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Resident Evil: Extinction (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / 2007 / 94 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: January 02, 2008
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Reviewed by Joshua Zyber
Monday, January 07, 2008
Here it is in a nutshell: Better than the second movie, not as good as the first.
'Resident Evil: Extinction' picks up a few years after the end of the last franchise entry, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse'. The picture begins with a strange replay of the first movie that eventually culminates in a clever twist. Soon after, we learn that the T-Virus infection has spread rapidly around the planet in the elapsed time, essentially wiping out most of mankind and leaving the world a barren desert wasteland overrun by zombies. In 'Mad Max' fashion, a band of survivors including returning characters Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps) cruise the highways in a convoy of modified and armored vehicles. Our girl Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still about as well, mostly keeping to herself as she learns to develop the superhuman telekinetic powers caused by genetic experimentation performed on her by the evil Umbrella Corporation. Naturally, she'll soon cross paths with her old friends to face off against the remnants of Umbrella, hiding in a new Hive fortress beneath the Nevada sands.
For their part, the baddies haven't abandoned their nefarious plans and are still up to no good. This time around, they've been testing a biological serum that will domesticate and control a new breed of super zombies for use as weapons. Smarter and faster than the usual lumbering brain-eaters, these new monsters pose a greater-than-usual threat to our heroes, but the formula hasn't quite been perfected yet, and for that Umbrella wants Alice back. Needless to say, she isn't particularly interested in helping the cause. All of this leads to a confrontation in Las Vegas, the city long since abandoned and swallowed by the desert.
'Extinction' is once again written by series mastermind Paul W.S. Anderson, but directed this time out by Russell Mulcahy of 'Highlander' fame. To say that this is one of Mulcahy's least idiotic movies may be damning it with faint praise (anyone else remember 'Ricochet', the boneheaded action flick that climaxed with an arm-wrestling match between Denzel Washington and John Lithgow?). Nonetheless, what he's put together here is an efficient, professional sequel with decent action, gore, and production values. It's a nice change to see this horror movie set mostly outdoors and during the daytime. The zombie dogs are back, and those are always fun. An attack by zombie crows in the middle of the movie of course steals heavily from 'The Birds', but is pretty cool anyway (Hitchcock never thought to set his birds on fire, now did he?). The movie also makes a token nod to the video game series by introducing the character of Claire Redfield, played here by Ali Larter of 'Heroes'.
The third movie thankfully pares back most of the blatant stupidity that plagued 'Apocalypse'. This isn't a smart movie by any means, but there are no annoying comic relief characters (L.J. has been given a complete personality rewrite to make him less irritating) and the plot doesn't violate the established rules of the series. Unfortunately, that isn't to say that there aren't some serious lapses in basic logic. One character bitten in an attack tries to pretend there's nothing wrong with him for an awfully long time, during which no one else seems to notice him slowly but obviously zombifying right in front of them. After Alice smashes through a fence to get to a fortified Umbrella compound, for some reason the hordes of zombies milling around outside don’t bother to follow her in. The film also ends with yet another cheesy monster (a hallmark of the franchise by now), and has an excessive amount of obnoxious Sony product placement.
Paul Anderson has been calling 'Extinction' the end of a trilogy, which is odd considering that the picture's final twist is a blatant setup for a 4th movie. I'm not sure how much longer the 'Resident Evil' series can carry on, but it's been fun so far and I'd be willing to give it another go.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Resident Evil: Extinction' comes to the Blu-ray format from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, released simultaneously with the first movie in the series, 'Resident Evil'. Each is available separately, or as part of a 'Resident Evil Trilogy' box set that also includes the second movie 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse', which was previously released on Blu-ray a year ago.
Annoyingly, the disc opens with a Blu-ray promo and some trailers, each of which must be skipped individually before you can get to the main menu.
Even though it's the most recent of the 'Resident Evil' trilogy, 'Extinction' falls in the middle of the pack for picture quality. Like the movie itself, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is better than the second film, but not as good as the first. Presented in its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the movie's photography has a deliberately bleached appearance with pumped-up contrasts meant to evoke the harsh desert climate. It's a very flat image, without much sense of depth. Colors are also muted by design. I have no problem with the stylistic intent, but the picture is a bit soft and has only fair detail, better in close-ups than medium or long shots. This extends even to the clips reused from the first 'Resident Evil', which look much softer here than they do in that movie's own Blu-ray transfer.
(I also want to note that the 'Resident Evil' clips have been modified from their original 1.85:1 ratio to match this film's 2.40:1, which results in a famous glimpse of Milla's nudity being cropped out of the frame. The bastards!)
Dark scenes are sometimes grainy, but feel appropriately so. The digital compression quality is fine, with no major issues, though there's a small amount of edginess to some of the higher contrast desert scenes. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the picture is that, in many of her close-ups, Milla's face has been digitally airbrushed, similar to what was done to her in 'UltraViolet'. It makes the actress look waxy and inhuman. Perhaps that was the intention, but it's very distracting to look at, and leaves the shots in question severely lacking in detail.
