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Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy
Paul W.S. Anderson

A secret experiment. A deadly virus. A fatal mistake.
Box Office:
Budget $33 million.
Opening weekend $17.707 million on 2528 screens.
Domestic gross $39.532 million.
Rated R for strong sci-fi/horror violence, language and sexuality/nudity.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $27.96
Release Date: 7/30/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolt, and Actors Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez
• Five Featurettes
• Music Video
• Theatrical Trailers
• Filmographies
• Production Notes

Music soundtrack

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Resident Evil (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

After the reasonable success of 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, we finally found a movie adapted from a video game that didn’t bomb. Would this mean that the floodgates would open for more flicks of that sort? Probably not, since Hollywood still seemed modestly infatuated with the concept even before Raider hit. That film may have knocked some video game adaptations up a few pegs on studios’ priority lists, but I don’t know if it affected fortunes too strongly.

One of the first video game adaptations to hit the screen after Raider, 2002’s Resident Evil didn’t do quite as well. Compared to the $131 million gross of Raider, the $39 million made by Evil doesn’t look too hot. That’s too bad, for while Evil isn’t a classic, the movie offers a surprisingly lively and entertaining experience.

At the start of Evil, we enter a very secret research lab run by the ultra-powerful Umbrella Corporation. After a vial breaks, the building’s security computer shuts down the place and actively kills all the inhabitants. We then meet a woman named Alice (Milla Jovovich). She wakes up in a shower in a mansion but possesses no memory of who she is or why she’s there.

Life quickly gets more complicated when a commando team run by “One” (Colin Salmon) storms into the house. It turns out that the mansion acts as the gateway to the Umbrella Corp. lab, and Alice - along with her fake husband Spence (James Purefoy), who we meet later - act as a defense system. The team descends into the lab to find out what happened.

Initially they think that the problem relates to the lab’s security system called the Red Queen. They try to get through its vicious defenses to deactivate it, and when this occurs they start to learn the truth about why the Red Queen apparently went berserk. At that point, they find out they have a bigger problem: the chemical leak has turned the dead inhabitants of the building into zombies. From there, the movie follows the team’s attempts to fight both the Red Queen’s efforts to prevent their departure and also the zombies’ scramble to eat them.

Although the filmmakers wanted to create a perverse take on Alice In Wonderland, Evil felt more closely related to Aliens. Like Ripley, Alice become more empowered as the film progressed, and the commandos definitely resemble the Colonial Marines. Kaplan (Martin Crewes) shows the same panicky qualities as Hudson, and Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) is little more than a sexier version of Vasquez. The parallels don’t seem overwhelming, and Evil doesn’t come across like an Aliens rip-off, but I did think the James Cameron flick acted as a moderately heavy inspiration here.

Evil mixes lots of sources. Of course, the video games themselves provided much of the tone and the various elements. Since I never played any of them, I can’t comment upon how many similarities they shared, but the film clearly included a lot of bits taken from the games.

Somewhat surprisingly, zombie flicks like Night of the Living Dead didn’t seem like that big an influence on Evil. On the surface, the latter appears to be a zombie movie, but those characters really can be somewhat incidental. They’re an important part of the story, but unlike most movies of that genre, they don’t make up the whole crux of the problem.

Despite the derivative nature of Evil, it still manages to provide a nicely exciting and tense piece. The film maintains a fairly relentless pace that works for it. Some movies seem to depend on non-stop action because they lack anything else to say, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Evil. The pacing feels appropriate and unfolds neatly.

Though not an original technique, the slow unfolding of some plot points via Alice’s gradually recovered memory works well. Yes, it does feel like a plot device, but it allows the story to seep out bit by bit and makes the enterprise more nerve-wracking.

If I had to pick the single crummiest element of Evil, it’d relate to the extremely poor computer-generated creature called the Licker. In other reviews, I’ve not hidden my disdain for most CGI, and the Licker does nothing to change my mind. The fake-looking monster actively took me out of the story whenever it appeared.

I also don’t much care for the film’s score. Although I like the music of co-composer Marilyn Manson, the work heard here seems very mediocre, and it’ll heavily date the film. Lots of flicks use the same kind of aggro techno metal music, and it’s gotten tiresome.

Nonetheless, I think there’s more here to like than to dislike. Overall, Resident Evil doesn’t feel like anything new or especially creative, but it does what it sets out to do. The film offers an edgy and exciting piece that seems much better than the average video game adaptation.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio A- / Bonus B

Resident Evil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, Evil provided a good picture, but it didn’t seem to be a terrific one.

Sharpness usually appeared solid. Most of the movie looked nicely crisp and distinct. At times, some wide shots were slightly soft, but those occasions didn’t happen with great frequency; the majority of the flick came across as well defined and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did discern a little light edge enhancement on occasion. In regard to print flaws, I saw a few specks, but grain created the most intrusive presence. Some scenes showed a moderate amount of grain, and those examples didn’t make much sense from a stylistic point of view. The grain likely always existed in the film - I didn’t think it related from this particular transfer - but it seemed odd and slightly distracting.

As with most edgy movies of this sort, Evil featured a very stylized palette and tended toward fairly cool colors. A dark film, it kept the hues pretty subdued most of the time. The colors seemed well reproduced and appropriately saturated, without any problems on display. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Ultimately, Resident Evil presented a fairly positive picture, but it fell short of greatness.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Resident Evil suffered from virtually no flaws. The soundfield presented a very lively and involving affair that really helped make the movie creepier and more effective. All five channels worked actively through most of the film. The elements blended together well and panned efficiently across the speakers, and the surrounds contributed lots of unique audio. The Red Queen’s voice panned neatly across all five channels, and the rear speakers added some very useful spooky effects.

