BSAA Chris Redfield enlists the help of government agent Leon S. Kennedy and Professor Rebecca Chambers from Alexander Institute of Biotechnology to stop a death merchant with a vengeance from spreading a deadly virus in New York.
It's a weird occurrence to have two tangent film series launch outward from a single franchise. I don't mean in terms of the modern shared universes that Hollywood is running and gunning into theaters. I mean in terms of having two series of films running parallel to each other without coexisting. The Resident Evil franchise, with its hyperkinetic live action films from Paul W.S. Anderson that recently wrapped up with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, also enjoys a series of direct to video CGI animated movies. Somehow, these two series have remained successful without cannibalizing each other. The animated adventures of humans versus diabolical corporations unleashing the undead continues with Resident Evil: Vendetta. While being a better film than what's come from its live action counterparts in recent years, this animated series is starting to show signs of story fatigue.
The Umbrella Corporation may have been destroyed, but the technology to reanimate the dead into bioweapons continues to be a profitable venture (how?). International arms dealer Glenn Arias (voiced by John DeMita) has capitalized on these illegal but highly lucrative weapons. After a drone strike fails to kill him but instead wipes out his entire family, Arias isn't in the game for profit - but for revenge. With a new means to spread the virus and actually control the hoards of undead zombies and grotesque monsters, it's up to the brilliant biochemist Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill), BSAA operative Chris Redfield (voiced by Kevin Dorman), and former Raccoon City police officer Leon Kennedy (voiced by Matthew Mercer) to find a cure and stop the total annihilation of New York City.
Where this animated series of Resident Evil adventures fall is somewhere along the lines of the story contained in the fourth, fifth, and sixth video games from Capcom. If you've seen Resident Evil: Degeneration or Resident Evil: Damnation, you already have the sense that these films play more like prolonged story scenes from the games without any accompanying gameplay. The animation is decent enough, the voice acting is still very stilted but in that charming way it always has been throughout the games. It gets the job done. Some good frights, some zombies, plenty of blood, guts, and bullets can be found in each of these flicks and Resident Evil: Vendetta provides more of the same while laying the ground work for some new adventures.
I enjoyed the plot line here quite a bit. Rather than the primary villain being some corporation with a very stupid idea for how to expand profit margins and appease shareholders, a singular enemy out for revenge against those who wronged him makes for a pretty fearsome foe. Given the universe this series resides, you can forgive the fact that he's also some sort of biochemical genius with expert kung-fu skills; he's at least motivated. Subsequently, our heroes' mission to stop his plot feels all the more urgent because they have a goal and a destination. It's honestly a bit of fresh air rather than the movies always being "the evil corporations out for profit" as the bad guy. After awhile, that plot device just starts to sound like you're stuck overhearing a conversation between two hipsters in the organic food aisle. I did enjoy the new thread this animated series struck out for, but at the same time, the action and character beats are starting to go a bit stale.
The problem with this animated Resident Evil universe is the same one that struck the live action series; there's very little reason for them to exist after awhile. As they've managed to pick through their signature bad guys and monsters from the games, Vendetta is stuck with introducing a new bad guy and a new monster while also finding a reason to bring together three famous characters from the game in an effort to save the world from destruction… again. While I would say this is actually a very enjoyable movie, it's not altogether satisfying as it continues the familiar path of over the top impossible action with grotesque improbable monsters that ran the sixth entry in the video game series to the ground. Similarly to how Resident Evil Biohazard reinvented the games and returned the series to its survival horror roots, these movies - live action and animated alike - need to go back to basics and just focus on scaring the crap out of people and then think about action.
