The one adaptation into film that has always proven to be the dodgiest since its inception is video games. Saddled with thin plots, flat characters, and an emphasis more on gameplay than actual storytelling, many of them like Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon have become some of the most infamous film duds of this era.
However, British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson has proven to have an understanding for how video games can translate into workable action films. His adaptation of the gory martial arts video game classic Mortal Kombat proved to be his breakthrough film and provided a possibility for Hollywood that adapting video games could be successful.
In the past decade, Anderson has achieved even bigger success with video game-adapted films with the equally classic survival horror game Resident Evil, which spawned two equally successful sequels Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction that he’s written and produced. Now the 45 year-old has returned not only to write and produce, but direct for the first time since the original, the now-fourth film in the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D.
With the latest entry being 3D, Paul says it was a no brainer for him to return to the director’s chair for the latest installment of the film.
“I love 3D,” Anderson enthuses, “I always loved the concept of 3D. If there was a 3D movie, I’d always go see it in the seventies and the eighties and the nineties and I’d have a headache and the 3D would be bad. I always felt it was a technology that was a great idea, but the technology never really caught up with the idea to deliver it properly.”
Anderson says that it was the unprecedented record-breaking success of James Cameron’s Avatar that convinced him that 3D was very likely here to stay this time around.
“I thought really that James Cameron kind of changed all that, with the rigs that he built for Avatar were amazing,” he believes, “He showed me a big chunk of it and I saw the quality of the 3D images he was getting. Like anything associated with Cameron, the guy’s a genius and everything’s so super high-end and if you want to rent his cameras, it’s super expensive.”
Paul says, however, that he hopes his ambitions for a 3D Resident Evil entry will continue the trail blazed by Cameron.
“I felt, if I’m going to come back and do another Resident Evil movie, I want it to be the best Resident Evil yet,” Anderson says, “And if we’re going to do 3D, I want it to be the best 3D yet and I also feel, as filmmakers, we have a responsibility. If you’re asking an audience member to go pay a premium price for a cinema ticket for 3D, you had better deliver a premium product, otherwise, they’re going to stop paying that price. And I felt, to live up to that responsibility, you have to originate the movie in 3D and you actually design the sets for 3D cameras, shoot it with 3D cameras, edit it in 3D, which is what we did, We’re actually the first movie to edit in 3D.”
“The technology didn’t exist,” he continues, “That’s when you know you’re on the cutting edge of something. So he would edit in 2D, then he’d have to project it in 3D, not through a conversion process because he had 3D images, but it had to be translated to use the second eye, then he’d watch it 3D, and then, he would alter the cut because the movie played slightly different in 3D than 2D, which again, for me, makes a mockery of all these 2D conversions because things change. You have to change the cut when you’re cutting in 3D because there’s more for your eye to explore and there’s more for your brain to take in. Sometimes, you have to loosen the cut in 3D, which if you shoot in 2D, there is less for your mind to explore so the cuts can be faster.”
With that in mind, Anderson is also quick to note that his vision of 3D is far beyond the hokey gimmickry of its original inception in the 1950’s and briefly once again in the early 1980’s.
“I think for me, 3D is about immersion,” Paul believes, “I think you get immersion in two ways. One is there’s depth behind the screen, but also, I feel there’s times where you want to use space in front of the screen as well and we definitely use it. What we’ve tried to do is not do what early kind-of 3D movies, which is kind of stick shit in your face and go, ‘Oh, look! We’re 3D! We’re 3D!’ and kind of leave it at there because movies are all about suspension of disbelief and kind of immersing yourself in the story and forgetting that you’re sitting in a cinema with 200 other people, right?”
“The more you stick stuff out there and leave it, the more you remind the audience that you’re in the cinema,” he continues, “So, yes, we have stuff coming out of the screen, but we try to have it motivated by the action and by the story and it’s part of a moment and then, it’s gone. So just as when Dolby first came in or when surround sound first came in, people were obsessed with everything coming in the back of the cinema and swirling around you. Now, filmmakers try to show more restraint. We try to show as much restraint as possible.”
Paul says the new 3D experience, including what he himself has created in Resident Evil: Afterlife will extend beyond the borders of the movie theater and into homes on the Blu-Ray and DVD video formats.
