SDCC EXCL: A Resident Evil: Degeneration Interview


Producer, director on the CGI feature film

There are all kinds packed into Room 2 of the convention center housing the San Diego Comic-Con. Young. Old. Gamers. Fathers. Babies (I’m not kiddin’.) Chainsaw-wielding bandaged imps. And the occasional emo-haired Leon Kennedy wannabes dressed to the hilt in his S.T.A.R.S uniform and ready to pop a cap in some zombie’s cranium. Luckily for the zombies in attendance, of which there are a few (gored out with ragged clothes and haunting dead eyes), these Redfield clones are not carrying live rounds.

The gang’s all here to see Sony’s full trailer for Resident Evil: Degeneration, the first feature-length CG-animated film to spring from the successful Capcom video game series. The preview is greeted with stifled chirps of delight as fans watch Leon and Claire Redfield reunite to take on an all-new T-Virus menace. They respond to it like the walking dead take to a fresh corpse with its exposed steaming entrails splayed all about it. Sony has served up a veritable appetizer and the crowd wants more. And so producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi and director Makoto Kamiya – visiting from Japan – field questions about this latest Resident Evil title.

Set several years after Raccoon City is blown to bits, Degeneration picks up in an anonymous U.S. airport where a bio-terror attack raises the dead and unleashes a few surprising monstrosities. “Leon is, of course, a pro at handling these kinds of situations so he cooperates with Claire to handle the situation. There will be a lot of mysteries and incidents they have to take care of,” explains Kobayashi. When asked by an attendee if sparks flare between the two zombie protagonists, the producer reveals a new character to the Resident Evil universe named “Angela, so you’ve got Claire and Angela – it’s up to Leon to take the pick.” The audience applauds. They love it. Twelve years after the first game’s debut, the Resident Evil franchise – through sequels and a lucrative live action films – show little signs of loosening its bite on its collective fanbase.

Later in the day, I swing on by the Grand Hotel to talk briefly with Kobayashi and Kamiya about the creation of Degeneration. It’s the first interview I conduct with a translator involved and it goes seamlessly.

Before this foray into the RE world, Kimiya served as the special effects director on Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. His other credits include the ’95 Gamera and the two sequels that followed. Does this film fall into the continuity of the films or the games?

Hiroyuki Kobayashi:
We keep the Milla Jovovich films on the side because they’re not connected. The thing is, when we came up with the idea of a CGI feature film, we wanted to do something that would be a sequel to the video games. With Leon and Claire appearing in this, this would obviously be a sequel to Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4 which features Leon.

Shock: Who originally sparked to the idea of doing this film – was it Sony or Capcom?

This actually fruited from both sides. Capcom wanted to do a CGI film and Sony Pictures came to us saying they wanted to do one based on Resident Evil. Through our discussion, we needed to pick a director and of the games I’ve worked on, I worked with Kamiya-san on one title and knew I wanted to work with him again.

Shock: When did production begin? Take me through the timeline of making a film like this…

It was about the fall of 2006 when Sony and Capcom thought about doing this. After that, we spent the winter with Kamiya-san, had a meeting with him and asked him if he’d like to do it.

Makoto Kamiya: Once we got into 2007, that’s when we started to talk about the story and kept on developing it until the summer of ’07. We did auditions for the motion caption actors and then had to storyboard everything. The motion capturing happened in December of last year. We didn’t start working on the CGI until the beginning of this year.

Shock: Wow, that’s a lot sooner than I thought.

And obviously, regarding the scripting process, it has to be faithful to the video game franchise and we didn’t want to contradict any facts. That was something I made sure was correct. But I knew this wasn’t a video game, it’s a film so it had to be fun and entertaining. Valid as a film, not a video game.

Shock: Was it liberating to know you could creatively go wild in the CGI realm?

One freedom we had was that we could set this anywhere, create any environment. Plus we didn’t have to pay out in the big Hollywood style. [laughs] Leon and Claire never complained about their contractual guarantees and would never have to complain about working after 6pm.

Shock: For fans of the series, what villains can we expect to see surface with the exception of the undead?

I can’t really talk about that too much. Other than zombies, you’ll be seeing some new creatures. This film does feature a lot of zombies though, I’m also a big fan of the zombie genre, so you’ll be seeing a lot of zombies going wild at the airport.

Shock: Kamiya-san, can you talk about your transition from the special effects experience you amassed until this point to directing something fully animated?

I’m a big fan of the Resident Evil series, so I was excited when I was offered this project, but I also know how big it is so I wasn’t sure if I was worthy of it. It was tough, but fun at the same time. As you know, I’ve been working in the world of visual effects, but I wanted to go in different directions. This film served as a great way to go into that transition, in a sense. If I was to work on my first film with major stars, it could’ve been very tough. But this was a great transition. In the future I’d like to work on more CG films, but I want to branch into live-action films as well.

Shock: I see you have a producing credit on Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Kobayashi-san, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the live-action series as a whole since you’re so ingrained in the games.

I wasn’t really involved in any of the production process of the first film, but the second and third I actually was involved. I got to read the script and was on set. As live-action films, they’re enjoyable and work in their own way. At the same time, they’re Milla Jovovich films. While I do enjoy them, I personally wanted to work on something that was closer to the video game franchise. This was a great experience to grant me my wish.

Shock: Is Sony and Capcom now mapping out a future for more films like this?

We haven’t even finished Degeneration yet, so I really can’t say.

Kamiya: When I go back to Japan I have to finish this up, so I can’t think of my next project or the future of the CG franchise at all.

Kobayashi: If this is financially successful, that’s when we’ll start thinking about the future of the film franchise.

At the time of this writing, there are no plans to turn Resident Evil: Degeneration into a video game. Look for the film on DVD and Blu-Ray near the end of this year. Click here for our hi-res photo gallery.

Source: Ryan Rotten