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The film is set in 2005, seven years after the destruction of Raccoon City, one year after the events of Resident Evil 4, and brings back the main characters of Resident Evil 2. Claire Redfield, after the events of Code: Veronica, has decided she isn't suited for actively combating Umbrella and its bioweapons, instead joining a non-government organization known as "Terra Save", which both opposes bioweaponry and conducts search and rescue of chemical and bioterrorist attacks. She goes to an airport to chaperone a little girl with missing parents when zombies suddenly infest the terminal. With only a few suvivors, the military calls in an expert on these kind of situations to stage a rescue mission: Leon S. Kennedy. Hilarity Ensues. Then not so much.
Unlike the other Resident Evil movies, this one actually takes place in the continuity of the games and uses some fan favorite characters for protagonists along with a couple (as in two) new bloods to serve the Too Dumb to Live roles you simply can't have a zombie movie without. It also continues the somewhat new series tradition of taking itself less seriously, though not as much as the Narm Charm - tastic Resident Evil 4. It brings back the T-virus zombies for one last outing as well as letting a boss monster from Resident Evil 2 out to play. Time will tell if this movie marks the last we'll see of the series revisiting its roots before reveling in the new parasite based baddies of the recent games.
This movie includes examples of:
- Action Girl/Action Survivor: Zigzagged with Claire. Per her own dialogue, she's voluntarily demoted herself to pacifism, and would rather look after the civilians than kick ass. Hand her a gun, though, and it becomes apparent why she's one of the few survivors of Raccoon City.
- A-Team Firing: Greg. In a mild variation, he has a fairly high hit rate. It's just that he's shooting, y'know, zombies. He even holds the barrel shroud in an overhand grip to reduce climb. It should be noted, though, that he keeps doing this even after Leon tells him to aim for the head. Twice.
- It's at least justified in context. The SRT isn't trained for dealing with T-virus outbreaks, and years of training for center of mass shots and muscle memory simply can't be overcome in a few minutes. Even after coming face to face with the fact that the hostiles aren't still alive Greg and Angela still have trouble coming to terms with this fact.
- Actionized Sequel: While Degeneration takes place after Resident Evil 4, it is more a sequel to Resident Evil 2, and is much more of an action than a horror movie.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Leon and Claire always aim for the head when facing the zombies and specifically instruct the others to do the same, even claiming that only headshots work. In the games, this isn't true--where torso shots will bring a zombie down eventually--but no matter what it's a waste of ammo when compared to an instant-kill headshot.
- Badass: Leon.
- Badass Pacifist: Claire, as mentioned above, chose to take a role of rescuer and healer after the events of Code: Veronica. This doesn't stop her from kicking zombie ass when she's put into a corner, though.
- C-List Fodder: Averted. Amongst the survivors in the airport, there are the senator's male secretary, and a female airport employee. Neither character is given a name and each speaks only a few lines, which would normally be signs of basically them being zombie chow, but both of them manage to survive the airport outbreak.
- Continuity Nod: At one point, Claire uses an umbrella as a weapon. Though she never opens it, it's clearly patterned after the Umbrella logo. She even Lampshades it. Also, she is reunited with Leon after he rescues her in the exact same manner that he did in Resident Evil 2.
- Dirty Coward: Senator Davies cares only for himself, and if surviving means putting the lives of the other members of the group in danger then so be it. To add insult to injury, it works. He survives the zombie outbreak, but not Tricell's cleanup operation.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Justified when Angela gets the drop on Frederic and intentionally scares him by pulling the trigger when her gun was empty. She racked the action to eject the live round in the chamber.
- And parodied in the outtakes.
- Dull Surprise: Leon gets hit with this hard.
- Evil Brit: Played With regarding Frederick Downing. He seems nice at first, only to be revealed to be working for WilPharma. Then it's subverted when it's revealed that WilPharma were actually working on a vaccine to cure the virus. Then it's double subverted when it turns out he was lying and was responsible for the virus outbreak after all.
- Faux Action Girl: Angela.
- Genre Savvy: Leon and Claire, having survived multiple separate bio-outbreaks apiece, know what's going on and how to survive. If only their allies would listen to them.
- Hero-Tracking Failure: A rather blatant example when bullets fired by Marines patter off the ground near their target in standard trope fashion. While said target was standing still. And (being the Body Horror Final Boss) has a center of mass about seven feet up. Even if the Marines are missing at that range, why are their bullets hitting the ground?
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Crispin Freeman as Dr. Downing, doing a hilariously bad English accent to boot.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Mostly redubs and re-edits of existing scenes, along with a couple others, like a press conference by the G-virus infected Curtis.
- OMG CLAIRE NUKED—no, BLEW UP RACCOON CITY!
- Leons fee... is TOO GOOD!
Leon: (frightened tone) Don't leave me. I'm scared!
- His Story Repeats Itself: Like in Resident Evil 2's A-Scenario, Leon once again finds himself holding the hand of a Love Interest, her life literally in his hand. This time, though, he manages to save her.
- Immune to Bullets: G-Curtis starts to No Sell the full auto fire of the Marines. Subverted later on, with Leon managing to stun him with a headshot.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Leon during the escape sequence in the lobby can take out zombies dozens of meters away with clear headshots armed only with his handgun, which doesn't have a scope. Then again, this is Leon we're talking about, so it kinda comes with the package.
