I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. Sony has put together an impressive collection for both the video game and film fans on your list. All six Resident Evil films are now in one special collection on UHD Blu-ray and in beautiful 4K.
“My name is Alice. I worked for the Umbrella Corporation, the largest and most powerful commercial entity in the world. I was head of security at a secret high-tech facility called The Hive, a giant underground laboratory developing experimental, viral weaponry. There was an incident. A virus escaped. A lot of people died. The trouble was, they didn’t stay dead.”
Resident Evil is perhaps one of the most famous and certainly one of the most enduring video game franchises in the history of the industry. What’s not to like about kicking zombie and monster butts for hours on end? The Capcom franchise has lasted through several generations of video game consoles, PC, and even arcade games. It’s actually a bit of a surprise to me that it took until 2002 for the franchise to get its own feature film. Husband and wife team of director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson and actress Milla Jovovich ended up putting out six films in the franchise that finally saw its conclusion in 2016. Now after a five-year break the film franchise is about to have a reboot with a new creative team. That’s likely the best time to release this first collection of films in 4K, and that’s exactly what Sony did. Just in time for the holidays. Perfect timing. The collection includes all six films with both a UHD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray copies of each film with the extras all intact from the previous Blu-ray releases. Here’s what you’re going to get in a rather cool looking box.
Resident Evil (2002)
“I did warn you, didn’t I?”
The Umbrella Corporation has been working on a bio-weapon they call the T-virus. The project was sabotaged, and someone released the virus inside the deep underground lab of the company nicknamed The Hive. The computer system’s defense system, named The Red Queen, locked the lab, and everyone gets killed. Enter Alice (Jovovich), who wakes up in a fancy manor naked and without her memory. There’s a guy there who she also doesn’t remember. Before she can get her bearings, a paramilitary group busts in and she discovers the mansion is an entrance to The Hive. The unit’s mission is to enter the lab and try to find out what happened. What they discover is that the dead have come back to life as zombies. In order to escape, they will have to overcome the army of the undead, mutant monsters, and the defensive system loaded with plenty of high-tech traps and weapons. As they make their way through the maze Alice begins to have flashes of memory. Turns out she was the security head who was about to blow the whistle on the company before things went bad. Now she’s been exposed to the virus, and it has bonded to her, giving her some mad fighting skills. The film also stars Michelle Rodriguez as one of the soldiers in one of her earlier roles.
The series uses the George Romero rules for zombies that have been pretty much the adopted mythology from Night Of The Living Dead through The Walking Dead comic and television franchise. They lumber about with flesh rotting all through their bodies. They are killed by a shot to the head only, and they are pretty much lacking any brain power in spite of their rather insatiable desire to eat everyone else’s brains. This franchise adds the mutation angle, which provides some break from the zombie routine and some pretty monsters to throw into the mix. You get the theatrical cut of the film along with a four-minute-longer unrated extended cut of the film.
The film ends with Alice being taken by Umbrella security forces and waking up in a hospital bed in the video game’s infamous Raccoon City. There she’s in an abandoned hospital. When she works her way to the street she finds disaster and only living dead. It’s pretty much the intro that The Walking Dead guy “borrowed” for the opening of that series.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
“Am I the only one who’s noticing we’re in a cemetery?”
It’s two years later, but for Alice we pick up exactly where we left her. We see her again waking up in a hospital in Raccoon City where the virus had escaped the labs of the Umbrella Corporation. In an attempt to stop the virus spread the city has been closed down, and thousands are trapped inside with those flesh-eating zombies, including Alice. Police officers and even military troops have also been trapped inside the city. The police officers include a popular character from the games, Jill Valentine, played by Sienna Guillory. The soldiers include Carlos Olivera, played by Oded Fehr ,and Russian soldier Nicholai Ginovaeff, played by A Christmas Story’s yellow-eyed baddie, Zack Ward. Each group gets a call from Dr. Ashford (Harris) one of Umbrella’s scientists who could not get his daughter out of the city before it was isolated. He offers them a way out if they get to his daughter and rescue her. It turns out that he modeled the avatar of The Red Queen on his daughter, so we’ll kind of recognize the tyke.
This version of the film series is basically Escape From New York. The group of survivors ends up having to fight their way out of a guarded city. In this case there’s a clock running, because the government is sending a nuke to take out the city and try to contain the virus. The survivors end up on a helicopter just before the explosion, but the shockwave ends up crashing their chopper and setting up the next movie.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
“Let the good times roll.”
