Resident Evil: High Definition Trilogy Blu-ray Review
PictureThe first Resident Evil instalment comes kicking and biting to Blu-ray with a superior 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The detail level is consistently good throughout the film, with sharpness also top notch, and even a bit of 3D quality. There is little unintentional grain, noticeable during the few moments of head-mounted digital video footage during the fights, or during one or two of the desaturated sequences, but this appears to be the desired effect (there are a couple of moments when the power is first restarted but this is easily forgiveable). There is also no noticeable edge enhancement or digital artefacting. The quality is pretty amazing good, never betraying the fact that the movie is now seven years old, nor the fact that it was made on a relatively low budget. The colour range is fairly wide, with plenty of clinical lab-based sequences, and the whites are bright and almost blinding, whilst the blacks are deep and dark and solid, indicating decent contrast and allowing for some nice shadowing.
With a bigger budget, the sequel to Resident Evil is certainly a glossier, more stylish affair, coming across well on Blu-ray, complete with a 1080p High Definition video presentation in its broader theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is decent throughout, although the lighting levels seem a little off in some of the scenes. CGI is too apparent, but perhaps that's a downside to what is essentially superior picture quality. There's little softness and minimal grain, but the picture almost looks too perfect at times, often on the verge of looking more like a video-game than a movie, and never having that 3D quality that the high definition medium allows for, if utilised properly. The colour scheme is also very unreal in the same style of the game, but at least we get solid blacks and decent shadowing. Overall it's a decent enough video representation on Blu-ray.
Resident Evil: Extinction also comes to Blu-ray with a glorious 1080p High Definition video representation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Right from the outset it looks superb, detail coming across as fantastic, whether it be the rolling sand dunes, the broad open desert expanse or the picture perfect facial detail associated with the various characters. The exception, of course, being Milla Jovovich who - as aforementioned - appears to look CG-rendered in almost every single one of her close-ups. This is a high contrast affair, all bleached-out sun-drenched open desert locations pocketed by small, darker, shadowy interiors, but the blacks remain solid and it generally looks like the best of the three movies, visually - or at least on par with the first excellent effort.
SoundFor the first movie we get a Dolby TrueHD track that sounds excellent. The dialogue - from the initial screams to the tactical orders and zombie moans - all comes across well, clearly and coherently, predominantly from across the fronts and centre channels. Effects are also presented excellently, the affair fully dynamic, with helicopters whizzing around, birds scattering, and - of course - those ever important gunfights, where bullets thunder around your living room. The score is probably the most distinctive element, a superb effort from none other than Marilyn Manson (with a brief contribution from the ever-excellent Nine Inch Nails), who pulls out all the stops to give you a suitably disturbing and unpredictable accompaniment for this tense zombie actioner. Bass comes into play for shock value and during the louder confrontations, and overall it is a superior track for this movie.
To accompany the first sequel we get an Uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix that hits all the right spots. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently - from Alice's mumblings to the moans of the undead or the screams of their victims - predominantly from across the front and centre channels. The effects are quite commonplace, with everything from raging automatic gunfire to echoing sniper shots, rockets and numerous explosions. Every body blow is also given sufficient audio punch, just as the bites of the undead get that added piercing zing. The score is the same sort of heavy metal-esque affair as its predecessor, except without the keen input of Marilyn Manson, coming across in places as the kind of noisy accompaniment prevalent in so many lame b-movies these days, across the action and horror genres. With bass also observed well, the soundtrack comes across nicely at all times, it just doesn't add much to the movie - though that's more due to its design than its representation here.
As with the first movie, Extinction comes complete with an impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that hits all the right spots. Dialogue gets a decent frontal presentation, never smothered by the rest of the track, despite how boisterous it may be. The effects are amped up were, the zombies more active, the attacks more brutal and the shrieking of the infected birds engulfing your living room. The score is, as with the second movie, not particularly memorable, suffering again from the lack of the likes of Marilyn Manson (although that clinical, intimidating Resident Evil theme still runs throughout and holds the set-up moments together well) but still it is punchy enough to give that extra kick to the proceedings. This may even be the noisiest of the three affairs, with plenty of bass from the LFE and dynamics across the surrounds, and certainly works as a decent showcase of your equipment.
