Why I like the Resident Evil

Going by recent sci-fi and fantasy films, the world is more terrified of cash-rich business corporations than of maniacs and spirits


From the time I heard about the fifth part of the Resident Evil series, I had been waiting eagerly for it. The moment it was released, I went and watched it. I admit I am a huge fan, but the reason is not Mila Jovovich or the excellent technical work that characterises the series. What I like is the thought that forms the basis of the stories.


The story is about the Umbrella Corporation that creates a virus that infects people and turns them into zombies. As the infection spreads, cities are razed, and the corporation takes over one country after another as their defence fails. What’s so great about this story? Isn’t this what happens in most fantasy films? Well, what makes Resident Evil different is that its villain is a corporation, a business house, and not some maniac.


Many films like Resident Evil now reflect the new fear that rich corporations, not governments, will soon run the world. Will this happen in the distant future, or is it already happening now? The latest version of Resident Evil gives us some clues.

Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil


In reality, there may be no T-virus infecting the populace and spreading from the bites of those infected. But in its place, we have propaganda created by private companies. That spreads through word of mouth, the media and the Internet. The ideas created by these corporations shape our thoughts, choices, behaviour, and eventually, our societies.


Let us take something as simple as clothing. It’s the brands that dictate what is in fashion, and what is not. Irrespective of our comfort, we follow their veiled diktat, and ridicule those who don’t.


Throughout the movie, the corporation addresses Mila’s character Alice as ‘Project Alice’. This is exactly how most corporations think of us consumers. They regard us not as individuals, but as objects to be snared for sales, gradation, and brand loyalty. We are mirror images of each other. We not only dress the way the majority does, but we also prefer similar careers, hobbies, gadgets. We even eat the same food, read the same books, and have the same opinions.


The 2010 Oscar-winning film Inception plays with the idea of corporate espionage, where agents spy on people’s dreams. Its characters enter the sub-conscious mind and steal ideas. They also implant ideas and thoughts in dreams. We do not need any burglar to enter our dreams, for we lay our minds bare on social networking sites, survey forms and marketing research questionnaires.

Leonardo dicaprio in Inception

Some creative efforts keep the symbolism minimal, like the TV Series Supernatural. In one of its episodes, the devil runs a major fast food chain. He subjugates people through addiction to the unhealthy food his company promotes.


The attack on corporates through sci-fi and fantasy is not new, though. JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, written in the 1950s, speaks of growing industrialisation and destruction of the environment by big industries. In the book, later made into a movie, the corrupt wizard Saruman destroys a forest to build his evil army. This army is shown busy at work with machinery and inventions.


Sci-fi and fantasy stories are often dismissed as silly works of the imagination. That is simply because we fail to see the representation behind the flying saucers and broomstick riding. For instance, C S Lewis’ collection The Chronicles of Narnia speaks of Christianity, where the lion Aslan represents Christ. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (The Golden Compass is the name of its film version), speaks of the repression of the child’s inner voice by the church and the education system. The most recent Suzanne Collins’ novel, The Hunger Games, made into a blockbuster movie of the same name, predicts a future where people will be controlled through reality TV shows.

Raja Ravi Varma’s painting of a scene in Ramayana

I would compare the intent of these stories to that of our myths, legends and Biblical stories, which feature magical elements, and at the same time show the sociological, economic and political conditions of their times. Buddha’s teachings gained popularity because of the Jataka tales, simple stories where animals speak and ghosts weep.


If we dissociate religion from the Ramayana and look at it objectively, we find that it is also a fantasy tale. It has a prince, a kidnapped princess, demons, birds that talk, and an army of monkeys and bears. Yet, the story teaches us a way of life and is the basis of our culture.


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