We discover that Alice was allowed to escape from Umbrella because they have a satellite tracking her and the ability to control her with a signal. We also discover that Dr. Isaacs, played by Iain Glen, has been using a ton of Alice clones to test her abilities to escape a series of mazes. But he soon discovers that he needs the real thing. But she’s managed to stay under the radar for five years. Meanwhile Carlos and a large band of survivors have formed a caravan of vehicles. If the last film was Escape From New York, this film is Mad Max. We’ve got ragtag vehicles decked out with weapons and armor trying to survive out in a desert wasteland. When Alice meets up with the caravan, they are headed for a spot in Alaska that has been broadcasting that there is a safe haven there with no infection and food and supplies. This is another beat “borrowed” several times by The Walking Dead, this idea of havens out there trying to court survivors. But first they’ll need gas and supplies, so they decide to hit the remains of Vegas where they make a stand against cargo containers filled with zombies and where Dr. Isaacs attempts to control and capture Alice. He ends up bringing back his prized vial of Alice’s blood, but it ends up causing the infection to spread through his underground compound, and the virus spreads globally from there. The film also introduces Ali Larter’s character of Claire. She’s in charge of the convoy.
This film contains a 7-minute feature on the 4K disc which is a retrospective of the first three films and speculation (from that time) on the future of the franchise.
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
“Well. That’s just the start of the bad news.”
Four years later, and now Alice has brought her clone army to the Tokyo HQ, where they do a lot of kicking you know what. It’s an action film to start the movie and pay off her “promise” of the previous film. But that’s not really the story here. We jump four months again, and now Alice is flying around in a plane heading to the Alaska sanctuary in the hopes of hooking back up with her friends. What she finds is an airfield loaded with planes, but there’s no one around. She finally does run into Claire but is attacked instead of greeted. Turns out she’s being controlled by a metal spider on her chest. We’ll meet up with another one of those in the next film. They leave Alaska looking for their friends. In L.A. they find survivors on the roof of a giant prison facility where Alice makes a rather hard landing. But now she’s just as trapped as they are. The prison has been a pretty safe haven and has been keeping out the zombies… so far. Another big plot point later turned into a The Walking Dead season. This one is kind of like Prison Break, and to make it official, we meet Claire’s long-lost brother Chris, played by none other than Prison Break’s star Wentworth Miller, who knows a way out. Talk about typecasting. The film also stars Sons Of Anarchy’s Kim Coates as the dirtbag in the group.
We find out that the Arcadia of the broadcast wasn’t a city in Alaska but a ship that just so happens to now be docked in seeing distance from the prison rooftop. As the zombie monsters start crashing the party, the group escapes through the sewers to the ship where they discover it’s been an Umbrella trap, and their friends along with thousands of others are in suspended animation with those spiders on their chests. Of course, there’s a few battles and the big monster showdown with Dr. Isaacs as a creature. When they begin to save everyone, a giant armada of battle-choppers from Umbrella arrive, and so we’re set up for the next film. Alice ends the film having her powers stripped away, so no superhero stuff in the next film.
This was originally in 3D, but that’s not included here. There is a half-hour feature on the UHD disc, which is a vintage feature that looks at the films so far.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
“Why don’t I just cancel your contract right now?”
The film starts with an arguably too-long prologue that has Alice deliver a narration that recounts the events of the previous films complete with clips. Once again the big battle that was alluded to in the previous film turns into a pretty quick intro that ends to make way for this film’s story.
Alice appears to wake up in a blissful domestic situation with a husband Carlos and a deaf daughter. It appears as though it’s a perfect world, and we end up scratching our heads a bit. What we’re really witnessing is another testing simulation with Alice and Carlos clones. That Alice is killed, but we discover the “real” Alice has been making her way through the global network of facilities underground for Umbrella. As she makes her way through these “mazes”, she meets familiar faces. Sometimes they are good guys; sometimes they are bad guys. It’s almost like a greatest-hits film where they try to bring all of the elements together, but it never really meshes for me. This is easily the weakest film for me, and it really doesn’t have a clear narrative at all. It’s a series of underground simulated global cities that offer battle after battle. There’s an attempt to pull at the heartstrings and make the now veryhuman-ability Alice more of an emotional character when she meets her clone’s daughter and decides to protect and save her.
