Is it possible for a movie to look too good? Resident Evil: Afterlife comes blasting to UK Region Free Blu-ray with the same excellent High Definition 1080p video rendition that the US had a month ago. It comes in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1, but not the movie’s native presentation format of 3D. And it shows. Detail is exceptional throughout, but the effects stand out like a sore thumb, and I can only assume that this is as a direct result of seeing the 2D version, which is lack that extra, erm, dimension. Since it was shot for 3D, many key sequences (in fact all of the many effects-dominated scenes) look totally incomplete, like green-screen work where the effects backdrop has not been finalised, and where the actors have not been fully integrated into their backgrounds. It looks terrible. They may as well be standing in the studios with a green screen behind them, so bad some of the settings look. Still, is this a fault of the filmwork or the film presentation? Well, I guess a bit of both, but it would certainly be interesting to see how this baby fares in its native 3D format. Really, technically, there’s little to fault. It’s an exceptionally good-looking video presentation, clarity, keen attention to detail (even on the longer shots), beautiful realisation of the colours and skin tones (Milla Jovovich looks ‘real’ once again after being DNR’d into oblivion on Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and solid black levels, with only a hint of artefacting to take it away from a perfect look. Unfortunately it’s a demo-quality film presentation that you would feel embarrassed to show to your friends because the effects segments (obviously intended for 3D prominence) are just so damn obvious. I guess some might call this ‘extreme 3D pop’ but I just think it looks cheap. And for such a stylish film, it’s a shame they could not have produced a decent 2D version.
Resident Evil: Afterlife comes thumping to Blu-ray with a heavy, beat-laden DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is certainly the most potent offering since the first outing. Dialogue maintains clarity and coherence, and dominates the frontal array wherever appropriate – even with Milla’s sometimes quiet and contemplative contribution. Effects are well-observed, from the various different weapons on offer (from heavy machine-guns to sawn-off shotguns), with some of the thuds and blasts really thundering under your sofa. Aircraft buzz overhead, bullets whizz around, and we get a nice sense of directionality. Atmospherics are not as prominent as they perhaps should be, but the bustle of the undead crowds (no doubt doing their last-minute Christmas shopping) does give us some decent surround use. The score, however, is clearly the high point, really bringing some of the more fun, flashy action set-pieces to life with engaging hard electronic beats. It gives us some of the best LFE action that I have come across this year. All in all it’s a punchy aural offering, and certainly brings out the best of this latest Resident Evil entry. Where the video may be dubious, and the film even more so, the audio unequivocally stands out as a potent, demo-worthy offering.
Undead Vision is a decent Picture-in-Picture offering, which features all the key cast and crew members in interview discussing their work on the production, played out against a selection of interesting behind the scenes footage clips, concept art, and fascinating, expansive animatics works – mapping out almost all of the key sequences. The comments are often of the back-patting variety, but we do get to hear from Milla, as well as her partners in crime, and the Director Paul W. S. Anderson pops up to talk about his extensive pre-production work, his interest in 3D and how the producers annoyingly convinced him to provide a more traditional open-ended (i.e. set-for-a-sequel) ending. If you enjoyed the movie, this is definitely the preferred option over just the standard Audio Commentary which, if you read on, you will find out was pretty dry.
Here we get Writer/Director Paul W. S. Anderson, Series Producer Jeremy Bolt and Producer Robert Kulzer discussing their creation. It’s a fairly dry and effects-driven offering, where they glorify working with James Cameron’s Avatar 3D cameras; talk about the way in which Anderson not only filmed it with 3D in mind, but wrote it that way (and you can tell from the 3D-gimmicky set-pieces); note the original Japanese dialogue which was used for ‘authenticity’ (despite the fact that most of the Japanese cast spoke in English!!) and marvelled over Milla doing all of her own stuntwork. Most of the talk is contemporaneous to the action, but it also mostly dissects the effects – which they even, wrongly, state are almost impossible to visually detect – with very little anecdotal input. Tedious at times, this is one for die-hard fans and 3D film buffs only.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
There are 8 extra scenes, most of which are just additional lines and moments within existing scenes, and all of which come lacking in effects (mostly lacking visual effects, but also with quite disjointed, unbalanced sound). It’s interesting to see what Alice does with the Quarters in the third short extra scene (ok, so you can guess, but it gives you a better idea of just how many she’s planning on rolling), and the final scene has a nice exchange between Alice and Claire (and more of that caricatured steel gaze from the wooden Wentworth Miller) but the rest of the included extra scenes are utterly pointless. You can skip pretty-much this section – they really would have done better not including it, including some better deleted scenes, or, at least, finishing the effects work for the shots here.
