(Review is the same as the previous Special Edition aside from the extras section.)
The video game market is equal to - if not bigger than, at this point - the movie industry. Given that fact, I don't blame studios for attempting to cash in on the rapidly increasing popularity of the gaming industry. However, I think many will agree that the quality of these films have often been lackluster; "Tomb Raider", a mostly personality-free movie with the exception of Angelina Jolie's spirited performance, was certainly one of the better ones prior to this feature.
When I heard that Paul Anderson (not the "Boogie Nights" guy) was going to direct a film based on the "Resident Evil" series, I could really think of few directors better suited to helm the film. His "Event Horizon", while not exactly high art, achieved a rare balance of being beautiful in appearance and terrifying at the same time. It was a sleek techno-thriller with remarkable atmosphere. Anderson brings the same sensibility to this film and even takes the stylized appearance of his work up another notch.
Certainly, "Resident Evil" doesn't waste any time getting started. Minutes into the movie, a terrible virus in the Umbrella corporation has been released and all of the workers have been taken out by the security system. A group of soldiers - including a tough chick (Michelle Rodriquez of "Fast and the Furious") and one woman in a red dress and sporting no memory (Milla Jovovich), break into "The Hive", the secret underground lab where the virus was spread.
What do the soldiers eventually stumble upon? Zombies, of course, which are what the workers have become after the virus was spread. Not only do they have to deal with the zombies, they also have to contend with the Red Queen, the Hive's security system. Much action ensues. There's really little story involved, as the film is powered along by visually impressive - and occasionally quite gross - action sequences. I was a little irritated by some exchanges of dialogue that seemed to state simply what was currently happening in the film, but I never felt this was too major a problem.
The film is, basically, a decent popcorn movie that I found fairly fun at times. However, I thought it could potentially have been more involving than it is. Anderson was working with more commanding actors in Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne in "Event Horizon"; while that film wasn't working with the greatest material either, the actors sold the material well and the scares were more unpredictable. Essentially, "Event Horizon" pushed the atmosphere and quiet wonderfully, adding to the tension before a scare. There's little quiet to be found in "Resident Evil". There's not much to the characters, either, making it a bit difficult to be completely involved.
More often than not, I was satisfied to simply admire the craft involved. David Johnson's cinematography is not as sleek as Adrian Biddle's marvelous work in "Event Horizon". I was a bit surprised that this film wasn't shot in 2.35:1, as "Horizon" was - I think the 2.35:1 frame would have been more effective for this picture. Still, as with even Anderson's lesser pictures, the production design and art direction are top-notch and most of the special effects are fine (although a few are not.).
Overall, I found "Resident Evil" a basically entertaining picture, but it lacked enough character development and detail to make it memorable. Not bad - but I sensed a better film could have been made from the story. While "Resident Evil" didn't do enormous business at the box office, a sequel is still already in the works, with Anderson directing. The series of games also continue to be produced.
VIDEO: "Resident Evil" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is certainly one of the best that I've seen in quite some time, with only a few little concerns to keep it from perfection. Sharpness and detail are remarkable, as the picture remains impressively detailed and well-defined, with solid depth to the image for the most part.
One of the most pleasing aspects of this transfer is the complete lack of edge enhancement, making for a remarakbly smooth and "film-like" appearance. Pixelation is also absent and the print is nearly perfect - aside from a series of small specks that I spotted in a couple of scenes. The film's color palette, vivid at times and subdued at others, appeared accurate and well-saturated throughout, with no smearing or other faults. Black level also remained solid. Although Columbia/Tristar has a reputation for terrific image quality, this is really one of their best efforts in recent memory.
SOUND: "Resident Evil" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As I certainly expected from such an action-heavy film, the soundtrack is very aggressive. The surrounds are used consistently, intensely and occasionally very creatively. Not only is the soundtrack intense, but there's also some remarkable power behind it, too. Audio quality is excellent, as the score, sound effects and dialogue are clearly reproduced. A pretty superb soundtrack that adds greatly to the experience.
Commentary: This is a fairly silly commentary from director Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt and actresses Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriquez. Anderson obviously wants to share some technical information about the making of the picture, but the two actresses often pop up with some fun stories from the set and generally entertaining chatter (especially a few moments from Jovovich early on).
Featurettes: Five fairly short featurettes are included: "Making Of Resident Evil", "Scoring Resident Evil", "Costumes", "Set Design" and "Zombie Make-up Tests". A play-all option would have been nice, but these are still interesting pieces, especially the "Scoring" and "Set Design" ones.
Also:Trailers are included for "Resident Evil", "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (teaser), "Hellboy" and "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital".
New to this DVD edition of the film is a commentary from director Paul Anderson and visual effects supervisor Richard Yurisich, the effects supervisor having been the supervisor on such films as "2001", "Blade Runner", "Close Encounters" and, more recently, "Mission: Impossible". The commentary is very informative, if a little dry at times: we learn a great deal about the various aspects of the effects shots and the various sets. The track is very informative and there's a few good stories about issues the production ran into, as well.
Continuing the new material included on this release, viewers will find a new featurette regarding storyboarding the movie, as well as a new group of brief pieces (The Creature, The Elevator, The Laser, The Train, Zombie Dogs).
Director Paul Anderson discusses an alternate ending that was partially done, but never completed. Essentially, it ended the film on something of an up note, but never felt right and never quite worked as the action moment it was intended to be.
We also get a clip from the upcoming sequel and filmographies.
Despite the fact that it was not available with my review copy, retailers list that retail copies of this deluxe edition will include a "movie money" coupon for a ticket to see the sequel, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse", which hits theaters this Fall.
Final Thoughts: I appreciated the craft involved in the production, I liked what the two lead actresses did with limited material and the film moved along rapidly enough. Still, I thought "Resident Evil" lacked enough character detail and unpredictable scares to make it memorable. Those who are fans of the movie will certainly enjoy this DVD, which offers solid supplements and excellent audio/video. Those who haven't seen the film may want to try a rental first.