Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Amazon
$20.00
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Resident Evil - The High Definition Trilogy

Street Date:
January 2nd, 2008
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
January 28th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
2007
Studio:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Length:
288 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

The following article contains condensed excerpts from our reviews of 'Resident Evil', 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse', and 'Resident Evil: Extinction'. Please see the original articles for the complete text of each.

The scores listed in the star rating scale on this page are composite averages from the individual discs.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Considering how liberally many video games lift their ideas from movies, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, when experiencing a drought of creative inspiration, the movies return the favor by lifting ideas from video games. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of cinematic cannibalism. The history of the films-based-on-games genre has not been particularly distinguished, with most falling to hack directors working from incompetent scripts and tiny budgets. Somehow, Paul W.S. Anderson seems to have had the best run at it, making unexpected hits out of game-based pictures 'Mortal Kombat', 'Alien vs. Predator', and of course 'Resident Evil'. None of these are good movies, per se, but they're all slick and efficient, relatively coherent, and pander to horror and action junkies successfully enough to turn a profit.

'Resident Evil' began life as a survival horror game for the first Playstation console whose original title in Japan was 'Biohazard'. Borrowing extensively from George Romero's famous 'Living Dead' movies, the game involved a paramilitary squad exploring a large mansion and the secret underground laboratory beneath it while fending off hordes of flesh-eating zombies. It was an extremely fun actioner with clever puzzles and mazes, a very moody atmosphere, and even some legitimate scares. It was a massive hit and spawned a string of follow-ups that have extended to several subsequent game consoles.

Enter director Anderson. Casting a pair of hot babes (Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez) and working loosely from the structure of the game, Anderson crafted a gloriously silly fright flick with exciting action sequences and plenty of juicy gore. High art it ain't, but the result is a lot of fun. The movie has sleek visuals, impressive production design, very effective makeup and gore effects, some particularly inventive death scenes, and an unsettling musical score by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson.

The first movie earned a tidy profit, so a sequel was inevitable. Thus came 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse', which doesn't work nearly as well but does have some merit on the guilty pleasure scale. Written by Anderson but directed by Alexander Witt, 'Apocalypse' makes a valiant attempt to expand the parameters of the concept by taking the action outside of "The Hive" (the underground research facility where zombies and mutant beasts ran rampant through the halls) and letting all hell break loose on the streets of Raccoon City. The problem is that the script for the movie is really dumb. The attempts to add comic relief with annoying sidekick characters are miscalculated, and the plot contradicts the rules established in the first movie. Many of the fight scenes are incoherently staged and shot, and worst of all the final big baddie monster is just incredibly cheesy and lame.

Nevertheless, 'Apocalypse' also did well at the box office, and now we have a third film, 'Resident Evil: Extinction', which is better than the second movie but not as good as the first. In this entry, we learn that the T-Virus infection has spread rapidly around the planet, 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 cruise the highways in a convoy of modified and armored vehicles.

Once again written by series mastermind Paul Anderson, 'Extinction' is directed by Russell Mulcahy of 'Highlander' fame. What he's put together is an efficient, professional sequel with decent action, gore, and production values. It's a nice change to see a horror movie set mostly outdoors and during the daytime. The third film thankfully pares back most of the blatant stupidity that plagued 'Apocalypse', though there are still some lapses in basic logic.

The 'Resident Evil' pictures aren't the type of movies to watch with critical film aficionado standards. They're guilty pleasures, but pleasures all the same. Paul Anderson has been calling 'Extinction' the end of a trilogy, which is odd considering that the film's final twist is a blatant setup for a 4th movie. I'm not sure how much longer the 'Resident Evil' franchise 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 – The High Definition Trilogy' is a simple repackaging of the Blu-ray releases for 'Resident Evil', 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse', and 'Resident Evil: Extinction', each of which is also available separately. The three discs are held in their original keepcases, stored inside a cardboard slipcover box. The Trilogy box set contains no new content, but is a less expensive alternative to buying the movies individually.

