PictureI have to admit that my blood did run a little cold when I saw the words “mastered in high definition” on the back of the box. I know what this can mean for darkly lit, moody images (Starship troopers II anyone?) but there's little to fear here (apart from the Zombies, killer computers, zombie dogs and, well, you get the idea). The movie is indeed grainy throughout though. Shot on what appears to be grainy stock with liberal use of filters and atmospheric lighting (which ranges from wildly over saturated blues and reds through to anaemic, almost monochromatic sequences) the disc faced a definite uphill challenge to reproduce detail without dissolving into a mushy mess. Thankfully the image does hold together. Even when projected onto a 7-foot screen the image holds black level well and never shows any tendency toward fizzing, colour patterning or tearing. The print is (as you would expect from a recent effects extravaganza) almost pristine with no visible damage or (non intentional) colour problems. As for the disc encoding it is mercifully free of edge enhancement, mosquito noise or macroblocking/banding, which, for a movie with this much grain, smoke and moodily lit sequences deserves a round of applause in of itself.
SoundNot so much a sound mix as an audio assault. Whilst not being available with a DTS track, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (available in English, Portuguese and French, with a DD 2.0 surround track for Spanish listeners) here is serious stuff. With a soundtrack co-scored by Marilyn Manson as well as a cracking dynamic range this is prime demo material. Throughout the movie excellent use is made of the discrete surround and LFE tracks creating a superb, almost holographic, experience. Dialogue is crisp and perfectly anchored and is never drowned out even when the other channels are pumping out enough pressure to make your sofa explode. Fantastic stuff.
ExtrasFans stand back since you've pretty much hit a mother load here, with two audio commentaries, 11 featurettes, an alternate ending (well, part of one), footage from the newly released sequel “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” as well as trailers for both the original and sequel, there's more than enough to keep you busy here. But beware of two things. Firstly this is definitely an adult orientated section (with unguarded interviews featuring adult language) and second beware this section until you've seen the movie, almost all the features here are laden with spoilers (especially if you don't know what I mean when I say “the laser room sequence”)!
So, where to start. Well, let's begin with the commentary tracks. The two on offer here are split between a cast and crew track featuring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Producer Jeremy Bolt and writer/director Paul W.S.Anderson. I've listened to a great many commentary tracks recently but this is one of the few where those making the comments seem to be enjoying themselves (not the most fun, that would be Clerks). Everyone chips into the conversation adding quips, background information and behind the scenes information as well as mentioning what's happening on screen every now and again. The second of the two is a visual effects commentary which, again, features writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson, this time paired with visual effects supervisor and producer Richard Yuricich.. The pair had previously worked together on sci-fi-horror pic Event Horizon and they obviously have a good rapport. An interesting track to listen to, Yuricich and Anderson provide some interesting bits of movie trivia throughout, well worth a listen.
Moving on to the 11, (yes, 11!), featurettes provided, we start off with “Playing Dead: Resident Evil from Game to Screen”. Running at just over 15 minutes, this featurette introduces us to video game designers as well as Writer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez as they discuss the steps taken to produce a movie version of the ultimate zombie game. This is an interesting piece, nothing here is too self-congratulatory and I found myself agreeing with Anderson when he says that this absolutely had to be an R-rated movie, a kiddies version would have been a complete non-event and would have left everyone disappointed. Next up we have “Scoring resident evil” (11'07). Oh wow, Marilyn Manson on a dvd special feature (well, actually he shows up elsewhere too) . Responsible for co-scoring the movie along with Marco Beltrami (Minic, Scream, Blade II, Terminator 3, Hellboy, I, Robot), Manson pulls no punches talking about the way in which he decided to use not just music but sound itself in order to mix a track of incidental cues that act to unsettle and just straight out scare the audience. Manson does dominate this somewhat though, with Beltrami being sidelined slightly throughout. “Storyboarding Resident Evil” (6'25), “Costumes” (3'26) and 'Set Design” (4'07) all cover the creation of the look of the movie with Richard Bridgeland (who acted as both costume and production designer) commenting on the creation of everything from the labyrinthine feel of the movie through to the construction of the commando's suits, whilst split screen comparisons are used to good effect to show how storyboards are used to ensure everyone knows what elements will be on screen in the finished production, even if on-set it's just Milla Jovovich kicking a tennis ball on a piece of wire! Next up we have “The Creature” (5'18), “The Elevator” (1'08), “The Laser” (5'05) and “The Train” (2'20). These show the effort that went into the practical and miniature work on this movie. Yes, it has its share of CG but (and George Lucas should here take note) it is only used in the places where it fits. Extensive use was made of forced perspective miniatures (the train and the lift) with on set practical effects being used wherever possible, resulting in some wonderfully convincing effects sequences. The final set of featurettes; “Zombie Dogs” (3'54) and “Zombies” (4'30) cover the movies' raison d'etre. Documenting the creation of the ubiquitous Resident Evil “Zombie Dogs” (which Anderson admits were always going to have to be included to placate fans of the games) and also the recruiting, training and (sometimes painful) make up that dancers underwent to become armies of the undead in the movie.
”Alternate Ending” (3'19) is introduced by Paul W.S.Anderson (again) who tells us that the movie almost had a different ending. The original ending (as finally shot and used in the movie) was, at one point, deemed too expensive and so an alternate, cheaper, version was planned. Whilst not quite finished (the ultimate pyrotechnics where never shot but are described by Anderson) this is a more upbeat ending but, as Anderson comments, would seem to be slightly confusing in leading the audience into an action sequence just as the movie ends. Ultimately I'm glad the budget was stretched to allow the movie to use the original scripted (and darker) ending that was used for its theatrical release.
Closing out the disc we have “Resident Evil: Apocalypse - Fangoria clip” (3'35), previews for “Resident Evil”, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, “Stephen King presents Kingdom Hospital” and “Hellboy” and a filmography section on the cast and crew. The clip from the new movie is presented in DD 2.0 and is letterboxed whilst the trailers for all but “Kingdom Hospital” are presented anamorphically and with DD 5.1 soundtracks.
An excellent compilation of extras.
VerdictExcellent soundtrack, very good visuals and a stonking set of extras make this a must own keeper of a movie. If you're into sci-fi, horror or just like Milla Jovovich, buy it now (or the zombies will get you!)
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