ExtrasResident Evil originally had two DVD releases, the first with several extras and then a polished up Deluxe Edition with even more, so it is quite nice to have all of the extras ported over here, even if we don't get anything new. First up there's an Audio Commentary by the Cast and Crew, with Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolt and Actor Jason Isaacs paired up with Actresses Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez, both of whom appear to be drunk and - at times - even a little obnoxious. It's an odd track, with Jovovich particularly loud and often irritating, which will probably come as a bit of a shock to those who adore her. Still, the end result is sometimes amusing and at the very least honest, with the Director and Producer trying to keep a handle on things while the girls run a little wild. The second track is a Visual Effects Commentary by the Director and the Visual Effects Supervisor, Richard Yuricich. It is a much more dry - and sober - affair, but that comes as something of a relief after the other debacle, as at least you are likely to learn a thing or two about the production.
There are no less than 12 Featurettes, varying in length and content. Playing Dead: Resident Evil from Game to Screen is a quarter of an hour long and looks at the origins of the franchise - in its game form - with the Director on hand to talk about his ideas for where to take the story (ostensibly a prequel, in his eyes, to the games), also making reference to his previous experience at a game adaptation, Mortal Kombat. The Making of Resident Evil is nearly half an hour, but a lot more promotional, with plenty of unnecessary plot and character discussion and simply nothing that you would not already know from having seen the movie. Still it's probably worth persisting because the Featurette eventually evolves into something better, with a look at the gun and fight training and effects done for the production.
Scoring Resident Evil is split between the two collaborators Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson and has them both contribute comments about their work on the score and how they hoped to - and succeeded in - enhancing the story and visuals, and even the tension. Storyboarding Resident Evil has the Director dissecting a few key scenes with the use of storyboards. The remaining Featurettes are all fairly self-explanatory in name and last but a few minutes (some little over 60 seconds) - Costumes, Set Design, and then key scenes/concepts: The Creature, The Elevator, The Laser, The Train, Zombie Dogs and Zombies, all looking at the various miniatures, models, CGI and so forth used to bring the ideas to life.
The Alternate Ending comes complete with a Video Introduction from the Director himself, and is certainly worth checking out. Sure, it would not have really fit the theme of the movie, even if they had completed all of the effects shots for it, but it still gives you an idea of where they wanted to go with the subsequent more action-orientated affairs. It effectively replaces the post-climax coda, seeing Milla's Alice returning to Umbrella to unleash her wrath.
We also get the “My Plague” Music Video by Slipknot - which I did not like when compared with Manson's effective score, as well as Previews for the classic Close Encounters, the stylish but shallow 30 days of Night, the convoluted The Company, the action packed second Resident Evil sequel - Extinction, Dragon Wars, the style with no substance Ultraviolet, the decent first Underworld instalment and the lame werewolf movie Blood and Chocolate.
It's worth noting that this Blu-ray release does come complete with that weird gimmick that allows you to select and watch the extras all in one go. It's not exactly much of a step up from the old function that allows you to bookmark chapters and it's a little pointless really.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
All of the extras from the feature-packed DVD release are present here, although we get nothing extra for this Blu-ray version (apart from that pointless Blu-ray Wizard option that merely allows you to group which extras you want to watch into a playlist). First up there are no less than three Commentaries. The first two - by the Director and cast, respectively - are extremely pretentious, as it seems that everybody involved seems to think that this film is a masterpiece. I've heard deluded Commentaries before, but the lame Director's contribution here is up there alongside Uwe Boll's worst efforts, almost totally oblivious to what anybody with even a modicum of taste might think. If you rated this movie as a masterpiece then you will be amongst friends on these first two Commentaries, with the second actor-based track almost as pretentious as the first. Milla Jovovich contributes - not quite as drunk as during the debacle that was her Resident Evil Commentary - but overshadowed by the totally deluded Sienna Guillory, who must have been watching a different movie to the rest of the world. Guillory talks at length - and in a serious 'I believe every word of nonsense that I am spouting' fashion - about how she wanted to perfect her character, bring Valentine to life on screen and was proud of the resulting masterpiece. Either they paid he a lot to say all of this (at the expense of her credibility) or she must have been brainwashed by the Umbrella Corporation. The third Commentary is the only one that is really worth anybody's time, with the Director from the first movie (and writer of the trilogy), Paul W.S. Anderson on hand to finally give you some insight into the stories, the Resident Evil universe and the characters, injecting plenty of trivia into a decent enough track that fans will want to check out.