While the disc packaging for 'Apocalypse' claims to be coded for Region A only (the other two state A/B/C), I have tested all three discs and found them all to be region-free.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Despite its low budget, 'Resident Evil' has pretty stylish photography, emphasizing the sleek, metallic interiors of the high-tech laboratory sets. The Blu-ray's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is sharp and detailed, with vivid colors, rich black levels, and excellent shadow detail. Being a horror movie, the photography is naturally a little grainy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the grain is always well-compressed without turning noisy until the deliberately stylized ending. 'Resident Evil' looks excellent. Ironically, it even looks better than either of the later sequels.

The 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer on 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is not all that impressive. The picture is rather soft, with only fair but not exceptional detail. It appears that a lot of Noise Reduction has been applied. Colors are often exaggerated, and the contrast range is dull. The result of all this is a flat image without much depth or dimensionality.

Even though it's the most recent of the 'Resident Evil' trilogy, 'Extinction' falls in the middle of the pack for picture quality. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is better than the second film, but not as good as the first. 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. The picture is a bit soft and has only fair detail, better in close-ups than medium or long shots. 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.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack on 'Resident Evil' is extremely loud and aggressive, with throbbing bass and jolting stinger scares. The surround channels are used creatively, notably when the Red Queen computer's dialogue cycles from speaker to speaker around the soundstage. At least for the first half hour or so, sound effects are all crisply recorded and the score is delivered with excellent fidelity. Around the time of the first major gun battle, however, things start to turn muddy. After that point, the mix keeps piling on masses of noise, each competing in loudness against the rest, and the effect is a lot of aural overkill. Don't get me wrong, this is still a very satisfying and entertaining track, but clarity isn't always its strong point.

The uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack on 'Apocalypse' features punishingly deep bass, and a lot of it. There are many sharply recorded gunshots and stinger scares. The car crash at the beginning is sure to grab your attention. Surrounds are used aggressively, but not as creatively as the first film. Overall fidelity is also merely OK. Dialogue and music sound a bit dull, which is largely factor of the sound design continually layering louder and louder noises on top of each other. Subtlety was not on anyone's agenda here. It sounds fine, and will likely impress those who measure sound quality by how much their subwoofer rattles the windows, but I've listened to many superior soundtracks on other High-Def discs.

'Extinction' has a very impressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. It's 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.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

'Resident Evil'

  • Cast and Filmmaker Commentary – This notorious commentary features Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez behaving like drunken idiots. They're joined by director Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actor Jason Isaacs when any of them can get a word in edgewise. This is a very jokey, obnoxious track that's frankly embarrassing to listen to.
  • Visual Effects Commentary – Paul Anderson returns, this time with visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich. Obviously technical in nature, this track is a little dry but certainly more informative than the other commentary.
  • Playing Dead: Resident Evil – From Game to Screen (SD, 15 min.) – An overview of the history of the game series and Anderson's success with his 'Mortal Kombat' adaptation. The actors interviewed make a number of comments about being impressed by the "silence" of the game, which is ironic considering how abrasively noisy the movie turned out to be. Anderson describes the movie as a "prequel" to the first game and justifies the story changes he imposed.
  • The Making of Resident Evil (SD, 27 min.) – A lengthy EPK piece with the usual cast and filmmaker interviews, as well as brief time spent with the Capcom game developers. Much of this is repetitive with the above Playing Dead feature. The first half is devoted to boring plot and character recaps. Things get more interesting when we're given a behind-the-scenes look at the commando and fight training, stunt choreography, production design, zombie makeup, and visual effects. It's also funny to note that, in these interviews at least, Anderson looks a lot like Andy Samberg.
  • Scoring Resident Evil (SD, 11 min.) – Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Mason are interviewed separately about their collaboration on the score. Manson in particular has some surprisingly intelligent things to say about what he was trying to achieve. The piece is actually quite interesting.
  • Storyboarding Resident Evil (SD, 7 min.) – Anderson briefly introduces a series of storyboard-to-screen comparisons. Boring.
  • Costumes (SD, 4 min.) – Costume sketches and screen comparisons. The film's Costume Designer (who was also the Production Designer) discusses Milla's red dress and how her bare arms and legs wound up leading to a lot of bruises during the stunts.
  • Set Design (SD, 4 min.) – Production Designer Richard Bridgland returns to describe the visually disorienting control room set.
  • The Creature (SD, 5 min.) – A look at the animatronics and CGI used to bring the Licker monster to life.
  • The Elevator (SD, 1 min.) – Visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich shows off the miniature effects.
  • The Laser (SD, 5 min.) – A look at full scale wax models of the actors being sliced up and deconstructed on camera. Very cool.
  • The Train (SD, 2 min.) – The engineering challenges behind the miniatures and full scale models of the train.
  • Zombie Dogs (SD, 4 min.) – "It's not like working with actors. Actors don't lick the makeup off their faces." Enough said.
  • Zombies (SD, 5 min.) – Attempting not to duplicate the typical look of 1970s and 1980s zombies, combining the makeup effects with CGI, and using dancers to enact the weird body movements.
  • Alternate Ending (SD, 3 min.) – Director Anderson introduces this almost-used ending that blatantly rips off the lobby scene from 'The Matrix'.
  • "My Plague" by Slipknot (SD, 3 min.) – An annoying music video featuring a creepy band and lots of clips from the movie.

