Judge Ryan Keefer might have found a new addiction, now that he's off processed flour, sugar and crack for his New Year's Resolutions.
One woman is the final hope.
The Resident Evil film franchise has certainly acted like the best little franchise that could for quite some time now. The third installment sports the subtitle "Extinction" and there are plans for a fourth film. So now that it's out on video and in Blu-ray, does Resident Evil: Extinction make you want to stand up and wipe out some more of the undead?
Facts of the Case
Paul W.S. Anderson has been responsible for the first two Resident Evil films, so it would only make sense that he would take some part in the third, and he wrote the script for this one that Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) directs. In this run, Alice (Milla Jovovich, Ultraviolet) is back for another run at the battle against the Umbrella Corporation. This time she's in the Nevada desert, finding a group of survivors that she wants to try and help save from the scores of zombies that are walking around trying to find some scraps of still-human flesh. Perhaps a little unbeknownst to Alice, she is being controlled by Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, Kingdom of Heaven), a representative of the Umbrella Corporation who is trying to harness the power of the zombies in the hopes of developing an uber-race of zombies that are strong and fast.
By now you've probably taken a look at the first Resident Evil review on Blu-ray that I've donated for the Verdict, and in between the first and third films, that's my experience as far as the RE films go, so I'm guessing I'm not losing anything by not watching Resident Evil: Apocalypse. But in looking a little bit further, look at the reason why there's a third one of these films for a second. The first RE film took in over $100 million, including over $60 million in foreign box office. Resident Evil: Apocalypse made almost $130 million, with almost $80 million coming in from international sales. And Extinction was the highest grossing film to date, making almost $150 million, with two thirds of that coming from overseas. So yeah, it's only a given that a fourth film would be on the way, and continued installments will probably come straight to video. These are reliable moneymakers for Sony, so why not make more of them, despite the objections of some moviegoing members who have good judgment or a lack of disposable income.
Now I didn't like the first Resident Evil film but strangely enough I found myself enjoying Resident Evil: Extinction on a purely emotional level than the first one, in large part because I knew what was coming and what I was going to be expecting, and Mulcahy helped deliver the goods. Anderson talked about the challenge of making a scary zombie film set in the daylight, and using a small group of people he manages to pull it off pretty well. From the difference in films, you can see how Jovovich has matured into the action hero role, showing some more wariness and cynicism her character lacked in the first one, and showing that she's gone through the ringer and become a badass with some swords. It was fun, so much fun in fact that I was forgiving the inclusion of Mike Epps (Roll Bounce) and pop star Ashanti in supporting roles, not to mention Ali Larter, who is my least favorite character and most annoying storyline on the show Heroes. The best thing that the film could have done was strip things down to the bare essentials of fighting and violence, and they've managed to sort of pull it off.
The MPEG-4 encoded 2.35:1 widescreen look of the film is slightly better than the first one, with the Las Vegas desert (which is actually Mexico) looking clean without a lot of detail, and black levels slightly wavering every so often. All in all when it comes to the disc, the modest expectations are conveyed well in high definition. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack packs a slightly larger punch than the first film, with some more subwoofer activity and about the same surround use than the first, and it's well worth checking out.
The extras are presumably the same as those on the standard definition version of the disc, save for one difference. Well two. The Blu-ray Wizard is a way to set up a customized order to the supplements on the disc and set up what you want to watch, and is not too special a special feature. The "Under the Umbrella" piece is a Picture in Picture supplement which apparently is the Blu-ray equivalent to the Warner In Movie Experience that's found on a few HD DVD discs. It's a running subtitle track option that includes storyboards, interview footage, on set footage of various scenes and other things designed to show another aspect of the production. As far as initial outings go, this feature isn't so bad, it doesn't repeat a lot of footage and is worth checking out. A technical note for PS3 owners; it appears that if you have your player set to Bitstream audio through HDMI, there's an occasional gap of silence between the PiP footage and the film, but an Optical selection for seems to work fine.
From there, Mulcahy, Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt discuss the film. It includes explanations on some of the style choices and shot breakdowns, and the occasional production anecdote is sprinkled in, along with the parties discussing how the cast got their parts. It's not the best commentary I've heard, but it will do. There are some deleted scenes that follow that don't really do anything for the story, followed by four featurettes that run a little over a half hour when played together, which you've got the option of doing. "Alice Vision" covers the preproduction of the film, how Mulcahy got the gig and the challenges of the third film. "Big Bang" covers the production in general, with the cast discussing how they got their parts and how oppressive the environment was, and the set and production design are discussed along with the stuntwork. "Bigger, Faster, Stronger" shows how the makeup was done to make the zombies look the way they do, and "Vegas Visual Effects" covers the visual effects that make Vegas look like Vegas. Resident Evil: Degeneration is a minute long look at the entire computer animated feature, which I guess is coming out next year? Some other previews of Sony releases complete the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At the end of the day, there are still parts of this thing that seem to copy, or "give tribute" to films like The Road Warrior and Day of the Dead, and that annoys and bothers me. And the thing that holds me back from being wholly enthusiastic about the film is the fact that the ongoing story that holds the franchise together seems to be getting sillier and sillier. Aside from the battle between Alice and the doctor, what's going on here makes you want to laugh in how little imagination it seems to exert.
Even for newcomers to the franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction might prove to be a convincing and guilty pleasure film worth turning the lights off and enjoying. The performances are fairly bland, but at least in the story, you know what you're getting, and the disc has got enough going for it both technically and from a supplemental perspective to maybe even make it worth buying. And if you've liked the first two, you'll like this one.
Maybe it's the T-Virus talking, but the court acquits the cast and crew of the charges and they are free to go.
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• Commentary by Writer Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolt and Director Russell Mulcahy
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