Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Film Length: 101 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English, French, Portugese
Subtitles: English, French, Portugese, Spanish
Release Date: September 7
Movies based on video games have a mostly deserved reputation for being brainless and deafening, and director Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson, director of “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” among others) is the unquestioned maestro of this dubious art form. Anderson directed both “Mortal Kombat,” a box office success and critical disaster, and “Alien Vs. Predator,” unseen by me.
Resident evil is a step up from “Mortal Kombat,” to be certain. It’s actually far closer in tone and subject matter to another Anderson film, “Event Horizon,” the 1997 “Solaris” (Tarkovsky, not Soderbergh) knockoff that has to be one of the most unpleasant cinematic experiences of my life. I like a good scare as much as the next guy, but I don’t need a tired plot and a few deeply, deeply disturbing images to haunt my every waking hour for weeks.
Where was I? Oh, right, “Resident Evil.” True to form, ‘RE’ is mostly baffling and noisy, but it’s not without its charms. Unlike his work in “Event Horizon,” Anderson here seems willing to find the limit to the horrors herein, and just put a toe across the line, instead of leaping over it and shaking a chainsaw at you.
Also, and this is certainly one of the film’s most endearing qualities, it’s extremely well shot. Great attention is paid to composition, and if a few of the action sequences dissolves into a tangle of arms and legs, that’s par for the course.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around an expedition into a subterranean research facility (the Hive) cum mass grave. Milla Jovovich, coming dangerously close to reprising her role in “The Fifth Element,” seems to have an intense connection with the place, but is suffering from acute memory loss (ha!). Getting into the Hive, as it turns out, is the easy part. Getting out? Not so much.
Though I’m only vaguely familiar with the video game, I can tell you that this film is presented as a prequel to the original Resident Evil game. Whereas “Mortal Kombat” had essentially no storyline – a fighting tournament between weird muscle-bound guys is about as bare-bones as you can get – the Resident Evil games provide ample source material for a film (or, as it turns out, a series of films). Hardcore fans of the games will get a great deal more out of this than newcomers, but because it’s a prequel, the learning curve isn’t too steep.
Aside from a few dark scenes that lack in shadow detail – and only a very few – this is a nearly flawless transfer. I was expecting more compression artifacts because of the sheer amount of material on the disc, but was pleasantly surprised. The quality of the transfer stands out in sharpness – look for the extreme close-ups of Jovovich’s eye at the beginning and end of the film. Stunning.
The surround field is suitably three dimensional for most of the film, though a bit more in the LFE channel would’ve been appreciated. Great attention is paid to the score – a score I found to be one of the most unpleasant in recent memory, and painfully bad in comparison to Philip Glass’s score for Candyman, which I recently reviewed. Also, at one crucial scene, the dialogue becomes almost unintelligibly soft. You’ll know it when you get there.
All features are 4:3 and stereo
The Alternate Ending, a major selling point on the disc’s packaging, is a bit of disappointment. I won’t divulge the content of that ending, except to say that Anderson pops in to tell you how cool the special effects shot that would’ve ended the film would’ve been if they’d ever actually shot it.
Playing Dead: Resident Evil From Game to Screen interviews Anderson, Jovovich, co-star Michelle Rodriguez and numerous producers, video game nerds and anyone else who happened to be wandering around the Sony studio that day. Anderson, it turns out, has great affection for the video game, and had long dreamed of filming it. Good on ya, P.W.S.A. It includes numerous game clips, intercut with shots from the film. It also contains this gem, from a producer comparing “Resident Evil” to other video game movies (apparently, nobody told him this was Anderson’s genre): “It’s not impersonal, like it is in those driving games, where you’re just trashing cars.” I don’t know about you, but I find driving a car somewhat more relatable than shooting a mutant zombie in the head with a shotgun. I guess I’ve led a sheltered life.
Scoring “Resident Evil” interviews Marilyn Manson, who, along with Marco Beltrami, crafted the aforementioned score. Blech.
Story Boarding “Resident Evil” is a fairly typical story board to screen montage. The drawings aren’t particularly well rendered, and the feature seems tacked on.
Costumes (apparently someone got tired of writing real titles for these featurettes) is much cooler than the story boards, and contains both cast and production design interviews and a montage of really excellent drawings and their eventual realized copies.
Set Design interviews the very same production designer (couldn’t these have been one feature?) and discusses the architecture and ideas that went into designing the Hive.
Effects Featurettes Six separate effects projects or sequences get their own short (between two and five minutes) breakdown.
The Resident Evil: Apocalypse Preview gives viewers a peek at the upcoming sequel. FYI: inexplicably, the preview contains more nudity than the entire first film, in case you’re watching with your kids around.
There are two Commentaries, one featuring Anderson, Jovovich, Rodriguez and producer Jeremy Bolt, and the other a special effects crew commentary. The former is of the “put everyone in a room and watch the movie together” variety, which would’ve been fun if I liked the movie as much as they did. Rodriguez is the gem, smart and funny and talking over everyone else – including teasing Jovovich during an early near-nude scene. The effects commentary is about what you’d expect – technical jargon punctuated with “that was cool!”
You don’t read Louid L’Amour for nuanced thoughts on the state of Native American relations in the American West, and you don’t pick up movies based on video games for character development and brilliant dialogue. With that in mind, Resident Evil, the film, is an above average action thriller, with enough tension, fright and violence to thoroughly satisfy its target audience. This is spectacular delivery of the film, from the stellar transfer to the voluminous special features. I’m not familiar with the first DVD edition of this film (or the superbit edition), but if you’re a fan who doesn’t own this title, this is a strong buy. To sweeten the pot, the disc comes with a free ticket for the sequel.