Fans of the franchise might disagree with me on the quality if they are more fans of the games. This film looks and feels much more like a game experience. The various cities can be looked at as levels with a predictable “boss” level at the end. What ties this closest to the game franchise makes this less of an enjoyable film for me. So many resets and copies of people that it’s soon impossible to really care what happens to any of them. Like the last film, it suffers from too hard of a left turn from what was set up in the previous films. It’s obvious that the story they set up in the previous epilogues ended up being changed as the new film was written and produced. That’s the problem with trying to dovetail them as they did. Now you have to pay off the promise before you can get to your real story. In this case, add a 10-minute recap and I was already checked out before the true tale kicked in. Add that to the fact that I don’t find video games to be a spectator sport. Love playing them when I actually have the time. I can play for literally three or four hours and completely lose track of the time. Watching someone else play, I’m checked out already at three or four minutes. I might not be alone. It was the weakest critically and also scored the lowest domestic box office at just under $40 million. The best part of the film was the arctic showdown between Alice and Jill (with spider chest) and then bigger and badder monsters.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
“They say that history is written by the victors. This, then, is the history of the Umbrella Corporation, formed by crusading scientist Professor James Marcus. Marcus had a young daughter, Alicia, afflicted with progeria, a progressive, fatal, wasting disease. Progeria caused premature aging. By the time she was 25, Alicia would have the body of a 90-year-old. Marcus was driven to save her, but the odds seemed impossible. And even as he worked desperately to create a cure, the young girl’s father would record his daughter, her voice, her likeness, saving her for posterity. But then the breakthrough came. Marcus discovered the T-virus. Once injected, it would detect and repair damaged cells within the body. It was a miracle. The life of Alicia Marcus was saved. The T-virus had a myriad of applications, treating 1,000 different diseases. Overnight, it seemed a new era was dawning, a world without the fear of infection, sickness or decay. But it was not to be, for the T-virus had certain unforeseen side effects.”
The franchise was losing ground by now. The box office was going in the wrong direction, and it was obvious something had to be done to shake things up. A wrap-up story to lead the way to what comes next was a pretty good way to take a bow, and that’s exactly what this film does. It’s a nice send-off for the six-film franchise with a pretty good story that finally allows us to understand Alice: who she was and where she came from. Alice herself delivers the narration that tells us of a scientist and his daughter Alicia who had a terrible disease, and so he developed the T Virus to save her. We learn Dr. Issacs used the creation in a plan to restart the Earth with the elite tucked away in suspension.
Alive begins the film in Washington D.C. where there are only bones remaining. But here there be dragons, at least a mutated creature that very much resembles a dragon. As Alice fights the creature with a Hummer, we begin to feel like we missed a huge part of the story since the last film. It’s almost as if there should have been a film in between. As the opening action subsides, Alice is contacted by The Red Queen who has now turned on Umbrella and informs Alice that she has 24 hours to return to where it all began at The Hive in Raccoon City where there is an airborne anti-virus that will eventually protect the few surviving humans. If she misses the deadline it’s all over, and everyone but the bad guys end up dead.
Isaacs captures her for a while and thankfully gets her halfway to the 700 miles she has to travel until she escapes with a fast new ride. Of course, there’s another band of survivors to bump into, and Claire just so happens to be among them. Here the film makes one of its many jumps in time or logic. In what looks like 10 minutes she suddenly giving orders during a well-coordinated defense of Isaac and his weapons and army of zombies. Then she leads them to The Hive, where the final answers and showdowns wrap up the six-film run.
All of these UHD versions look and sound terrific. All in their original aspect ratios with very nice bit rates. HDR really brings the films’ contrasts to life and provide those wonderful splashes of color like Alice’s original red dress. The audio on each film is a Dolby Atmos track that defaults into a very aggressive 7.1 track for each. Subs really deliver and fill the room with explosions and the percussive scores. Great job all the way around on each film here.
I have to give Sony some credit for taking a chance right now. I don’t know how long this collection has been in the works, but it would have been really easy to retreat from the material right now. The franchise isn’t just zombies and monsters. It’s about a pandemic that takes out the world. Today we are all living what has already been close to a year of a real life pandemic that has caused suffering and death. No one is untouched, and our world has been turned upside down. We just celebrated a Thanksgiving in more limited terms, at least I’m sure most of us did, and it doesn’t look any different for Christmas. This set will likely bring back horrific experiences for some of us, and I respect that. This set isn’t for them. Maybe someday it will be again. But Sony didn’t back down from the fears. I think that’s important as well. Our little entertainments might not be much with so much loss out there. But it’s more important than ever, because we’re more isolated now, and I don’t know when I’ll be at a press screening for a movie again. Thank you, Sony, for rolling the dice here.
I’ve actually never played this particular game in any of its incarnations. Not sure why that was. It wasn’t a determined effort to not play, but rather one that I just never got around to getting. I do enjoy the film franchise, and I might find a way to play one of the games at some point, but if I do I’d like to start with something that was made before the films began just to see what it was like originally. I know that certain characters and creatures were depicted throughout and that the storyline is pretty much the same general idea from the early games. I also hear that Paul W.S. Anderson is a huge fan of the games and so likely attempted to capture the spirit of that experience on film. But I also know that video games and movies are not the same thing and that elements do not necessarily work the same for both. Changes are inevitable and necessary. So I’d like to see what those changes were. Then I want to play a game that was created after the films began to see the inevitable influence of the films on the games. This 4K collection was just the ticket for me to bring it all together, so now I can enter the games with a complete capsule of what the films were all about on every lever, pun intended. Then there’s the new film coming at some point in the future. It’s a lot of “stuff”, really, but truth be told, “I’m kind of enjoying myself right now.”