For those who have not been keeping track, the CG 'Resident Evil' films ('Degeneration' and now 'Damnation') take place in the same universe/timeline as the video game series, with 'Damnation' being a pre-cursor or tie-in to 'Resident Evil 6.' The live action films, starring the stunning Milla Jovovich, are not considered canon, taking place in an alternate timeline of some sort, featuring the same characters, but with different consequences. While I enjoyed the first CG film, I doubted it did well enough to spur a second film...and apparently I was wrong, as in less than two years, 'Degeneration' sold over 1.6 million discs, and the same month those figures were announced, so was 'Damnation.'
This sequel is a definite change in tone from 'Degeneration,' and for the better. This film takes place in the Eastern Slav Republic, a newfound country that split off from Russia, which is in the midst of its own miniature civil war. Leon Kennedy (voiced by Matthew Mercer) is in the country, despite being told to evacuate along with every other American citizen, and finds himself in the epicenter of an outbreak of BOWs (Bio-Organic Weapons, which we know as the various forms of infected). A new technological advance has lead to a master/slave relationship between humans and the Licker-type BOW, though over time the human host gives way to the virus inside him. As Leon investigates this new outbreak, trying to find the original source, the capital is turning into a war zone, with rebels, lickers, and a massive, new type of infected doing battle.
'Resident Evil: Damnation' is, surprisingly, a fantastic little film, though it is not without its hiccups. The setting leads to some wonderful architecture and civil unrest, as we delve into the mystery of the sudden surge in Las Plagas infections. The threat level is high throughout, as the rebels and government both pose threats to our protagonist, as does the mysterious Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor), the growing horde of infected, a heaping helping of Lickers, as well as the seemingly unstoppable new bad boy, called Tyrants, on the block. Tension levels start low, as the threat seems silly at first, but as the film rolls on, tense moments grow and grow, scenarios grow graver and graver, with a fantastic climax that really has you on the edge of your seat, the way any good survival film should!
In the largest set piece of the film, a building beneath the capital that's loaded with sea train storage containers, we get a feel quite reminiscent to Konami's 'Metal Gear: Ac!d' series, as the Tyrant creature is first revealed, and the level of carnage in the film escalates exponentially. These monsters, which are easily five times the size of a human, seem indestructible, as they devastate any combatant in their path, leading to some horrendously nasty, gooey kills. Fans of the franchise may complain about how the Licker creatures are made somewhat weak and generic in the film, but the purpose they serve by the end of the film should do even the most fickle supporter proud.
That said, the supporting humans in this show are a bit laughable. Outside of Alexander "Sasha" Kozachenko (Dave Wittenberg) and fan-favorite Leon, the cast is a joke. Ada Wong exists soley for a ridiculously stupid 'Matrix'-inspired fight with the president of the ESR, Svetlana Belikova (Wendee Lee), who is far too conveniently a master hand-to-hand combat expert. JD (Val Tasso), a rebel working under Sasha, is a mixture of terrible comic relief and frightened humanity, and gets on your nerves faster than you can say Gungan. There are rarely humans on the streets, which would be the effect of a curfew that we're never informed about, as all we ever see is random military patrols and some moments of stragglers infected with Las Plagas, which are never made into a real threat. It's almost as if the Japanese animation crew didn't want to create background models or crowded environments.
'Resident Evil: Damnation' does a fantastic job in starting slow and ramping up, to the end with a fantastically absurd, brutal, borderline disgusting finale. We grow to care about Leon and Sasha, despite the pair being on opposing sides of battle for most of the film, and the amount of trademark 'Resident Evil' zombie/infected excess is present and accounted for, if not done to perfection. This CG film may very well be the best film in the entire series so far, including the live action films, even if the first hour runs a tad slow. By the time this flick hits the capital building, there's no way anyone would want to pause the film or leave for any reason, including bodily functions, as it truly gets that good.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Resident Evil: Damnation' arrives on Blu-ray on a Region A/B/C coded BD50 disc. The pre-menu content has to be skipped one trailer at a time, due to Sony's annoying encoding (no skip all, top menu, or fast forwarding through trailers en masse is possible), and there is no packaging gimmicks, variations, or exclusives to be found. In a solid move, the packaging for audio options, both dub and sub, represent the entire spectrum of options on the disc, not just a portion. There is a slip inside the case for an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
At times, 'Resident Evil: Damnation' looks like the best CG animated Blu-ray on the market, period. At other times, it features the same frustrating issues that plagued the 'Degeneration' disc. As a whole? The good outweighs the bad, by a long shot, to present one of the finer discs on the market. Presented in 1080p (AVC MPEG-4 encode/1.78:1 aspect ratio), this film seems to run a tad two tone, hitting all the bases or just half of them for extended periods of time, with no real rhyme or reason.
