The first Resident Evil movie was a decent if predictable zombie film that was hampered by some slow sequences and the fact that it took a while for the zombies to actually appear. (Read my full review here.) The next film in the series, Resident Evil: Apocalypse tried to remedy those flaws by putting in a lot more action. Unfortunately the movie was a mess and came across as a series of unrelated fight scenes. For the third, historical, installment (this is the first time a video game franchise has had three theatrical movies released) the creators tried to go back to the horror roots of the first film while keeping the action scenes of the first. The result? Resident Evil: Extinction; A film that should have worked better than it did. While there are some good sequences and some interesting developments, the just doesn't hold together very well.
The Umbrella Corporation, a powerful multi-national company, was working on a virus to sell as a biological weapon. The T-virus, as it was named, had the unusual property of not only killing whoever came in contact with it, but it would also re-animate the dead corpse and turn the body into a flesh-eating monster. The T-virus escaped and though the Umbrella Corp tried to contain it inside the research facility (Resident Evil) and when that failed Raccoon City (Resident Evil Apocalypse) they weren't successful. The T-virus has spread across the world nearly wiping out humanity. The rivers and lakes have also dried up turning the earth into a desert. (This last bit is never really explained but probably happened so the film could look more like The Road Warrior.)
Alice, Milla Jovovich, having escaped from the Umbrella scientists yet again at the end of the previous film, is living on her own traveling across the midwestern USA on a motorcycle. She's been exposed to the T-virus, but instead of killing her, it's "bonded with her DNA" and made her a kick ass fighter. Oh yeah, and she has psychic powers now. After she accidentally wrecks her cycle with her mind, Alice encounters a convoy of survivors lead by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and single handedly saves them from an attack of zombie crows.
Now, most rag-tag groups of survivors would be happy to have a gun-toting, super-strong, psychically enabled warrior on their side. Not so much with these guys. Claire's a little scared of Alice's powers and only grudgingly allows her to stay.
On her travels Alice has encountered a notebook where someone determined that there is a city in Alaska that is totally free of the infection. Claire's group decides to try to make it up there, but it's a long way and the Umbrella Corporation's satellites have just spotted Alice. She's the only subject who has bonded with the virus, and they need her blood, so they are not about to let her escape.
This film starts out with an absurdly long (5 minute) scene of Alice wandering through sets from the first movie. Though things pick up from there, that pretty much establishes the theme of this film: try to recapture what made the first movie watchable. They don't really succeed unfortunately. Part of the problem is that it is weighted down with continuity. That can be a good thing, like in the Harry Potter films, but in this case the creators randomly discarded some events from the past but chose to embrace others. At the end of the last movie Alice was going off with Jill Valentine, Carlos Olivera, and Angie Ashford. Though Carlos is in this film, no mention is made of the other two, and only a single sentence refers to the intervening years. And why did they decide to give Alice mental powers? She uses them to great effect at some points and then doesn't even try to use them in others. It just comes across as stupid.
While the first two films had people that viewers could grow to like (Jill Valentine, Rain Ocampo) all of the supporting characters in this film are card board cutouts. Claire, a character from the video games, has no personality at all, and most of the other members of the caravan are equally bland. Even Carlos who had a forceful presence in the second film seems as drab and dull as the desert locations they are traveling through.
While the plot, characterization, and continuity are a mess, there are some exciting action sequences. The highlight is Alice's fight with zombie dogs at the very beginning, but the battles in Las Vegas and the attack of the birds are also fun to watch. It's just too bad that there wasn't more to this film.
The Blu-ray Disc:
This film comes with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded image with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer looks very good, and though I don't care for the visual style of the film, the disc did a good job of reproducing it. The creators decided to make the exterior scenes washed out with an overly bright bleached look since it takes place in the desert. (This was an interesting idea the first time it was used, but it's been overdone. Now it just makes a movie look like crap.) In any case the whites are dazzlingly bright without being crushed and there is no blooming. The interior scenes, by contrast, are very dark and gloomy and the disc also did a great job on these. The blacks are rich and solid and the definition is strong even in shadows. The level of detail is excellent in both high and low light areas with fine details easy to discern.
On the digital side things look equally impressive. There was a tad of grain in a few scenes but nothing that you wouldn't expect from a movie that was recorded on film.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack sounded great. The full soundstage was used to very good effect with ambient noise being channeled to different corners of the room even during the more sedate scenes. Of course during the action the soundtrack really packs a wallop, with explosions, gun fire, and the moaning of the undead literally filling the room. The attack of the zombie crows was particularly sonically impressive. The sequence was teamed with a wall of sound that would make Phil Spector jealous. Sounds are reproduced with pin point accuracy too, and there is a lot of audio panning which is very effective. In one scene a helicopter passes overhead and it sounds like it's flying right past you.
The range is full, and the sub really gets a workout in a couple of scenes. Overall a very good sounding disc.
Like Resident Evil, this disc comes with a good amount of extras, and they've ported over all of the bonus features from the SD version too. First off is a commentary track with director Russell Mulcahy, writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. This was a pretty good track with the participants talking through the whole film and giving some interesting information though it sometimes gets a little technical and dry. They talk a lot about the differences between the three movies and the conscious effort they made in this one to get back to the horror feeling of the first movie.
There's also a four part making-of featurette, Beyond Raccoon City:
Unearthing Resident Evil Extinction, which runs about 30 minutes all
together. This was pretty good and talks about many aspects
of creating the film, though much is repeated in the commentary track.
They discuss how they wanted the action scenes to take place in broad daylight
to set themselves apart from other zombie movies, the choice of director,
and how this film differed from the other two.
As far as Blu-ray extras go, this is one of the first to include a Profile 1.1 enhanced Picture-in-Picture feature. With the exception of the Panasonic BD30, there are currently no stand alone players that are capable of displaying the Profile 1.1 material. So if you want to see this (and you don't have a BD30,) you'll have to pop the BD into a PS3.
What you'll get when you do that is basically a new way to watch the special features. While the film plays a small P-in-P box pops up every so often. One of the cast or crew will then comment on the movie, though this isn't usually scene specific. There are also storyboards that are presented (which are scene specific) every once in a while. To say I was under-whelmed would be accurate. The presentation was a bit cheesy and I can't see many people watching the film like this. It's clear that the producers weren't sure what to do with this technology, so they just cut up the featurettes which are on the disc and plastered them into the film itself. The P-in-P was distracting, I found myself watching the little box more than the film itself, and unlike a commentary track it didn't enhance the movie viewing experience.
While this movie is definitely better than the second one, it's not as entertaining as the original. It does get back to its horror roots, but the lack of characterization among the supporting characters and the some of the more silly aspects of the film make it less than appealing. Fans of the franchise and/or zombie flicks will have a fine time watching it, but it isn't nearly as good as it could be. Even though the BD has a wonderful picture and sound, the best I can recommend is to Rent it.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.