Popular gaming franchise Resident Evil is no stranger to the world of film. With a trilogy already in the bag from writer-producer Paul W.S. Anderson (Death Race), and starring Milla Jovovich, our favourite perfect being from The Fifth Element, audiences are pretty familiar with the RE brand. Well, the ones who go for schlocky zombie-fests, at least.
You can count me in that company. Every once in a while, a junk-food movie like Resident Evil just hits the spot. The question is, does Resident Evil: Degeneration deliver the goods?
This time around, Anderson had no hand in the production, and the film is all C.G. It’s also actually set in the same universe as the video games, which right off the bat means Capcom was looking to create something very true to the games that continue to capture gamers’ attention around the globe.
Set some time after the events of the game Resident Evil 4, Degeneration features Claire Redfield (Alyson Court, who also voiced Redfield in the games) and Leon S. Kennedy (Paul Mercier, ditto) taking on another biohazard zombie outbreak. This time it starts in an airport, with a lone man infected with the T-Virus followed quickly by a planeload of zombies crashing into the place. Redfield, now working for a biohazard relief organization, is inside the airport fighting to keep her friend’s niece alive when Kennedy swoops in to get them out. From there, the pair navigates a convoluted plot involving another T-Virus conspiracy, a trio of shadowy organizations and at least one bio-terrorist. And it all culminates in another ridiculous climax. That’s RE, alright. So far, this all sounds like something straight out of a game.
The resemblances to the games unfortunately don’t end there. Since the film is C.G., and rather poor C.G. at that, it invites direct comparisons with video game cut-scenes. Ouch, I know. The film’s overall look is very uneven, as some of the environments and establishing shots look fairly impressive, while much of the rest is very plastic-like. This is especially true of the characters, who move awkwardly, speak with lip-movements that don’t quite match up with their voices, and just plain don’t look right. These issues weren’t a constant, but they popped up often enough to really detract from the film. The voice acting deserves mention here as well. It varies in quality at least as much as the animation, straying from inspired to wooden and everywhere in between.
Then there’s the overall feel of Degeneration. It’s not scary. Not even a little bit. It offers a few moments of creepy atmosphere, and a plenty of action, but nothing frightening like in the games. Combine this with the haphazard plot and it results in a definite risk of viewer boredom. Mix that boredom with the video game cut-scene look, and you get viewers who’ll spend the film’s 90-or-so minutes of running time wishing they could pick up a controller and start shooting zombies.
That’s the unfortunate reality for Degeneration — it would have made a cool game, but it’s not anything like a great junk-food flick. Fans of the games might enjoy it, but fans of the live-action RE movies will likely want to press ‘stop’ and watch one of those instead. So, how’s the DVD?
Resident Evil: Degeneration is presented on a single disc, in 1.78:1 widescreen format. The picture is excellent, as one would expect from a CGI source, which unfortunately means there’s nothing to hide the awkward moments in the character animation. Colours are vivid, whether in bold daylight or dark, zombie-infested corridors. There are no noticeable compression artifacts, even during the most explosive events of the film’s climax, and the sometimes-cinematic camera movements come across quite well throughout. No complaints here.
The main audio presentation is Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds very good. The mix fires on all channels during the film’s many action sequences, with appropriate use of the surrounds for directional effect. I might have enjoyed a little more action from my sub during Degeneration’s monstrous finish, but I was hardly disappointed. Character dialogue is perfectly clear throughout, even when you wish it wasn’t, and when the film might have benefited from some dropped lines.
Audio is also available in French, Thai, Portuguese and Spanish, but not the original Japanese. That’s an unfortunate omission, because the original audio is often superior to any dubs, no matter who they get to voice them.
Degeneration comes infected with a host of extras, of which at least one proved to be more interesting that the film itself. Here’s the rundown:
- The Generation of DEGENERATION: a lengthy making-of featurette, including interviews with the filmmakers and a behind-the-scenes look at bringing the film to life. Definitely worth a look for those interested in the creative process.
- Bloopers: a short reel of voice-acting gaffs, at least as amusing as your average live-action blooper set.
- Faux Leon Interview: a short featurette with a rather pointless ‘interview’ with the actor who voiced Leon, talking about working with the others as if it were a live-action film.
- Character Profiles: text-profiles on each of the main characters, along with photos and video clips of them from the film.
- Trailers: for Degeneration, including the trailer for the Tokyo Game Show, where it premiered.
- Resident Evil 5 trailers: previews of the highly anticipated, somewhat controversial new installment in the video game series.
Sometimes, a film adhering closely to its source material is a great thing. When it comes to video game movies, though, flicks like Doom and now Resident Evil: Degeneration are evidence that sticking to the source is a pretty misguided idea. I enjoy the Paul Anderson’s Resident Evil movies because they take a lot of creative license and yet still deliver some of the essentials that make the RE franchise fun. They’re by no means great films, but they’re certainly better than this one. So if you’re just the type who likes a good junk-food flick, skip Degeneration. If you’re a hardcore RE fan, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. The technical aspects of this DVD are strong, so if you can find a way to like the film itself, go for it.