Sony // 2002 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // January 7th, 2008
A secret experiment. A deadly virus. A fatal mistake.
After a long hiatus, the inspiration for a pseudo-big budget film based on a video game resumed in 2002. Resident Evil helped repave the way for similar films like Hitman and Doom, and Sony has loved the film so much that two sequels have been released, along with three separate versions of this disc. So in its first take on Blu-ray, is it worth killing a truckload of zombies over?
Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon) took the highly successful Capcom game and put it into script form that serves as a bit of a prequel to the game franchise itself. In a film that he also directed, a virus developed by the Umbrella Corporation has contaminated an underground work area known as the Hive. There's a computer server known as the Red Queen that apparently is in control of the Hive operations, so they shut down all access to the outside as part of a quarantine, but the Red Queen also fights against any threat to its defenses, including that of a small paramilitary detachment. What the people and the computer aren't aware of is that the virus in question has turned those who have died in the quarantine area into flesh-eating zombies. Cue suspenseful music!
The folks behind the Resident Evil franchise certainly know how to keep a franchise running. It's gone through many different video game releases and this film was the first of three similar films, with a fourth apparently in production. But how the game seems to translate into a film I'm not too sure about, because Anderson has taken the game and basically turned it into a more gruesome and less cheesy George Romero film. He does want to try and differentiate it from those films to some degree, but you can't really reinvent the wheel when it comes to zombie films -- you can only make it run better, or not, or the wheel falls right off the axle.
With Anderson's film, I think it's safe to say that it might run only incrementally better in the sense that it tries to be a little bit snazzier and employs some sort of higher level conspiracy, which includes flashbacks involving Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element) and her husband/boyfriend/meat bag named Spence (James Purefoy, A Knight's Tale). When Alice meets the troops, including Rain (Michelle Rodriguez, Lost), she's on a mission to find out what happened to her and what exactly occurred in the Hive. Again, conceptually it's not really all that bad, as it really, really wants to separate itself from other zombie movies. But I ask you to take a look at the guy who plays One (Colin Salmon, Die Another Day) and compare him to Ken Foree in the original Dawn of the Dead, and it's hard to take things seriously. There's even the thing where a human is bit by a zombie and fights the good fight until the undead germ takes over his body. Yeah, haven't seen that in a Romero film before.
There's this ongoing debate of sorts as to whether or not video games should be adapted for live action films, and if there's a decent story to tell, I'm all for it. And the actors seem to really want to try and do their best, but I can't in good conscience recommend Resident Evil to people without first making sure they've seen a horror film made before 1980.
Technically there wasn't too much to marvel and revel in when watching the AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, but everything looks pretty clear and sharp, which I'm assuming has always been the case with this film and DVD. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is outstanding, with gunfire popping up all around all speakers, and the score (to which Marilyn Manson contributed to) helps to illustrate the type of chaos and madness that Anderson wanted to convey emotionally through the music. A quiet film this ain't.
Bonus wise this appears to hold the same extras as those found on the Deluxe Edition released in 2004. Anderson, Jovovich, Rodriguez and producer Jeremy Bolt join forces for a commentary that doesn't really have as much information as you'd expect on the production, as Jovovich and Rodriguez frequently laugh and poke fun at what's on screen or who they're sharing a room with in the commentary, and Jovovich in particular seems like a person without a volume control button. The actresses share their thoughts on the film and on the video game after awhile, but this doesn't really shed any new light on the production. That's saved for the second track with Anderson and Richard Yuricich, who served as the film's visual effects supervisor and served in a similar role for the first two Mission: Impossible films and was a crew member on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. With Anderson, Yurcich gets the opportunity to get into shot breakdowns from time to time, and recalls some trivia on the older films he's worked on, and of the two tracks, this one's the more entertaining.
From there you've got a dozen featurettes that, when combined, last about as long as the film itself. There's a look at the game's history and what separates it from other games and why this particular game/movie is so scary, and what Anderson took from the game to make the film so "appealing." A standard making of look at the film is next as the cast and crew share their usual thoughts on the story, and a lot of stunt rehearsal footage is shown to give you an idea of how much everyone is supposed to kick butt. Manson and composer Marco Beltrami appear next to talk about how they were inspired to set up the film's music and Manson discusses the process compared to working in a band. Some storyboard to film comparison footage follows, along with separate looks at the costumes and set design for the film. The visual effects get a little more time, starting with the big creature the humans are supposed to vanquish in the end, along with a couple of more memorable effects pieces the film uses. The zombies are given some time to wrap it up. Oh yeah, this disc has the "Blu-Wizard" on here too, which allows you to customize and play the bonus content to your liking.
It's kind of cool that they decided to take the trademark "zombie dogs" from the video game and translate them into film, but like I said before, if you haven't seen some of the old school zombie films, this one is definitely worth a ride or two, if you can put up with how flimsy the story is from time to time.
Examining the disc for a second, the extra material is somewhat extensive and the technical qualities are pretty spiffy. Can you get around the fact that the film is, how you say, slightly unpalatable and claims to be a new idea in old clothing? I couldn't, but if you like the franchise and have a Blu-ray player, I'd pick up the disc because you get all the extras and a pretty good soundtrack, so kudos to Sony for that judgment.
Send this troupe back into the Hive to hang out with those freaky zombie dogs.
Review content copyright © 2008 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreeen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Writer-Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolt, and Actors Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez
* Commentary by Writer-Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Yuricich
* Alternate Ending with Video Introduction by the Director
* Eleven Featurettes
* Music Video
* Blu-Wizard Navigational Piece
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Superbit Edition
* Original DVD Verdict Review: Deluxe Edition