J.D. Lafrance
Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition

December 30, 2004

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson,
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon, Pasquale Aleardi, Michaela Dicker, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

While it’s certainly true that video games have come a long way since the heady days of Pac Man, with elaborate game worlds, large casts of characters and detailed plots, they don’t always translate well into a coherent movie. Paul W.S. Anderson, the “auteur” behind the Mortal Kombat (1995) video game movie seemed like a natural choice to tackle the extremely popular Resident Evil franchise but it would be a tricky tight-rope: could he include enough elements to please the die hard fan base but keep it accessible enough for non-gamers? Sony/Columbia had previously released an extras-packed DVD. This new one adds on a few more perks but mostly cashes in on the upcoming sequel that is due in theatres soon.

Set in the near future, a deadly virus is released in a top secret, hi-tech research facility known as The Hive, deep beneath Raccoon City. The complex’s defense mechanisms quickly seal it off from the outside world. A woman named Alice (Jovovich) wakes up in a large, deserted mansion with no memory of who she is. Before she can get her bearings, an undercover cop (Mabius) appears and they are both taken captive by a squad of soldiers who board an underground train headed straight for the infected complex. Their mission: to investigate what went wrong. Pretty soon they discover what exactly the virus did to The Hive’s inhabitants. The team meets all sorts of nasty surprises: deadly laser-beam activated trap rooms, hordes of zombies, weird mutant dogs and an omni-present artificial intelligence that doesn’t take too kindly to a bunch of humans running around its territory.

Anderson clearly has no pretensions as to the kind of audience he is appealing to, wasting no time in exploiting his leading lady’s supermodel looks. The first glimpse we get of Milla Jovovich is of her sprawled, naked body in a shower. As her character begins to regain her memory, Jovovich becomes a fairly decent action hero, stomping zombies and mutant dogs like a seasoned veteran.

The two most obvious cinematic influences on Resident Evil (2004) are George Romero’s zombie trilogy and Aliens (1986). Like Cameron’s excellent high-octane science fiction movie, Resident Evil features a group of soldiers exploring a dangerous underground complex infested with hostile opponents that systematically decimate them. The movie’s army of slow-moving zombies is right out of Romero’s Dead trilogy and the means of dispatching them—a bullet to the brain—is an obvious nod to this classic series.

Resident Evil is certainly a well shot movie with loads of atmosphere (with a pulsating, John Carpenter-esque electronica soundtrack co-scored by none other than Marilyn Manson) to spare but this does little to mask the film’s weak screenplay or the cheap scares and sudden jolts that occasionally pop up. The dialogue is clunky and barely functional, merely taking us from one techno soundtrack enhanced action sequence to another. The characters are cardboard cut-out stereotypes with nothing distinctive about any of them. It’s a shame because the premise of the film is quite intriguing and if properly executed could have resulted in something along the lines of the much superior 28 Days Later (2002).

Special Features:

Many of the extras from the original edition have been ported over to this new one. First up are eleven featurettes that can be viewed separately or altogether. They cover various aspects of the movie, from the score (with some articulate comments from co-composer Marilyn Manson) to costumes and set design to specific scenes. At the time of the first movie, there were five very successful incarnations of the video game which provided a daunting problem to writer-director Anderson. Which game should he adapt? He wisely decided to make a prequel to the games with several visual homages to all of the games throughout.

There is also a noisy, spirited audio commentary by Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt and actresses Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. Jovovich and Rodriguez joke and loudly shout over each other while Anderson and Bolt feebly try to keep on topic. Jovovich does little to dispel the dumb model stereotype as she talks randomly about watching Life of Brian on DVD (?!) only to realize that they are doing a commentary for the entire movie six minutes into it! Scary stuff indeed.

Brand new to the DVD is a visual effects commentary track with Anderson and the film’s visual effects supervisor, Richard Yuricich (he worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and the Mission: Impossible films). This is a welcome relief from the other track as it is much more serious and fact-based with a more technical slant.

A new addition to this DVD is an alternate ending narrated by Anderson that is much more upbeat in nature but no where near as powerful or effective as the existing one. Thankfully this alternate was not used.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse—Fangoria Clip” is another new extra that shows a clip from the new sequel.

Finally, there are filmographies for Anderson and the main cast.

Casual fans who have already purchased the first version might want to skip over this one as it only has a few new additions, removes the Slipknot music video (no loss there) and the production notes. A first time buyer and die hard fans will definitely want to get this version over the previous one. In the hands of an experienced genre director like John Carpenter, Resident Evil could have been a really good movie. Instead, it is a strictly by-the-numbers action movie with SF/horror elements.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 60%



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