Length: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p
Languages: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese (traditional), Chinese (simplified), Indonesian, Thai
To be perfectly blunt, there is much not to like about Resident Evil: Degeneration. The fourth installment in the “Resident Evil” series, this animated feature from Japan is going straight to video in the United States (apparently it was given limited theatrical release on Japan). It offers wooden, expressionless characters, a barely comprehensible plot, and it goes on far, far too long. It reminds me of a live-action film in which the story is built around the special effects, rather than using the special effects to enhance the story.
Resident Evil: Degeneration is based upon the “Resident Evil” video games. I am not much of a gamer, and in the interest of full disclosure I should acknowledge that I have never played the games and I have not seen the other entries in the film series. I understand that the franchise is known as “Biohazard” in Japan. I suspect that the plot of Resident Evil: Degeneration may be more accessible to viewers who are familiar with the games and/or the earlier “Resident Evil” films. There are references to a bio-terrorism tragedy at Raccoon City and a pharmaceutical company called The Umbrella Corporation, references which undoubtedly have great significance to “Resident Evil” fans.
In any event, Claire Redfield, a survivor of prior films who is now working around the world to help victims of bio-terrorism, arrives at the Harvardville Airport. An airplane crashes into the airport and its occupants, flesh-eating zombies infected by the T-virus, go on a rampage. Special Agent Leon Kennedy is dispatched to quell the uprising and he teams up with Claire and a Special Response Team member, Angela Miller. Angela is the sister of Curtis Miller, whose wife and son were killed in Raccoon City. Curtis, who has been protesting the building of a pharmaceutical research facility in Harvardville, becomes infected with the G-virus and mutates into a killing monster. Also involved is a corrupt politician and another evil corporation, WilPharma Corporation.
The animation is very odd. The filmmakers seem to be striving for a certain level of realism, but the eyes of the characters are vacant and their faces are frozen, as if they have been injected with botox. In one scene Leon and Angela find themselves trapped in a tank of water. Leon shoots their way out and they are swept away. When they emerge neither has a single hair out of place. They must be using some hellacious hairspray.
Although it has a running time of just 96 minutes, Resident Evil: Degeneration seems to go on and on and on. For some reason Sony decided to screen this for the Home Theater Forum members who attended the Hollywood meet in October. Fortunately, the studio redeemed itself by providing us with a very nice lunch. Alas, the viewer of this Blu-ray disc will have to provide his or her own refreshments.
The 1.78:1 1080p transfer is, for the most part, very nice and closely approximates how the film looked in Sony’s screening room. The image is generally sharp and smooth. The color palette is muted, which is consistent with the bleak nature of the story. Shadow detail is excellent, which is important because most of the action takes place in very dark scenes.
One anomaly that I noted is faint vertical lines which appear in the image intermittently throughout the film. Whether this is a transfer flaw or something which is inherent in the animation is a question for which I do not have an answer. I do not recall seeing the lines the first time I saw the film, but others who were there may recall differently.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is impressive. The various crashes and explosions reverberate throughout the room and the subwoofer gets a workout, delivering some powerful bass. The dialogue is clear and intelligible. Oddly, there is no Japanese soundtrack on this disc.
There are a number of extras on this disc, but nothing which I consider to be essential.
There is an interactive picture-in-picture feature which allows the viewer to pull up various P-I-P streams during the movie, such as storyboards. There is also a pop-up trivia feature which can be activated. I do not much care for such distractions, but others may enjoy them.
A “making of” featurette called “The Generation of Degeneration” has the Japanese filmmakers discussing how the film was conceived and put together, but for some reason Sony chose not to provide English subtitles by default. Unless you speak Japanese, you will first have to go to the audio section of the main menu and enable to English subtitles if you want to understand what the filmmakers are saying.
Another feature called “Character Profiles” is helpful in understanding the background of the major characters, but it is very slow to load, almost as if the disc has to re-boot for this feature to come up. Returning to the main menu from “Character Profiles” also is a slow process.
Also included is a silly "faux interview" of Leon Kennedy, Resident Evil: Degeneration trailers, and footage of the upcoming Resident Evil 5.
The single disc is secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
The Final Analysis
This film will probably appeal to fans of the “Resident Evil” series. Others are likely to come away wondering why they bothered to make this.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: Available now - released December 27, 2008