The cinematic director addresses the race controversy and whether or not he focused too much on Sheva’s female form.
We recently spoke with “Resident Evil 5” cinematic director Jim Sonzero about his experience creating the game’s cut scenes and his work on a possible Capcom movie. In our conversation, we also discussed his thoughts about the racial controversy surrounding the game’s first trailer and how Sheva’s character was portrayed.
MTV Multiplayer: Were you involved at all in making the trailers for the game?
Jim Sonzero: Most of the footage in all the trailers is from the cinematic scenes.
MTV Multiplayer: But did you have any involvement in how the scenes were edited for trailers?
Sonzero: I only had involvement in one of the cinematic trailers. The rest were done at Osaka. It’s one that actually played in the Tokyo Game Show, but it isn’t on the website. It’s a longer trailer that had longer scenes. I was just involved in story-boarding it out and structuring it. But they added to it in Osaka.
MTV Multiplayer: Speaking of the trailers, I have to bring this up. I’m sure you heard about the first trailer that caused some people to think the game was racially insensitive in the context that the trailer was presented. Did you find yourself dealing with sensitive issues at all in the cinematics? Did you find it an issue at all as to how you depict poverty-stricken Africans without being called colonialist or racist?
Sonzero: This is a topic that came up early on and continues to — even now. My feeling about it is this particular game is set in Africa, and the zombies and most of the people who populate Africa are black. Capcom did their best to balance it so it didn’t become an issue by making one of the leads — Sheva Alomar — black.
“I really think it’s just people trying to bitch about something.”
Also, they peppered in as many white and different mixed race characters as they could into the rest of the body count. I think if you really think about it, it’s not really a racial game. If it was set in Japan, most of the people getting killed would be Japanese or Asian. If it was set in South America most of the people would be South Americans or Latins, so I really think it’s just people trying to bitch about something.
I think the game is really cool; it speaks for itself, it has textures and it’s a story set in Africa. It’s just frustrating to me that people are focusing on this as being a racial game. When I first saw the first trailer, I thought, “Oh wow, what is this?” and then when I looked at it deeper before I got involved, I realized it was balanced and it was just a function of the story.
MTV Multiplayer: You said Capcom tried to balance it, but did you have a lot of input with that as well?
Sonzero: I was definitely a force for keeping it balanced at any opportunity I could. They were sensitive to it as well and became more sensitive about it as they started getting criticized.
MTV Multiplayer: So being that you did have a lot of input on that specific issue, do you feel that in the end the game is “balanced,” and that once the people who had a problem with it finally play it, they won’t see any of the things that they’ve seen in the trailer?
Sonzero: I can’t speak for everybody. Everybody is different and has different sensitivities, but for me, I feel it’s balanced and I feel like we tell the story accurately the way it was written. It’s set in Africa, and we did our best to not just make it be, “OK, here’s a white guy shooting black people.”
“We did our best to not just make it be, ’OK, here’s a white guy shooting black people.'”
There’s a black woman — Sheva is fighting for her country and trying to defend these people who are infected with the virus. I think the actual story, the characters — how bigger-than-life they are and how kick-ass they are and their relationship — transcends that issue. Once you start playing it, it just becomes a non-issue. I can’t speak for everyone but I think that it’s overblown, what people are saying about this.
MTV Multiplayer: How much did you decide to focus on Sheva? I feel like a lot of games, not just “Resident Evil 5,” have a focus on specific female body parts. How does that come about? My editor noticed in the first cut scene there was a lingering shot on her butt. Is that just a fan service thing?
Sonzero: I think I was very careful to make sure everything that we dealt with was in good taste. I had no interest in making her sleazy, and there is no sexual relationship between her and Chris. They’re both soldiers. They’re hot as hell, but we don’t play it up. He never does anything to insinuate or make any lecherous remarks toward her, and the camera is never gratuitous or sleazy; she’s just the hot chick with a gun and she kicks ass. There is that one scene where she enters the frame and you see her hips come into the frame, but I don’t think there’s anymore than that. I thought it was a cool shot and a cool way to reveal her. There’s nothing that is overly sexualized with her.
MTV Multiplayer: I feel she’s certainly not as sexualized as much as other female characters in video games. We just noticed a few shots that focused on her body parts and was just wondering in general: As a cinematic director, is there a certain directive to focus on those kinds of things to appeal to male gamers? Just because a lot of other games do focus on that.
Sonzero: It was never any agenda or any directive to do that from Capcom. And from my personal taste it was always to just keep it not sleazy and not cheesy. We were both in-sync in keeping her as cool and interesting as a character as possible and not going to the sex vibe in my opinion.
That’s all from my interview with Sonzero. Check out his cinematic work in “Resident Evil 5” when it’s in stores on Friday, March 13.
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