Resident Evil Blu-ray review

How does the Red Queen work on the blu disc? Mark invades the high resolution hive of Resident Evil to find out the truth...

Resident Evil

As an ardent game player I’ve seen all the best game ideas squandered on the movies that devoured them. As a collection, movies based on games are uniform only in just how abysmal they are. But some, such as Resident Evil, have bucked at least one trend in that they made money at the box-office, and sequels.

How much Resident Evil has to do with the game is debateable, because while some plot elements remained, many characters and locations have little or nothing to do with it. Helming this one is game conversion specialist Paul W.S. Anderson, after zombie expert George A. Romero exited stage left over ‘creative differences’.

One of his signature components is tough women, and in this he’s got the svelte Milla Jovovich and then up and coming star Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and the Furious). In this, they team up when a super-computer intentionally infects an underground complex with a zombifying virus.

A team of military specialists and famous fashion model must enter the hive labyrinth underneath Raccoon City, and secure the plague before it can escape. There are many gruesome deaths, much screaming, running and uncontrolled mutating. Okay, so I made up the ‘fashion model’ bit somewhat, but you get the drift.

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If you’re looking for the sort of movie with good acting and one where people make rational choices, then this isn’t for you. But it’s 97 minutes of pure popcorn, the odd decent special effect and jack-in-a-box scares.

It’s a personal preference, but I think Luc Besson got a much better performance out of the lovely Miss Jovovich in Fifth Element, but I’m not sure it entirely matters here. What acting is required is provided by the two Brits onboard, James Purefoy and the excellent Colin Salmon, who we’ve interviewed here at Geek.

Whatever I think about the clunky nature of Mr Anderson’s creative technique, this movie made $100m worldwide on a $35m budget, and the subsequent sequels (soon to be joined by a third) each made more. DVD sales have also been impressive, and this was one of the titles that made it onto HD-DVD somewhere in the world before that format’s demise.

The Blu-ray version is an exceptionally good quality transfer, where they’ve made a valiant effort to maintain shadow detail in what is inherently a dark movie. The colours are also rich and vibrant, which makes the ‘Red Queen’ sequences leap off the screen. It’s a big improvement over the DVD, where you can’t read many of the schematic labels or make out any fine details.

Presented in a 1.85 ratio there is virtually no border on a 1080 TV, which initially I thought was wrong. But I’ve realised since that this is the aspect it was shot in originally. With plenty of distant sounds and dynamic explosions the sound is an important element in a production of this type, and the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix delivers well on these requirements.

It also gives some attractive bass oomph to the heavily metal music which punctuates the soundtrack. English and Italian justify TrueHD, while French, Spanish and Portuguese audio are in just ordinary Dolby 5.1.

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Given that they obviously worked hard on both the transfer and the audio it therefore seems confusing that they’d make so little effort with the extras they’ve included. There are two 2-channel mixed commentaries, one with the cast and filmmakers and the other made by the effects team. Neither is that informative, but the effects team makes more of an effort to describe their production issues.

There are 12 short featurettes, with the longest being 27 minutes but the majority are 3-4 minutes only. There is also the rather duff alternate ending and the music video “My Plague” by Slipknot, all are presented in 480p DVD resolution without exception, and are mostly culled from the DVD special edition.

They range in content from the marginally interesting to plain stupid, I found the 15 minute long Playing Dead: Resident Evil – From Game to Screen especially dumb. For your amusement check out the cut-away in this where we see someone put a disc in a PS2. Given they put it in the tray upside down, I wonder how that played?

They also went for the ‘popup menu’ option, rather than a proper top level menu system which I personally prefer.

Overall if the like strong women, stuff being blown up, people being splattered and aren’t that bothered with support material this is the best Resident Evil movie and disc.

But it doesn’t fulfil my dream that one day we’ll get a game to movie conversion that actually does the game justice.

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Rating:

4 out of 5