With movies being so expensive to shoot, studios want a built-in audience
for just about anything that they give the green light to. That's
why so many films are based on hit TV shows from long ago, comic books,
or sequels. (Or sequels of comic book and TV show films.) Another
type of picture that comes with a built-in audience are movies based on
video games. While they usually suck, it's not hard to imaging the
pitch: "This game has sold 50 million copies, if only half of the
buyers show up at the theater, we'll have a hit!" For that reason
I usually cringe when I have to watch one of these films. Occasionally
however one of them has some redeeming value, and such is the case with
2002's film Resident Evil. While it's no Rashomon,
it's an enjoyable, mindless zombie flick that has its moments. The
film, which has spawned two sequels, is now available on a Blu-ray disc
that looks and sounds great.
beneath Raccoon City lies The Hive, a top secret research facility that
is owned and operated by the Umbrella Corp. It's here that they perform
their illegal research into creating deadly viral weapons that add so much
to the company's bottom line. When someone steals a sample of a virus
and contaminates the facility with the same before trying to made good
on his escape, it causes a problem. The AI that runs the facility,
named Red Queen, realizes that none of the contaminated scientists and
support staff can leave the building or else the whole world could be wiped
out, so she takes matters into her own hands and kills them all.
The umbrella Corp. soon discovers that the AI has gone rouge and sends
in a team of crack assault troops to enter The Hive, assess the situation,
and turn off the Red Queen. Entering via a secret access tunnel the
team finds the tunnels guardian, Alice (Milla Jovovich) without a memory
due to exposure to nerve gas courtesy of the Red Queen. Alice accompanies
the hired soldiers into the Hive, but they soon discover that the virus
the inhabitants were exposed to has a rather strange and unusual side effect:
it causes the dead to walk and attack anything that they can eat.
Now they not only have to combat the Red Queen, but also hordes of flesh
eating zombies and demon dogs. Alice's only hope is to escape from
the Hive so she can expose what's going on. That's much easier said
than done however.
based on the first two Resident Evil video games, this is a typical action/horror
film with a group of heavily armed soldiers slowly getting picked off one-by-one.
Who will survive at the end? Who'll be the next to get eaten?
While it's not the most original of plots, the movie does have some good
chills and never tries to be anything other than what it is: a thrill-fest.
The movie starts off with the chilling scenes of the Red Queen killing
all of the inhabitants of The Hive, sometimes rather gruesomely, and then
doesn't take much time to let up from there. With much of the plot
unexplained through the first act of the film, viewers are likely not to
notice that the zombies don't show up until nearly half way through the
film. Once they do show up however, the movie really takes off.
Milla Jovovich does an adequate job in her role. There's not a
lot of dialog and she doesn't do much more than walk around in a flimsy
slip, but she looks very good doing that. The real action hero of
the pic is, surprisingly, also a woman, Michelle Rodriguez. As Rain
Ocampo, Rodriguez steals the show. Her character is the tough-as-nails
woman who's the first to jump into a fight and often the last one standing.
It's a bit curious that they'd have the two leads both be female, but it
works well enough.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The first Resident Evil movie comes with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded
1.85:1 image that looks great. The whole movie is dark and filled
with shadows and this disc reproduces the eerie atmosphere wonderfully.
The blacks are spot-on, and the colors, though rarely bright due to the
low lighting, are solid and accurately reproduced. Even in the shadows
fine lines are well defined and the details aren't lost. One of the
rare brightly-lit scenes takes place in the hall leading to the Red Queen,
and it looks fantastic. The blue-white of the laser is striking and
really pops off the screen.
level of detail was great too, almost too good in some places. There
were a couple of scenes where Milla's close-ups clearly showed the makeup
that she was wearing. Though the film is only 5 years old, some of
the CGI effects stand out more strongly on this Blu-ray disc than they
did on the SD DVD. Not just the monster at the end, but some
of the touch-ups that were done on the zombies don't mesh as well as they
should. Aside from that, the detail really helps the movie.
It's easy to see the sweat on people's brows as they try to escape the
undead creatures that are following them and the decomposition of the dead,
especially their rotting teeth, make the film all that more scary.
On the digital side of thing the disc looks equally good. There
level of grain is low and doesn't distract while aliasing and banding are
not problems at all. This is a nice looking disc.
The film comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that sounds excellent.
Like many films of its kind, this zombie flick uses a lot of ambient sound
to create suspense, and it takes every opportunity it can to raise the
tension with its audio design. Even the quiet scenes will have a
slight noise in the back that will send a shiver down your back, and the
action scenes are very dynamic with sound coming from all corners of the
room. With bullets flying, zombies moaning, and people screaming,
the battles will really give your sound system a work out. On the
technical side of things, the range is very good and the soundstage is
used to its fullest. This is a soundtrack that really enhances the
film a lot.
As time goes on studios are slowly coming to realize that consumers
want the bonus features that are included on the SD DVDs. I'm happy
to report that this disc includes all the extras that appeared on Deluxe
Edition SD release (with the exception of a short promo for Resident
Evil: Apocalypse which was nothing more than a 3 minute clip
from the movie). There's a lot here, and most of it is quite enjoyable
too. Unfortunately the two commentary tracks don't fall into that
category. The first one features director Paul Anderson, producer
Jeremy Bolt, and actresses Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez and is
an unappealing mash. The four never really come together and talk
over each other often, with the actresses giggling to various anecdotes
that they relate, some of which have nothing to do with the film.
The second commentary track features Paul Anderson and visual effects supervisor
Richard Yuricich and though it's a little better is very dry and technical.
People interested in the nuts and bolts of creating a film will enjoy it,
but others should pass.
There are an even dozen featurettes, most of which are enjoyable and
above average. They include:
Playing Dead: Resident Evil from Game to Screen (15 min):
a nice look how Anderson approached the adaptation, why settled on the
story that he did, and how the film compares to the game franchise.
The Making of Resident Evil (27 min.): a fluff promotional piece
that doesn't offer much in the way of insight.
Scoring Resident Evil (11 min): This features Paul Anderson
and composers Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson discussing the music in
Storyboarding Resident Evil (6 min): A storyboard to final
Costumes (3 min), and Set Design (4 min) looks at how
the film got its look, while The Creature (5 min), The Elevator
(1 min), The Laser (5 min), The Train (2 min), Zombie
Dogs (4 min), and Zombies (5 min) all discuss what went into
creating the various special effects on the film.
There's an alternate ending, which was quite interesting and ends the
film on an up note. While I did enjoy it, the creators made the right
decision when they filmed the ending that's on the movie.
There's a Blu-ray exclusive bonus item too: a music video to My
Plague by Slipknot.
This film isn't much more than a typical survival horror film, but then
again it never claims to be anything else. With some suspenseful
moments and fun zombie action, this is one of the better videogame to movie
adaptations. The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds great too. Recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.