Continuing Sony's movement away from space-hogging PCM audio, the movie's original English-language soundtrack is provided in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 format. If your hardware is not compatible with TrueHD, the disc will default to a hidden standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that can't be selected from the menus.
At the time of this writing, many owners of the Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray player have reported problems transmitting this disc's full TrueHD bitstream to a compatible receiver, and are only getting Dolby Digital 5.1, even though other TrueHD titles work fine. There may be an issue with the disc's authoring, but not all Blu-ray players seem to be affected. Hopefully this is something that Panasonic can work around with a firmware update to the player.
Fortunately, even with just the basic Dolby Digital track, 'Extinction' has a very impressive sound mix. The track is incredibly loud and obnoxious, but undeniably effective. It has rocking bass and razor sharp sound effects. The surround channels are used aggressively to build a creepy atmosphere. Subtle is not a word I would use to describe it, but it works, and the crystal clear fidelity of the music and effects is the best of the trilogy.
All of the bonus features from the DVD edition have carried over to the Blu-ray. Sadly, this is by far the thinnest package of the three 'Resident Evil' movies.
- Audio Commentary – Director Russell Mulcahy is joined by writer/producer Paul Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. Unlike the first two movies, Milla is nowhere to be found this time out, and that's probably a blessing considering how lousy she is at the commentary format. The track is mildly interesting, with Anderson and Bolt doing most of the talking. Anderson continually refers to the movies as a "trilogy," despite the obviously open-ended finale. When he does pipe up, Mulcahy describes Jovovich as "a thinking actress," which tells you a lot about his filmmaking and why most of his movies turn out the way they do.
- Beyond Raccoon City: Unearthing Resident Evil Extinction (HD, 31 min.) – This pretty good making-of featurette was produced by Automat Pictures and covers the major bases of how the movie was put together. Topics include pre-production, the attempt to be different than other recent zombie pictures, the 'Mad Max' influence, hiring Mulcahy, shooting in the desert environment, production design, and the zombie makeup.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 9 min.) – 11 short scenes of little consequence didn't make the final cut. Ali Larter is featured in three of them, and somehow I doubt that's a coincidence. The most interesting bit involves the villains trying to capture a zombie for their experiments.
- Resident Evil: Degeneration Trailer (HD, 1 min.) – This teaser trailer for the upcoming CG animated feature looks an awfully lot like an assemblage of cut-scenes from the various video games. To be clear, 'Degeneration' is a stand-alone work based on the game series, and is not a direct sequel to the live action movies.
Like both of the other 'Resident Evil' Blu-rays, 'Extinction' offers the option of watching each featurette individually, or using Blu-Wizard interactive controls.
- Blu-Wizard – Rather than watch each featurette one at a time, Blu-Wizard allows you to select a series (or all) of them from a checklist to watch in uninterrupted sequence. You can also choose to view them during the movie playback. However, this is not a picture-in-picture function. The movie will pause and then branch out to each video segment, pieces of which have sometimes been broken out from their original featurettes to place them in relevant context. Had this been picture-in-picture, it might work a lot better. It's frankly easier to just watch the featurettes on their own, in which case the playlist function is useful.
'Resident Evil: Extinction' is also one of the first Profile 1.1-enabled Blu-ray titles, and includes a new interactive feature that can only be viewed on Profile 1.1-compliant Blu-ray players (such as the Playstation 3 or the Panasonic DMP-BD30). Players without this function can access all of the traditional supplements and the Blu-Wizard feature described above, but not the following:
- Under the Umbrella: Picture-in-Picture – Working similar to the "In-Movie Experience" feature on selected Warner Bros. HD DVD titles (and presumably soon Blu-ray as well), Under the Umbrella provides a running stream of picture-in-picture video footage viewable during the movie playback. Included are interviews, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes material. A small bit of it is taken from the separate featurettes, but much of it is new and only viewable here. A lot of it involves Milla blathering on about random nonsense. I have no doubt that Profile 1.1 features will improve with time, but at least in this early example, the feature is pretty rudimentary, feeling a lot like the very earliest of Warner's IME tracks, before they refined the process. The PiP windows (popping up in various corners of the screen) are extremely small. They run fairly regularly, but have a number of long gaps. Irritatingly, the volume for these audio clips is set much lower than the movie soundtrack, which will blare deafeningly between segments. The PiP can be run simultaneously with the audio commentary, and I recommend this approach since both play back at similar volume levels, though obviously the commentary will drop out when the PiP windows appear. All in all, I didn't find any of the content in Under the Umbrella particularly interesting. I expect that as disc authors get the hang of it, they'll eventually do a better job.
Some trailers for other Sony titles are also available, the most relevant being the first two 'Resident Evil' pictures (there's no trailer for 'Extinction'). There's also an ad for the 'Resident Evil 5' video game.
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'Extinction' is not a perfect movie, but is a solid entry in the 'Resident Evil' franchise. If you liked the first two, it stands to reason that this one is worth picking up. The Blu-ray has pretty good picture and excellent sound. Bonus material is rather slim, though it does offer the Profile 1.1 "Under the Umbrella" feature, which is perhaps more interesting in concept than in actual practice. Regardless, this disc rates a solid guilty pleasure recommendation.
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