In a small town named Raccoon City, the Umbrella Corporation holds its headquarters. The largest supplier of surgical and defense technologies in the world, Umbrella holds immense power and has access to all sorts of things that they probably shouldn't be messing with. Most of this stuff that they shouldn't even have is squirreled away in a secret facility way underground, codenamed 'The Hive.' When a biological experiment known only as the 'T Virus' is accidentally unleashed in the facility, a few hours later things aren't looking good for the scientists and researchers trapped in 'The Hive.'
The Umbrella Corporation sends in a crack team of military commandos to go into 'The Hive' and rescue any survivors they can find, but the only one left is Alice (Milla Jovavich), who's been trying to sort out her amnesia problem while all of this has been going down. Everyone and everything else that was in 'The Hive' when the 'T Virus' hit is now a flesh eating zombie and the virus is contagious.
Director Paul W. S. Anderson (Event Horizon and Aliens Vs. Predator took a whole lot of flack from the horror community when this movie hit theaters. A lot of people were disappointed not only because the movie isn't a literal adaptation of the source material, but also because it seemed that the film was tailor made for George Romero to helm. Anderson didn't deliver a Romero movie, and I honestly believe that that's what a lot of us wanted out of the film. It makes sense too, when you think about it. After all, what do you think the most obvious influence on the Resident Evil games where? If you answered 'Romero's dead trilogy' then you deserve a booby prize (and if you watch the movie, Milla will give you a pair of them yeehaw).
The movie is full of stereotypes (Michelle Rodriguez is sorely underused and not given much to work with, despite the fact that she is quite a competent actress), and is definitely a gross example of style over substance but it still works at least on an entertainment level. Whereas Romero's zombie films all had some sort of social commentary (be it the anti racism tones of Night Of The Living Dead or the crass American consumerism of Dawn Of The Dead, it is very definitely there) and there's none of that here at all. This is an action-horror video game adaptation that doesn't aspire to be anything more than a gory shoot'em up with hot chicks in the lead and a fast paced techno metal soundtrack. But hey, it moves along at a nice pace, provides a few good jump scares, and looks just as slick as slick can be.
So sure, the movie could have been a lot more than it was. There could have been a lot more character development and the competent cast could have been given better dialogue and a meatier story to work with, but that didn't happen. Let's keep our fingers crossed that maybe in the sequel we'll see some of the ideas fleshed out more and the characters actually developed. But Resident Evil does entertain, and in the end that's all we realistically should expect from it and on that level and that level alone it works just fine.The DVD
Resident Evil gets a very solid high definition transfer that is enhanced for anamorphic sets and retains the original aspect ratio of 1.85.1. The image is very crisp (just check out those close ups of Mila's baby blues yowza!) and clean and only occasionally exhibits any minor specks of print damage. Skin tones look dead on, color definition is top notch, and this is overall a very nice presentation of the film. There is some minor edge enhancement and shimmering in a couple of scenes that is slightly noticeable but it doesn't happen too often, thankfully. There's very little to complain about here, the movie looks great.Sound:
Equally impressive is the sound mix for the film. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are supplied in English, French and Portuguese, and there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in Spanish included as well. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese and there is also an English closed captioning option as well. The film benefits from a very active and aggressive sound mix that really does add quite a bit of atmosphere to the movie, especially during the action and zombie attack sequences. Surrounds are used nicely to fill in the soundscape and the subwoofer gives a few nice solid kicks to the proceedings and provides some nice jump scares during the run of the film. Dialogue is never a problem and is always clearly comprehensible, and background music and sound effects are well balanced and mix nicely, never overshadowing what's being said at any given point in time.Extras:
Well, Resident Evil fans should find much to love in the extra features section of this release, as Columbia has dug up a wealth of material for the DVD. Sadly, none of the extras are anamorphic, but there's still some worthwhile material here regardless.
First up are the commentary tracks. Track one features director Paul W. S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and stars Milla Jovavich and Michelle Rodriguez. The four of them relate their individual and collaborative experiences working on the set as well as some interesting anecdotes and behind the scenes information. Predictably, Anderson has the most to say but he's the more interesting of the four anyway so it all works out in the end. The second commentary again features Anderson, this time joined by the man in charge of the film's visual effects, Richard Yuricich. Obviously, this track is more technically oriented and probably won't appeal to those who aren't into the 'making of' aspects of the movies but for those that do enjoy that type of thing, there's a lot of interesting information to be gleaned from giving this track a listen. The two seem amiable enough and it is quite revealing hearing how the made the movie look the way that it does.
There's also an alternate ending which features, as Anderson puts it, 'Mila as an avenger.' It's a more upbeat conclusion to the film compared to what the filmmakers went with (and I for one think that they made the right choice in doing so), but seeing this alternate cut is interesting even if it's really only for comparisons sake. Anderson introduces the clip and explains his motivation for going with the ending used in the theatrical cut.
There are also eleven featurettes assembled for this release. Available individually or through a 'play all' function, they're broken down as follows:
Playing Dead: Resident Evil From Game To Screen (15 minutes) The longest of the featurettes takes a look at the genesis of the concept that started off as a series of successful video games and how the concept was taken and molded for the big screen adaptation that followed.
Scoring Resident Evil (11 minutes) This is an in-depth look at the scoring of the film and the people who worked on it namely Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami.
Storyboarding Resident Evil (6:25 minutes) Paul Anderson gives us a decent run down of the storyboarding process for the film, and we get to see some of the actual storyboards so that we can get a rough idea of how they compared to the final filmed version.
Costumes (3:26 minutes) Richard Bridgeland, the production manager, is the star of this quick look at the wardrobe used in the film. Jovavich and Rodriguez get some words in as well in this moderately interesting segment that explains some of the odd fashion choices used in the movie.
Set Design (4:07) Clips from the film are interspersed with behind the scenes segments and conceptual art all relating to some of the more elaborate set design used throughout the feature. Bridgeland is again the main man on this bit, giving his take on how it all worked out in the long run.
The Creature (5:18 minutes) This is a really interesting little piece about how the featured monster of the film was created from the ground up using the various technologies that the filmmakers had available to them.
The Elevator (1:08 minutes) A quick segment in which Richard Yuricich discusses how they pulled off the elevator sequence, an early highlight in the first half of the film.
The Laser (5:05 minutes) Paul Anderson and Richard Yuricich comment alongside some of the performers about the laser sequences were pulled off and some of the trials and tribulations that occurred from a few different standpoints while it was all in progress.
The Train (2:20 minutes) - Richard Yuricich and Richard Bridgeland discuss how the train was designed and built pretty much from scratch, and how they accomplished some of the intricacies of that scene.
Zombie Dogs (3:54 minutes) This is a particularly cool segment about how the undead dogs were designed and created for the film, and what it was like for some of the performers and technicians to have to work with them.
Zombies (4:30) Anderson and crew are on hand to talk about the how's and why's of the zombie make up, how the feel about it in retrospect, and what it took to make it happen.
A three and a half minute clip for the upcoming sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, is supplied as the 'Fangoria Clip.' This is a few minutes of uninterrupted footage of the upcoming film, featuring a very naked Milla getting ready for action. It serves as a nice teaser, and the nudity doesn't hurt things any either.
Rounding out the extra features are trailers for Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, and Hellboy as well as filmographies for Anderson, Jovavich, Rodriguez, Eric Mabius and James Purefoy.Final Thoughts:
Plenty of extra features, solid audio and video and a feature that could have been more but still manages to entertain make the Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition worth recommending. Try and put the 'what could have beens' out of your head when you watch it and just enjoy it for the big dumb action/horror hybrid that it is.