“Absolutely,” he says, “We’re Sony’s only kind of live-action 3D movie for this year and were one of the few live-action 3D movies to be released from any studio this year. I mean, since Avatar, there hasn’t been a live-action 3D movie yet. They’ve all been conversions. So we’re definitely thinking about what the next step is, which is the Blu-Ray and the DVD release, absolutely.”
“Doing some promotion in Japan, I saw the new Bravia TV’s they have there,” Anderson continues, “The 3D quality’s unbelievable. I mean, it’s really fantastic. Makes me feel like a complete idiot that I just bought all these plasma screens for my house. I also like spent all this money building this home theater that I spent all day editing 3D images in my cutting room, then I go home and I watch movies in 2D and I’m like, ‘Ugh!’ And it’s just not the same and you really get used to it, even as kind of a home format. And I’m convinced that in five or six years time, it’s really going to be the standard of home entertainment.”
However, Anderson says that his directing this new 3D sequel after having relegated himself to writing and producing the previous sequels was more than just a chance to play with some new filmmaking toys.
“Well, I mean, I’ve always been there,” he says, “I wrote and produced the second and third movies and I was on set a lot of the time and I directed second unit. So it’s not like I’m coming back to the franchise after a seven year gap, having been off on a tropical island somewhere, although that’d be nice. I think what changed a lot was that the games themselves transformed a little bit. They’ve always been survival/horror games, but also, increasingly, they’ve had some amazing action sequences in them. Especially, the latest one, Resident Evil 5, has some amazing off-the-hook action in it. And I felt that if I was going to return to Resident Evil, I wanted to make a bigger and better Resident Evil. I wanted to make the conceptual jump, the camera between T1 (Terminator) and T2, where it’s the same franchise, it’s the same actors, it’s the same story, but it’s clearly a slightly different kind of movie.”
“It kind of rebooted its own franchise in a way and that’s what I wanted to do with this film and kind of elevate it to the next level,” Paul adds, “That’s why we made it a globetrotting film. We shot it in so many foreign locations. I mean, amazing locations, like these glaciers in Alaska, which look fantastic in 3D. We shot in Tokyo, we shot in Hollywood, we shot in Long Beach, we shot in Canada. I mean, there’s no Resident Evil that’s kind of traveled around as this one has, all in the attempt to make it kind of more of an epic film. I mean, it’s still Resident Evil, it’s still an action/survival/horror movie, but it’s on an epic level. I watch 2D versions of it all the time. I mean, it’s still a very good movie in 2D, that’s for sure. I think 3D is an enhanced experience. It helps that.”
Paul hopes to continue his zeal for creating filmmaking excitement with his next film, a new adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas serial The Three Musketeers, which he will both direct and produce and is set for release April 15. He talks about what audiences will come to expect from this new adaptation, which has long been a Hollywood staple in film.
“It’s the classic Three Musketeers tale,” Anderson reveals, “If you read the books and you go, it’s about D’Artagnan, young boy, dreams of being a Musketeer, travels to Paris, falls in with the Three Musketeers, Cardinal Richelieu is trying to outmaneuver the king and queen, trying to embarrass the queen using these diamonds that have been stolen and taken to London. The Musketeers have to go to London, get the diamonds back, rush forward as Richelieu’s henchmen are trying to stop them. It’s the classic story, it’s exactly the story, but it’s told with a contemporary edge and we’re kind of in the post-Pirates Of The Carribean world right now.”
“And for me, those are the paradigm when you look at those kinds of films and those kinds of stories,” he continues, “You read the original Three Musketeers books, he’s writing Pirates Of The Carribean, he’s writing these fantastic cliffhanger episodes because the book was originally serialized. It’s sexy, it’s fun, it’s got jokes in it, it’s got action in it, so that’s what we’re making. We’re making The Three Musketeers, but we’re making it through the lens of Pirates Of The Carribean.”
However, Anderson addresses a rumor that filming for The Three Musketeers was not delayed by his nuptials to his Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich, whom he wed in August of last year.
“Listen, I got married and then for my honeymoon, we went and shot this Resident Evil movie,” Paul says, “And I only got to go on my honeymoon earlier this year. So that’s what Milla and I did for our honeymoon, we killed zombies, and then we went on our honeymoon after making the movie.”
“So, no, we’re hitting the dates,” he adds, “In fact, we brought the shoot forward two weeks because of the weather situation. We wanted to use these fantastic locations, but then, the weather gets kind of dodgy in Europe at that time of year, so we brought the shoot forward.”