What is consistent throughout the disc are the decent black levels that don't crush a single shot, the superb detail in close-ups that show off the finest pock marks, stubble, and even lip creases you will see on Blu-ray, period. The floating dust particles in the air are a nice added effect featured throughout, as the film borders on photo-realism to the point of being almost indistinguishable. Sadly, the film just doesn't have a consistent appearance. Zippers shimmer. Sharp diagonals jag, and a few scenes feature very thin stairstepping, like on the edge of Leon's face in some perspectives, or the interior border inside shirt collars. Moire effects are found in one character (a general meeting with Belikova in her office), but they're possibly the most blatant I've ever seen on any disc. Belikova's blonde hair sometimes jags, and in one scene even features some chroma fringing. While not the fault of the disc, there are a number of scenes where layers of clothing are in the wrong order, where an exposed chest (in a v-neck or not fully buttoned shirt) appear as a layer that's more outward than the shirt itself. One backdrop in the film looks flat, though the rest are vividly and realistically deep.
Now, all that said, there's a heaping helping of praise that needs to be bestowed on this disc, most of it due to the impressive job of the animation crew and their amazing capabilities and advancements since the last film. Hair movement is the most realistic I've ever seen in a non-live action film or game, and is 95 to 99% of the time aliasing free. Most settings, be it the wear on vehicles or walls or any other foreground or background, are so fine, so true and realistic, you'll swear this film were real at times. Clothing textures are phenomenal, with the finest attention to detail and realism that I've ever seen. I probably keep saying that, the best or most realistic something or other I've ever seen, but it's true, over and over, this disc impressed the living daylights out of me. The reflective shine off guns, the glean on muscles on the Licker creatures, the deep crevices in the muscles of the Tyrants, this is truly a beautiful looking film. If you were stunned by 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits WIthin' years ago, this disc is a must-see, to show off how far the technology has advanced in the decade since. A visual marvel, presented almost perfectly on Blu-ray, 'Resident Evil: Damnation' is sure to blow you away.
The audio on 'Damnation' is no slouch either, even if it doesn't have the extreme peaks that the video features. Presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this CG film has a true lived-in, realistic feel to it. Lip synch, despite the film being made in Japan, is perfect. Dialogue is clear, though somewhat contained solely to front channels. The score hits all angles, as do volleys of gunfire, with bullets emanating and dissipating into each and every speaker, and though gunfire doesn't pop the way I'd expect, particularly in underground parking structures that would have brought great echoing and amplifying, it does sound superb. Dynamics are slightly off, again see the parking structure and how it would affect a scene. Volume spikes are solid when used, with real meaty pops when heads of Lickers splatter, and when human heads pop beneath the tentacled form of the Plagas infection. Shambling creatures do hit all angles in their few scenes, and camera angle changes bring flawless sound localization changes. This track doesn't hit every spot, but it does a great job of hitting the ones that it does!!!
This release includes a UltraViolet code that is also found in the DVD release.
'Resident Evil: Damnation' is quite possibly, quite probably the best film in the 'Resident Evil' film franchise, starting slow, but delivering the most tense, nasty climax of the series. The underground battle is an absolute delight, that isn't quite as much scary as it is wonderfully created and impressive, with its finale in the elevator shaft being a true bit of horror. This Blu-ray release from Sony is as impressive as the film, with video that can, at times, fool you into thinking you're watching live-action, and audio that's not that far behind. Extras are somewhat weak. Fans, buy this. Non-fans of the series, it isn't that complex or requiring of that much background knowledge, so buy this, it comes highly recommended!