Resident Evil: Degeneration Blu-ray Review
Resident Evil: Degeneration comes to Blu-ray with a picture-perfect 1080p High Definition rendition of the CGI movie in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. Irrespective of the problems with the animation, visually it looks tremendous and this particularly comes across on this next-gen format. Detail is excellent throughout, clarity maintained without any softness or grain (in other words, as good as you would expect for a CG affair) and there are no digital defects. The video has been criticised as showcasing some blurring side-effects, but whether or not this is the case doesn't much matter as it only tends to be during frenetic movement sequences where it could easily have been intentionally done to accentuate the action. Personally, whether in bright sunny daylight sequences where you can see the hot air blurring at the bottom of the shots, or the dark, dingy night-time shots where you expect zombies to lurk, the video looks superb throughout and nothing detracts from your viewing pleasure here.
To accompany the movie we get a punchy Dolby TrueHD track that is as good as you would expect from what is, by and large, just a non-interactive video-game. Dialogue comes across clear and coherent throughout (as if that's the driving factor!), largely emanating from the frontal array, and the score (which is, as is typical with many Japanese animations, perfectly stylised in places and ludicrously dated in other places - like towards the end) gets some room to breathe, but only when necessary, mostly just backing-up the action sequences and supposedly heightening the tension. The real highlight of the track comes in terms of the effects presentation. As if you really were playing the game, gunshots are given perfect directionality, the zombies encroach from all around, and the screams and shouts can get quite invasive, all marking arguably the best aspect of not only the disc but also perhaps the whole release itself. It even allows for some significant bass punch, particularly during the larger action set-pieces and explosions. Quality.
This Blu-ray release comes packed with extras, some even exclusive to the High Definition format, but the majority of them sound much better than they actually are. First up we get a triple-featured Picture-in-Picture track that allows you to switch between three additional background pictures that are displayed when the icons light up throughout the movie. The three option are concept sketches (which are very poor indeed), the original CG rendering (all blocks and Atari graphics) and the motion capture of the body actors doing. Of all three, the only one worth more than a brief look would be the last one, but unfortunately (and this applies to all three options) the picture-in-picture element is too small and the shots too broad to give you much more than just a vague idea of what is going on. In the movie on screen you can see the action taking place, and in a box about the size of a postcard in the top right hand corner you get to see a full studio set-size picture of someone repeating the action in a motion capture suit. But it's so far away you can barely make out the similarities. Frustrating as hell, this potentially good extra ends up being just another PiP gimmick. The second major feature is the Trivia Track, which is arguably better than the PiP, at least providing some decent Concept Art stills, background facts into fictional (and real-life) organisations depicted, as well as the fictional characters (mostly the insignificant bit parts as the main characters are covered separately) and original script ideas, to name but a few things on offer here. I even got to finally learn what the T in T-virus stands for (ok, so everybody else probably already knows but it's Tyrant). Unfortunately the only possible reason somebody would watch this track is if it was the first time they were watching the movie. Why? Cause the facts are so few and far between (and some of them so utterly pointless) that you're never going to sit through the entire movie again (whether or not you liked it) waiting for the one or two nuggets of valuable information. I don't care that the zombie on the left was the security guard from the beginning. Or that the zombie on the right was based on one of the concept artists. Etc Etc. So if you're going to ever be interested in the trivia here, stick it on sporadically through your first sitting. The ideal would have been to combine these two tracks (the PiP and the trivia) for a full-length track that gave you information throughout rather than so intermittently.
In terms of the standard extras, The Generation of Degeneration Making-Of Documentary is disappointingly fluffy too, mostly subtitled interviews with the core creators, discussing the filming techniques, the CG and motion capture, the multinational side of the project and the thin plot. The habit here (as with the trivia track) is to give a snippet of trivia but nothing very revealing and, as a result, nothing very interesting. It's great to hear a little bit about scenes that were originally intended, but how about describing them, or showing the concept art for them? Otherwise it's just a general statement - “and here, we were going to just show the wing.” And? Leaves you wanting more. The Voice Bloopers and Faux Interview are also too gimmicky. Totalling almost fifteen minutes of 'fake' footage (the voice actors doing stupid lines in the same scenes from the movie and Leon doing a mock interview) the joke runs thin pretty quickly, and wasn't that funny in the first place.
Finally we get the only vaguely interesting material in the form of key character profiles (which themselves feature film footage and stills) and some trailers, several for the main event but, more interestingly, a section devoted to the upcoming Resident Evil 5 game. There are two trailers, one from The Tokyo Game Show 2008 and one standard preview trailer. Totalling 5 minutes of footage, the first paints a much better picture of the game (mainly because it is over twice as long) and gives you a real feel for this being something of substance. It should be noted, however, that this game is a far cry from that previewed in the original teaser last year (perhaps not to be so potentially racially insulting?), although not necessarily in a wholly bad way.
Resident Evil: Degeneration is disappointing. Perhaps the films are not to everybody's tastes, and certainly many don't even play videogames, but this is certainly the worst of both worlds - despite being a valiant attempt at crossing between them. Not even as good as watching somebody else play one of the games (at least there you normally get to feel some tension) this feature has no character depth, a totally predictable plot and an animation style that barely lifts us out of the videogame realm. On Blu-ray it certainly looks and sounds amazing, and they've tried really hard to come up with some decent extras, although have definitely landed on the side of quantity rather than quality. Overall if you're a Resident Evil completist then you should pick this up - for completeness! - but everybody else should consider a rental, or maybe even the trailer will be enough to allow you to decide if you need to see this.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.77
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