There are no less than twenty Deleted Scenes, although most of them are less than a minute long and add absolutely nothing to the proceedings. At least Resident Evil had an interesting Alternate Ending, Apocalypse left nothing watchable on the cutting-room floor, further emphasising the fact that the Director had an extremely limited vision. The Making-Of comes in the form of the six-part Resident Evil: Reanimated, which details the production of the movie. Again packed with self-congratulatory pomposity mostly coming from the cast and crew soundbites, it also has some behind-the-scenes value of sequences being shot, stunts and effects and other work being done for the movie. Corporate Malfeasance is a short Featurette that compares the shady Umbrella Corporation with real life big-businesses, although the notion is best nurtured by the hints exhibited within the movie which can fester in your minds, rather than being highlighted and over-observed in this shallow offering. The Featurette, Symphony of Evil, compares some of the filmmakers' original sketches and designs to the final film's representation, with the Game Babes taking a flimsy, vapid and unnecessarily 'Zoo magazine' look at hot, underdressed female characters often showcased by these sorts of video games.
Resident Evil: Extinction
The only film of the trilogy to get some decent Blu-ray Exclusive stuff, Extinction comes primed with a Picture-in-Picture offering entitled Under the Umbrella. Sure, we have seen this kind of material on HD DVD for aeons now, but it's still relatively fresh for Blu-ray and it is nice to see them attempting to catch-up. There's plenty of Milla, who's just as scatty as she is on the previous audio tracks, some nice interviews with the other cast and crew members and some behind the scenes footage - most of which is new to the disc and cannot be found elsewhere (a step up from many other PIP tracks which merely utilise fragments of the other Featurettes).
This time we also get no Cast Commentary, which - from experience - only seems like a good thing, instead having just one Audio Commentary track, recorded by the Director Russell Mulcahy, the Producer Jeremy Bolt, and the writer of the trilogy (and Director of the first part) Paul W.S. Anderson. It's Anderson who - once again - provides the most interesting offering, talking about the arcs that he had in mind, the character evolution, and relating much of it back to the original games and it seems that they did better with a choice of participants on this single track rather than the multiple wasted efforts on the previous discs.
Beyond Raccoon City: Unearthing Resident Evil Extinction is a decent half-hour Making-Of Documentary which charts the history of the movie from Pre- to Post-Production, with a few nice interview segments, b-roll footage and location and effects talk. The 11 Deleted Scenes are only marginally better than those found on the Apocalypse DVD, with nothing desperately worth reinstating. Finally we get some trailers, including ones for the movie itself, the upcoming animated game-sequel, Resident Evil: Degeneration and the new Resident Evil 5 video game (both of which should keep fans sated until they do another a movie).
VerdictAn underdressed kick-ass Milla Jovovich, zombies, a disposable tactical unit, a motley band of equally disposable survivors and an evil Corporation with a hidden agenda all come together to make the Resident Evil Trilogy a stylish, entertaining zombie collection, with just enough atmosphere to set the movies apart from the rest. These are (with perhaps the exception of the first instalment) largely action-orientated horrors, and they work pretty well, despite the fact that some more religious fans of the games might find them marginally disappointing. On Blu-ray they all get decent presentation, both visually and aurally, each adorned with a decent set of Extras. If you like any of the movies then this is a nice set to complete your collection, and if you had any doubts following on from Apocalypse then, rest assured, Extinction is a distinct improvement.
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