- It's the Only Way to Be Sure: To contain a viral outbreak (consisting of one person infected with the G-virus and a handful of zombies), an entire research facility self-destructs in the most needlessly elaborate way possible - by dropping, section by section, into an enormously deep shaft and then being incinerated.
- Le Parkour: Leon does an incredible parkour sequence near the end of the movie to escape a Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- Made of Iron: Leon. He gets smacked dozens of metres through the air by a G-virus mutant, smashes into a block of metal, and is still able to get up afterwards and pull off the Le Parkour sequence with no hassle.
- Mama Bear: Claire to Rani.
- Man Behind the Man: It appears Senator Davies might be responsible for the biohazard outbreaks after all. He's not. It's Frederick.
- Meaningful Echo: "If you don't try to save one life, you will never save any."
- My God, What Have I Done?: Claire's reaction when she learns that Terra Save's actions have delayed distribution of the T-virus vaccine.
- No Name Given: Rani's aunt is never named, and is only referred to as "Aunt" in the credits. The senator's secretary and the hostess of the airport's VIP lounge, despite being part of the group of survivors, are not given names either.
- Not a Zombie: Happens a few times.
- First, the nameless security guard threatens to arrest the first zombie to appear, allowing it to get into range before it latches onto his throat. Somewhat justified, as he had just arrested a Terra Save protester in a zombie costume and thus had reason to believe it was another idiot human. Senator Davies' bodyguard continues to treat it as if it's a human, even after Claire warns him, and is eaten for it.
- Later, despite having just been told about the zombies, and being warned by Leon that the moan she's just heard is a classic sound of the zombies, Angela runs off and, finding an apparently injured man on the ground, hoists him over her shoulders; only Leon's intervention saves her from getting her face bitten off. Even then, she still warns a zombie to back away, then aims downwards and shoots her in the leg, to no practical effect.
- Then there's Greg, who avoids the "deliberately shoot non-vital areas" and "try to order the zombie back" flaws, but wastes his ammo on a "spray and pray" fighting style, which ends up inflicting minimal casualties and almost gets him killed when one of the zombies he had shot up breaks through a window and grapples him to the ground.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Averted; while it isn't made clear if the bomb that destroyed Raccoon City was nuclear or not, a reporter mentions that it's rumoured to be such.
- Redshirt Army: The Marines fighting G-Curtis. After initially knocking him down, they get torn apart with ease.
- Red Shirt Reporter: One of the first casualties is one of these.
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The finale gives us the mind-boggling containment system in the WilPharma facility, which includes: spraying everything with flammable liquid, detaching contaminated sections, dropping them in a 3000 foot shaft (in sequence no less), incinerating them in a giant fireball (twice), and sealing them behind a steel covering thick enough to withstand a nuclear blast. How the hell did they have any funds left for medical research?
- In all fairness, Umbrella's shown how piss-poor containment protocols hold up against zombie monsters, so overkill might be a bit justified. WilPharma may actually be the most efficient corporation in the history of the franchise when it comes to keeping things from biting them in the ass.
- Sequel Hook: The ending shows Tricell doing the clean-up of the WilPharma site.
- Shout-Out: Many, to both Resident Evil 2 and to Resident Evil 4.
- The Stoic: Leon, who never speaks in anything but a monotone, has almost no facial expression whatsoever, and whose emotional range varies between "..." and "....." He even loses the psuedo-Deadpan Snarker wisecracks and Large Ham tendancies from Resident Evil 4.
- The Stinger: In the ruins of the WilPharma facility, a cleanup agent in a biohazard suit finds a part of the late mutated Curtis, picks it up, and stores it in a container.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The WilPharma facility's Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- In all fairness, it actually takes the full sequence to kill the mutated Curtis, so it's closer to Crazy Prepared than overkill.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Angela and Greg both make rookie mistakes common to the "police/military official meets zombie" scenario, despite the presence and warning of Leon. And unlike every other scenario where this happens, zombies are not some previously unseen phenomenon; their existence has been common knowledge for years by the time the movie takes place. While they weren't sure it was a T-virus to begin with, and knowledge about what really happened in Raccoon City is a little shakey at best, they still had Leon with them, and he gave them the lowdown on what to expect.
- The television reporter at the zombie-infested airport takes this Up to Eleven when her cameraman looks past her and runs off - clearly implying extreme danger is heading their way. Her reaction to this is a confused "Why'd you stop filming?!" Here's a hint, lady: it wasn't to get a bottle of duty-free vodka. Cue a hungry zombie showing up behind her to make Darwin proud.
- Some of the marines can be considered this, due to their battle plan against G-Curtis consisting of "shoot him" and "shoot him some more," even though he's obviously shrugging all the bullets off. By the time they consider switching over to their grenade attachments he's already cutting through them.
- Underwater Kiss: Type B from Leon to Angela. A rather big Ship Tease moment.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Curtis. He caused an outbreak to pressure WilPharma into revealing the truth behind the Raccoon City disaster as he wished for the tragedy to never be repeated.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Curtis lost most of his family to the Raccoon City disaster, so he was extremely determined to ensure that said disaster is never repeated, even if the method of not repeating the disaster is causing an outbreak of the T-virus at an airport and the WilPharma facility, and then injecting himself with the G-virus as a means to force the government and WilPharma into revealing the truth.
- Zombie Apocalypse: A surprisingly small one. The Airport Outbreak is small and easily contained, and while there's one when Claire is escaping the WilPharma facility, the rest of the movie focuses more on Leon and Angela escaping the mutated Curtis.