (which will no doubt cause confusion with the impending Star Trek movie called ‘Nemesis’). Movie making is a very strange business.

Go out and buy or rent Resident Evil: The Movie on DVD or Video, it is destined to be a cult classic. Avoid Tomb Raider: The Movie like it was smallpox.

Update: The Resident Evil follow-up movie has been retitled Resident Evil: Apocalypse, presumably to avoid confusion with the recent Start Trek movie flop called ‘Nemesis’

16 comments to Who can figure Hollywood & the movie business?

  • Qedneko

    “DVD or Video” implies that the DVD is at best a series of still images.

    “DVD or VHS” would be more appropriate.

  • Eh?

    Where I come from, one goes out and rents/purchases a ‘video’, not a ‘VHS’.

  • Indeed, it’s the same in the midwestern U.S. I think that queneko is technically correct, though, since video (in its most pedantic form) is moving pictures (dvd, for example, stands for digital video disk). That’s a pretty pointlessly pedantic point to put forward.

    As for the post itself, I’d considered seeing Resident Evil, but was afraid that it might be as dismal as the Final Fantasy movie (same reason I’ve never seen Tomb Raider). I’ll continue steering clear of Tomb Raider, but I’ll try to see Resident evil. IMO it has a better lead actress anyway (in both acting talent and ogling potential).

  • Well Lucas, if the horror/adventure/scifi genre is ‘your thing’ then Resident Evil will be 101 minutes well spent. As for me, time spent watching Milla J. is rarely time wasted.

  • Larry Anderson

    Totally agree with this article..

    Resident Evil was a fine popcorn movie.

    Tomb Raider blew chunks.

  • When Tomb Raider came out, the local paper suggested Angelina Jolie’s breasts be given co-headliner credits.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course…

    (By the way, if chosen to serve as Lady of Warleigh, I will most certainly have staff capable of firing giant guns and a lab filled with mechanical spider-like creatures. Applications for the former will be taken via my site.)

  • Jeremy

    Well, part of the trouble is the Resident Evil, at least the first game, was designed to be like a B horror movie. The dialogue in the first game was hillarious (in an Ed Wood sort of way). That probably wouldn’t inspire people to see a movie based on it.

    Also, I didn’t see Resident Evil because I thought it looked sleazy, having Milla J. in a skimy dress. That made it look like a slasher type movie, where women are the victims. Resident Evil, the games, generally weren’t like that.

    Also, as a rule – zombie movies don’t make as much money as adventure movies.

    Also, I believe in Tomb Raider, Jolie wore a whole lot of padding. So it’s not really her breast’s that were the star.

    You should also look at Final Fantasy the movie. It cost a ton of money to make, flopped, and has also driven Square (the makers of both the games and the movie) out of business. They’re now merging with another company. (That’s what they get for using Alec Baldwin, so I’m not too unhappy).

  • There’s a whole debate about spinoffery reducing the market for intelligent, though usually flawed, sci-fi films.

    I usually catch most films with a fantastic element. Didn’t Resident Evil strike you as Day of the Dead, with less wit or humour? I mean the Romero flick not Candyman 3 but he (Tony Todd) managed to get sliced and diced!

  • No Philip, I rather liked it!

  • Trent Telenko

    The difference between the movie versions of Tomb Raider and Resident Evil was the the size of the deal.

    Hollywood operates today much like any other monopoly. The powers that be exist to charge monopoly rents on anyone and everyone they can get their hands on.

    The Tomb Raider movie was a complete success from the Hollywood mogels point of view because a big money deal means lots of the cash sticks to their hands as rent.

    All the things that make a good movie are secondary to that and often get in the way of their goals. Big name stars mean the deal is bigger and their 10% rent gets larger.

    The profitability of Resident Evil means little to the big guys interested in getting their 10%.

  • Trent: What do mean by ‘monopoly’ & ‘monopoly rents’? How can ‘Hollywood’ be a monopoly? It is made up of all manner of competing companies with their own agendas and there are always loads of independent movies, not to mention all manner of film work being done in other parts of the USA. And of course there are non-US movie industries all over the globe.

    The US movie industry is successful to be sure, but being big and successful does not make an entire industry a ‘monopoly’ or even an oligopoly.

    For example MacDonalds also very successful at selling vast tonnes of crap to people, but that does not make MacDonalds a ‘monopoly’… just very successful as selling people crap.

  • One interesting tidbit about Tomb Raider is its unusual audience draw — it was extraordinarily popular among lesbians! Several small lesbian groups/clubs named it the movie of the year. And Tomb Raider calendars were sold in “alternative lifestyle” bookstores like hotcakes.

  • One interesting tidbit about Tomb Raider is its unusual audience draw — it was extraordinarily popular among lesbians! Several small lesbian groups/clubs named it the movie of the year. And Tomb Raider calendars were sold in “alternative lifestyle” bookstores like hotcakes.

  • I saw Resident Evil last night, and was most certainly everything I thought it would be: a fun, stupid zombie movie. I loved the scene with the zombie with the broken foot who was dragging an ax. Bad horror par excellance!

  • OK, on Perry’s recommendation, I put it into my Netflix queue. Phillip and Lucas are both right: it’s “a fun, stupid zombie movie”. Nothing more. The only thing it’s got going (for me) is Milla.

  • Jessica

    How much money does a actress make? How much eductation do you need and how long will it take to get it? What do you do on a day to day basis, on the job? How many hours do you work? What kind of equipment do you get to use? Do you work night or day shifts (or both)? How much vacation time do you get? Are there any skills, outside of a formal education that would make you better at your job? Do I get to travel for my career? What would i enjoy most aout this job? Am i more likely to work for a big or little company? can i work for myself? Are jobs like this easy to find?