It's fun watching animated versions of your favorite characters fight these creepy zombies and gigantic tumorous creatures rampaging across a major metropolitan city, one can only keep their brain turned off for so long. Part of the problem is that while unrelated to each other, the animated movies and the live action Resident Evil films gun for the same sort of high-flying over the top action/horror carnage. Aside from their plots veering off into wildly different directions, there's actually very little to distinguish one from the other. That's what's holding this series back. Resident Evil: Vendetta is a pretty entertaining and enjoyable ride if you're a longtime fan of the games, but even then, I'd rather be playing said game. After awhile this movie starts to feel like you're watching your best friend play the game on a speed run and not give you a turn at the controller.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Resident Evil: Vendetta arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures in a two-disc set. Pressed onto a Region Free BD-50 disc, the film and the bonus disc are housed in a standard two-disc snapper case. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Sony Animated features and horror films before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Resident Evil: Vendetta makes a splash with a colorful and atmospheric 1080p 1.78:1 transfer. Details are strong throughout, but given the resources put into this, the animation looks slightly better than your average video game cut scene. Character designs feature plenty of texture, especially for the principal characters and monsters. The scenery looks on point but beyond foreground and middle ground, there isn't a lot of texture mapping as distant objects tend to appear out of focus. Unfortunately, there is a sort of weightless quality to objects and characters that give them a pop and presence that feels unnatural.
Colors are strong, primary rich, reds obviously get a lot of play for a gory show like this. The film's opening scene where the BSAA team invades a mansion on a rescue mission features nice lighting and great shadow and allows the image a great sense of depth. The rest of the film is much more brightly lit so it can tend to look a little flat at times. Digital grain was added to the image to give it a more film-like appearance, but some sequences can just look noisy and unattractive. All in all, there really is little to complain about with this transfer of a film that wasn't made with a major feature production budget.
Resident Evil: Vendetta enjoys a strong Dolby Atmos mix that makes some good subtle uses of the directional channels. The opening rescue mission is a great example of how well silence and slight creaks on wood steps or furniture can play on an Atmos mix. There's a part where a clock chimes the hour that provides a great jump scare and another bit with a remote controlled truck that is very effective just before some zombies attack our heroes. Where this track works best is in the quiet silent moments as you really can hear the angled channels provide some above space - when Rebecca's lab is attacked, the mix makes solid use of that bit as well. When the film goes full action carnage, things, unfortunately, start to sound a bit squashed together. While some separation remains, voices, gunfire, monsters, music, all kind of smash together in one big lump and can be a bit off putting. After these wow loud moments, dialogue also can sound a bit flat and require you to hit the volume just a bit to hear what's being said. Otherwise, the dialogue is clear throughout. All around this is a very good mix and plays well with the film, it could have just used a little creative finesse to play to the full strengths of the technology.
Resident Evil: Vendetta comes packed with a solid bonus feature package including a great audio commentary track, making of features, and behind the scenes materials. The content covering the animation process and how they brought the character designs to live is particularly interesting stuff. All bonus features content is found on the standard Blu-ray disc and the included bonus disc.
CGI to Reality (HD 24:05) In Japanese with English Subtitles, this featurette has interviews with the creative team and how they approached the creature designs, textures, and animating them together.
Motion Capture Set Tour (HD 11:03) Hosted by Dante Carver, this is a pretty cool look at the behind the scenes work that went into giving the characters more human and life-like animation.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:38)
Teaser Trailer (HD 1:40)
BSAA Mission Briefing: Combat Arias (HD 5:06) This works more along the line of a collection of character bios.
Designing The World of Vendetta (HD 3:31) This is a very brief look at the design of locations as an homage to various episodes and incidents seen through the various games.
Tokyo Game Show Footage (HD 13:06) In Japanese with English Subtitles. This is a quick look at what was seen at the video game convention with the creative team talking about the project which leads into the teaser trailer.
If you're a fan of the Resident Evil games and enjoyed the previous CGI animated movies, you should have a great time with Resident Evil: Vendetta. As these animated movies have held together a bit better than their live action counterparts, I would say that the over-the-top nature of these movies is starting to wear a bit thin. It still works, but as the series moves away from horror and focuses more on the big action spectacles its starting to lose its freshness. Sony Pictures has done a great job releasing this film on Blu-ray. The image transfer is strong and the Atmos audio mix is a nice fit for the world of Resident Evil. Add in a good collection of bonus features and you've got a great package for fans to enjoy. Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.