Though by no means an absolute rule, many fans of the long-running 'Resident Evil' video game series tend to dislike the live action movie trilogy starring Milla Jovovich for its many liberties taken with the plot and characters from the games. For one thing, Jovovich's Alice (the lead heroine in the film series) appears nowhere in any of the video games. Essentially, the movies lifted the basic concept of the games -- a worldwide zombie outbreak starting in the fictional Raccoon City -- and a few random elements here or there, and then spun them off in a different direction. Nonetheless, both the movies and the games remain popular in their own rights. Hoping to bridge the gap between the two audiences, Capcom (makers of the games) and Sony Pictures have now produced 'Resident Evil: Degeneration', a direct-to-video animated film that follows the official video game continuity.
Technically, 'Degeneration' takes place between the events of the 'Resident Evil 4' and 'Resident Evil 5' games. However, the story is sufficiently self-contained that a viewer does not need to have played any of the games to follow the plot. In fact, the animated film also avoids any direct contradictions of the live action movies, and could be considered a side story set between 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' and 'Resident Evil: Extinction' if one wanted.
A few years after the destruction of Raccoon City, zombie infections have spread to the outside world and are causing mass panic despite the best efforts of the government to cover them up. The evil Umbrella Corporation appears to have been racked by scandal and financial ruin. In its wake, a new ethically-challenged pharmaceutical company called WilPharma claims to have developed a vaccine, but its motives may be less than pure. When zombies strike the city of Harvardville, game character Claire Redfield, a Raccoon City survivor turned activist do-gooder, finds herself trapped at the airport with a corrupt U.S. Senator and an annoying little girl. Things look dire until secret agent badass Leon Kennedy shows up with a pair of well-armed S.R.T. Special Response Team agents. Together, Claire and Leon will need to lead an escape from the airport, hunt down the terrorist deliberately spreading the T-Virus plague, and uncover a conspiracy at the heart of WilPharma.
That's the plot recap, anyway. In execution, the computer-animated 'Degeneration' looks and plays like an endless string of cut-scenes from a video game, which is more-or-less all it amounts to. Occasionally, the animation appears near-photorealistic, but the motion-capture characters look rubbery and creepily inhuman. Not helping matters, the dialogue is nowhere near in sync with the characters' faces. The acting is poor and the exposition-heavily dialogue is often ridiculously inane. The story is exactly the same story of every 'Resident Evil' game, with no startling revelations or any particular reason to be told. The plot is laid out in stages like a game -- escape airport, explore WilPharma headquarters, defeat level boss, etc.
The film has some moderately decent action and gore, but simply not enough entertainment value to justify its existence. Watching 'Resident Evil: Degeneration' feels like sitting down to watch someone else play a video game that you're not allowed to participate in. There are many more fulfilling ways to waste 90 minutes, like playing a video game for yourself, or watching a real movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Resident Evil: Degeneration' comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Like most Sony titles, the disc starts with an annoying Blu-ray promo and a trailer before the main menu.
Most CG animated movies look terrific in High Definition. 'Degeneration' at least rates a "very good." In its favor, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer is very sharp, clean, and colorful. Animated at a 16:9 aspect ratio, the direct-to-video production has plenty of bright daylight as well as dark nighttime scenes. Both are well rendered with crisp delineation of contrasts and shadow detail. Colors are bold and (for lack of a better word) cartoony.
On the other hand, a bit of color banding crops up from time to time. More distressingly, the image has sometimes severe shimmer and aliasing artifacts, first apparent around the 4-minute mark and recurring regularly throughout the movie. This is most likely a fault of the original animation, which was possibly rendered at a resolution around 720p and then upscaled to 1080p. Whatever the cause, the problem is quite distracting on a large screen.
The audio is a little more impressive than the video, but similarly has some issues that likely stem from the original production. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is loud and bassy. The track is generally crisp and clear, with good separation and surround activity. However, the action scenes sound a bit muddy and often devolve into a mass of noise. Big auditory events like the plane crash don't really have the impact they need.
The dialogue is also way out of sync with the characters' lips, and the movie has an utterly generic musical score, but those are not things I can blame on the technical presentation of the Blu-ray disc.
The DVD edition of 'Degeneration' has a pretty anemic supplement package. Everything from that disc has made its way to the Blu-ray as well. There's really not much of interest here.
'Resident Evil: Degeneration' is less a movie than a 96-minute promo for the upcoming 'Resident Evil 5' video game. If you enjoy watching someone else play a video game while you sit there passively, by all means give it a spin. But if you're looking for an exciting movie with a good story, well-developed characters, or inventive action, there's not much of interest here. For its part, the Blu-ray has pretty good video and audio, and some worthless supplements. This is pure rental fodder.