We get four-and-a-half minutes of much more entertaining goofs and gags, with Milla slipping, tripping, and making silly faces because she can’t get the lines right. The girls have fun in the shower, Milla spins the mock shotgun on her finger (and accidently shoots out the lens of one of the really expensive cameras), and Kim Coates shows a great sense of humour. In fact, they all look like they had a great time making this film.
Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife looks at Paul W.S. Anderson’s return to Directing this entry in the franchise; Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife looks at the new cast they assembled to get eaten; Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D looks at the new filming technology and how it affected the production process; Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife looks at the key action setpieces; Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife looks at the setting and style of this new entry; New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife takes us through some of the (predominantly Resident Evil 5-stolen) new mutations; and Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife finishes off the selection by drawing the parallels between the film franchise and the games, with a particular look at how they followed many of the Resident Evil 5 cut-scenes and set-pieces when making this movie. The Featurettes generally run at less than 10 minutes each in length, but they all offer up plenty of behind the scenes shots, comparison shots from Resident Evil 5, and interview snippets from the cast and crew, who narrate the extras. Not too fluffy, it’s all fast-paced, informative stuff here, and comes with a Play All function for ease of viewing of the 47 minutes of material.
We also get a few Preview Trailers (some also play on disc startup) as well as a Sneak Peek of Resident Evil: Damnation, a 3D animated sequel to the distinctly average Resident Evil: Degeneration animated movie.
Taking style over substance to a new level, Resident Evil: Afterlife is not only the most contrived, twist-laden entry in an already preposterous franchise, but it is also the one that requires the most amount of background viewing. Without watching all of the previous movies, and playing a few of the games – certainly the latest Resident Evil 5 PS3 shooter – it just wouldn’t make any sense. Still, having done all of that, I quite enjoyed this fun, frivolous exercise in over-the-top effects-driven stunts and slow-motion Milla Jovovich-dominated action, complete with no end of franchise references and nods, and a suitably pumping soundtrack. It’s silly and mindless, yet often hard to resist with its infectious action and lovable, lovely lead.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray unfortunately the film is made yet more unaccessible, here in its altered 2D format, where it was clearly written, designed and shot in native 3D (using none other than Cameron’s own Avatar cameras). As such, the scenes intended for 3D glorification (of which there are many) stand out horribly, and many shots showcase the characters looking like they have been mapped onto a simple green-screen backdrop without any consideration for integration with the surroundings. I can only wonder whether the film looked better in its native 3D, or even in IMAX 3D, but certainly in 2D it does not work well. Ignoring this rather glaring fault, the video presentation is otherwise near-perfect, and the audio accompaniment is demo-quality in almost every respect. Extras are quite variable – a decent PIP track, some amusing outtakes and a couple of good Featurettes weigh up against a dry audio commentary, some pointless deleted scenes and a few terrible Featurettes – and round out a package that is sure to please devote Resident Evil fans who are not yet 3D equipped. If you’re planning on heading that way in the near future, however, I’d wait and chip out for the 3D version of the film, as I suspect that will be superior. Newcomers? Well you know where I stand – start at the beginning, play a few of the games, and then pick up this, the latest sequel in the ever-burgeoning series. That way, even if it is largely dumb fun, you stand a chance at better appreciating all that it has to offer in the grander Resident Evil scheme of things. And, rest assured, Alice will undoubtedly be back. In the meantime, consider switching your brain off and checking this baby out.
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