Audio quality seemed positive as well. Speech sounded natural and warm, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed clear and lively, as the rough-edged score presented the right level of crunch and fuzz. Effects appeared distinct and accurate and packed a solid punch as well. The movie presented very solid dynamics, with clean highs and some powerful but tight bass. The soundtrack of Resident Evil provided a fine complement for the action that accentuated the material.

On this special edition release of Resident Evil, we find a nice array of supplements. These start with an audio commentary from director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actors Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. All four sat together for this running, screen-specific track. If you’re looking for scads of specific information about the making of the movie, you’ll probably feel disappointed. If you’re looking for a rollicking and amusing piece, then this is the commentary for you.

The women dominate the track, as they offer sassy and uncensored comments. They talk about the movie, their commentary companions, their co-workers, and pretty much whatever else comes to mind. This occasionally possesses the potential to become annoying, but it never quite does. Instead, their attitude makes the program a nice change of pace.

As for the men, it’s very tough to tell which Brit is which, and they definitely take a backseat to the women. Nonetheless, they add a fair amount of useful information, and they help ground the track. They get into the impertinent spirit of the women, but they do so in a more restrained English manner; they seem content to act as straight men for the women’s wild musings. A few moderate gaps appear during the piece, but these don’t become too onerous. You won’t get much insight into the creation of Evil during this track, but you probably won’t care.

Oddly, the commentary refers to a second technical track. We hear that we can also listen to a piece with visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear on the DVD. Some other useful bits - like an alternate ending the participants briefly discuss - also fail to show up on this disc.

Within the “Featurettes” domain, we discover five different programs. The Making of Resident Evil runs 27 minutes and 18 seconds as it covers a mix of topics. It combines movie snippets, behind the scenes material, and interviews with principals. In the latter domain, we hear from director Paul W.S. Anderson, producers Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, and Jeremy Bolt, Capcom Head of Production Yoshiki Okamoto, fight coordinator Jaymes Butler, production designer Richard Bridgland, visual effects supervisor Richard Yuricich, special effects makeup supervisor Pauline Fowler, and actors Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Eric Mabius and Colin Salmon.

”Making” generally offers a fairly standard promotional piece, but it seems better than average. While it tells us of the plot and the characters, it also delves into various technical realms pretty nicely. In the best parts, we see some shots of the actors’ training and also effects and makeup images; I especially like the bits where they turn the Dobermans into zombies. “Making” isn’t a great documentary, but it includes enough worthwhile material to merit a look.

Scoring Resident Evil lasts 11 minutes and seven seconds. Unsurprisingly, it concentrates on the music of the film, as we get comments from director Anderson plus composers Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson. Overall, they provide a solid little chat about the score. Manson particularly offers some good information about what he wanted to do with the music, and the program seems generally compelling.

In Costumes, we get a quick look at the garb seen in the movie. The three-minute and 26-second piece mixes visuals from the film and interviews with production designer Richard Bridgland, director Anderson and actors Jovovich and Rodriguez. The program provides a little useful insight about the rationale behind the outfits, but overall it seems too brief and superficial. The program presents some good comments but includes little depth.

The piece that examines Set Design follows the same formula. The four-minute and six-second featurette shows movie bits, design plans and interviews with Bridgland. I feel exactly the same way toward “Set Design” as I do “Costumes”. The show includes some decent tidbits but remains too superficial to be worth much.

Not really a featurette, Zombie Make-up Tests lasts 61 seconds. It simply shows shots of those early stabs at the make-up. These seem appropriately disgusting and are moderately interesting to see.

Less entertaining is the music video for “My Plague” by Slipknot. Using the “sajl” mix, this video lasts three minutes and five seconds, and it also includes a separate 30-second soundtrack advertisement after it ends. The video uses the timeworn combination of movie clips and lip-synched performance footage. It cuts between these with frightening rapidity and seems even more hyper and vapid than most videos. Slipknot do little for me as well. I like some aggressive music, but their stuff feels very generic, and their silly stage act makes them come across as nothing more than a 21st century rip-off of KISS.

In the Filmographies area, we get listings for a few participants. This domain includes entries for director Paul W.S. Anderson plus actors Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, and James Purefoy.

Lastly, we get a selection of trailers. In addition to the ad for Resident Evil we get promos for XXX, Men In Black II, Spider-Man, Formula 51, and fellow video game adaptation Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. All the trailers appear in anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Oddly, the trailers are found through a page accessed through the main menu, not within the “Special Features” area. Disney does that with their “Sneak Peeks”, but not many other studios provide a similar presentation.

If you desire an original and totally creative experience, Resident Evil probably won’t do much for you. If you think you’d enjoy a lively video game come to life, then Resident Evil should prove to offer a lot of fun. Though not a great flick, it offered enough spark and life to make it enjoyable and entertaining. The DVD provided good picture along with excellent audio and a decent roster of extras highlighted by a wild audio commentary. Action fans should get a kick out of Resident Evil.

Note: as I write this in July 2002, I’ve heard rumors that a 2-DVD special edition of Resident Evil will come out at some point in the future. Fans of the film may want to consider that possibility before they purchase this set.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9387 Stars Number of Votes: 98
10 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.