'Resident Evil: Apocalypse'

  • Filmmaker Commentary – Director Alexander Witt is joined by producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer for a discussion of the development of the project. The track is OK but rather pretentious. None of the participants seem to realize how lame the movie turned out.
  • Cast Commentary – Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr babble on about nothing, while Sienna Guillory (recorded separately) takes her role in the movie way too seriously.
  • Writer and Producer Commentary – The most interesting of the three tracks features Paul Anderson and Jeremy Bolt talking about the themes of the series, such as they are.
  • Game Over: Resident Evil Re-Animated (SD, 50 min.) – A thorough making-of documentary that covers topics such as keeping the movie true to the game, expanding beyond the scope of the first film, the action and stunts, creating the zombies, production design, weaponry, and visual effects.
  • Game Babes (SD, 11 min.) – EPK drivel about the trend of women taking over action movie roles.
  • Symphony of Evil (SD, 8 min.) – A montage of stunts and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as before-and-after comparisons of the visual effects shots.
  • Corporate Malfeasance (SD, 3 min.) – A lame explanation of the Umbrella Corporation story.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 12 min.) – 20 brief deleted scenes are provided, half of which wound up incorporated into international versions of the movie.

'Resident Evil: Extinction'

  • 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-ending 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 awful 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.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

All Three Movies

  • 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'

'Resident Evil: Extinction' is 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.

Easter Eggs

The following easter eggs were found in the 'Resident Evil' disc:

  • Zombie Camera Tests (SD, 1 min.) – From the main menu page, press UP from the Play Movie option to highlight an Umbrella logo. This only works on the main menu, not the pop-up menus during the movie. The piece is also located in the Blu-Wizard checklist.
  • Milla Jovovich Camera Test (SD, 2 min.) – This may also be hidden somewhere in the menus, but I found it in the Blu-Wizard checklist. In it, Milla poses for the camera in various action stances.

Final Thoughts

The fact that 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' was previously released on Blu-ray a year ago means that many fans may already own it. For them, this 'High Definition Trilogy' box set is difficult to recommend, unless they really like the box art and don't mind buying the second movie again. The box contains no exclusive content that can't be found in the separate Blu-ray releases of each movie. For others, the Trilogy box set is an affordable way to pick up all three films in the series for less money than buying each individually, and merits a recommendation.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • 3-Disc Set
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer (Discs 1 & 3)
  • BD-25 Single Layer (Disc 2)
  • Region A/B/C (All Discs)

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (Discs 1 & 3)
  • 1080p/MPEG-2 (Disc 2)
  • 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1 (Disc 1)
  • 2.40:1 (Discs 2 & 3)

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Discs 1 & 3)
  • English PCM 5.1 Surround (Disc 2)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Disc 2)
  • (For alternate language information, see reviews of each individual title.)

Subtitles/Captions

  • English Subtitles
  • English SDH
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles
  • French Subtitles (Discs 1 & 3 Only)
  • Italian Subtitles (Discs 1 & 3 Only)

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes

Exclusive HD Content

  • Blu-Wizard
  • Picture-in-Picture Feature (Disc 3)

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