One of the primary physical models for Raena Zacari in my space opera novels was Alice in the Resident Evil movies.
At 5’9″, Milla Jovovich is much taller than Raena, but her slender dancer’s body is the perfect equivalent. Jovovich studied ballet, which inspires her extensions, kicks, and jumps as she fights. Thanks to the wire work, there’s a fair amount of acrobatics thrown in, too. Alice is a joy to watch, even as she’s fighting monsters for her life.
Alice was once head of security at the Umbrella Corporation’s Hive facility, until she decided what they were creating was too dangerous. Things fell apart when she got foiled leaking their secrets to the outside world.
When the first Resident Evil movie begins, Alice’s mind has been wiped and she’s trying to piece together who she was and what has been done to her. In terms of the story, Alice is an accessory, not the star. She spends a lot of time cowering behind Michelle Rodriguez and the other soldiers. Only at the end, when she’s faced with the mutated dobermans, do you see her switch on and step up.
I like Resident Evil: Apocalypse the best of the series. Our first sight of Alice is when she wakes up in a tiny white towel, screaming and tearing electrodes for her hair. (There’s a similar scene in Kill By Numbers, but it was written — and published — almost twenty years earlier.) Barefoot, in a stolen bathrobe, Alice steals a shotgun from a cop car and strides out into a city that’s been destroyed by the plague unleashed by the Umbrella Corporation. You know from the start that Alice is badass.
It’s clear that Alice has a whole history and a complicated — if fractured — inner life. She doesn’t speak at all until 27 minutes into Apocalypse, when she flies through the church’s stained glass window on a motorcycle and commands the cops to “Move!” before working through a chain of weaponry to kill the monsters lurking inside the church.
Jovovich’s Alice has a self-aware sense of humor that I adore. You can see it in Apocalypse when she steps out of the shadows of the school cafeteria with a fire blanket to protect the little girl. Alice doesn’t stop to think; she just throws herself forward to protect those that she can.
Alice has been infected on a “massive scale” by the Umbrella Corporation’s T-virus. The whole movie is a set up for the fight at the end, where Alice is pitted against the Nemesis monster. She’s got to keep moving, keep dodging, keep kicking or spinning, because if the Nemesis catches her, she’s done. It will break her.
The same can be said for Raena. Because she is small of statue, she has to make up in speed what she lacks in mass.
By Resident Evil: Extinction, the third movie in the franchise, the world has ended and Alice is alone. She knows that the Umbrella Corporation has a satellite tracking her. She’s determined not to be recaptured by them — even as an Umbrella doctor thaws clone after clone of Alice, only to watch them fail the physical tests that set her apart. The dead clones are discarded in a heap in a culvert, but Alice’s own powers have grown exponentially. She burns all the zombie crows out of the sky with her mind, then dispatches super zombies in Las Vegas with a wicked scissor kick. (Wish I could have found a photo of that!) She’s amazing to watch because she’s mutated so far that she no longer has human limitations.
Resident Evil: Afterlife starts with an army of Alice’s clones attacking the Umbrella installation in the heart of Tokyo. The affection between the clones and the amusement with which they watch each other work is fun to see.
While there are clones of Raena in The Dangerous Type, they don’t ever mature enough to be a fighting force.
For that matter, Raena is never more than human in my books. She has doubts and fears, gets injured and needs time to heal. But she was created (or in her case, trained) by the inescapable evil she turns against, hunts down, and fights to the death. Alice’s justified paranoid and desperate anger are echoed in Raena. They both rock black catsuits, too.
I should have thanked Milla Jovovich in my books.
You can study Alice in the Resident Evil box set available on Amazon.
My other Raena’s Foremothers essays so far are:
What strong female characters have inspired your characters?