Taking advantage of the release of Resident Evil: Apocalypse this Friday, Columbia/Tristar has just released the Deluxe Edition of the first movie. I jumped at the chance to review this DVD because I have a soft spot in my brain for flesh-eating zombies. Also, I know that Paul W.S. Anderson is something of a whipping boy for movie fans, but I'd like to go on record as liking most of his stuff. I realize that those two sentiments alone might disqualify me as a critic, but too bad! I'm doing it anyway.
Resident Evil is a prequel to the video games: trouble is brewing beneath Raccoon City (heh) where the Evil Umbrella Corporation's HAL-minded artificial intelligence has seemingly gone loco. It decides to kill everyone in an underground facility because a biologically engineered virus has escaped into the ventillation system. We're introduced to Alice (Milla Jovovich), who wakes up in a mansion, nekkid in the shower, with no memory of her past. She wanders around, puts on a stylish looking dress and knee-high boots, and runs into Matt (Eric Mabius) who insists he's a cop.
While wandering around the tastefully decorated mansion they are captured by a paramilitary unit in happening uniforms (their gas masks have mirrored lenses) who think it's much cooler to dive through windows than open a door. We find out from their leader that blank slate Alice is some sort of security guard herself; the mansion she woke up in is part of a secret entrance to Umbrella's lab facility and she is stationed there to help guard it. The paramilitary unit gathers their prisoners and they all head underground. Enter Spence (James Purefoy), another amnesiac household guard. Alice starts to regain some memory and we see some fast-cut scenes of her and Spence doing the naked pretzel.
The paramilitary unit tangles with, then shuts down, the Red Queen (after some casualties at the hands of its sadistic defenses) which allows all the locked-down doors to open. This lets out the dead bodies of the facility's scientists and workers (reanimated by the virus) who escape and go on a munchie run. The rest of the movie is a clone of Aliens, with the remainder of the team (including their Vasquez clone played by Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice, Spence, and Matt trying to get out of the underground lab.
Look, I like this movie. It doesn't neccessarily mean it's a good movie, but it is entertaining. Paul W.S. Anderson does not understand what the heck a PLOT is, but he sure knows how to frame a scene and make it and the actors look good. Butts are kicked with style, people are diced (literally) with style, and zombies shuffle about and moan with style. I'm not happy with the level of violence, to be honest. Even if you don't want to show flesh being rended, at least put in a little random violence against the zombies themselves! I have always thought a headshot or two was pro forma in flesh-eating zombie movies. What a waste of an "R" rating.
As for the disk, I'm not sure why it's a 'Deluxe edition'. Many of the special features were featured on previous disks. So we have: packaging-wise - a snap case, a new cover photo, and Oooh! a ticket to Resident Evil:Apocalypse! Actually that's a nice promotion - I'm planning to go see it. One feature that hasn't been on any previous release is a clip from the upcoming sequel but it's no big deal unless you want to see Milla shirtless for a few seconds.
This type of movie is what the DVD medium is all about. It's loud and it's got lots of kinetic energy with people and monsters to watch, and cheesy effects (those poor silly-string covered dogs!) to appreciate. The movie looks as crisp, cold, and sharp as the transfer in the previous Special Edition, which I can't completely compare and contrast because some yahoo borrowed my copy and never returned it (bastard). The sounds are quite loud - lots of gunfire plus one of the people who scored it was Marylin Manson so the music is hypersonic, too. I could make out the dialog quite well - matter of fact a fun thing to do while watching is listen for the American accents that slip all over the place (most of the actors are European).
The making of featurettes are fairly interesting though none are new; I especially like the bit about how they did the laser beam/cheese slicer bit in the corridor to the Red Queen's chamber. And if you're a Marylin Manson fan you can stare at his weird mug for a while as he rambles about his experience in scoring a movie. The commentaries are the same ones that were released before - you come away with a sense of awe over just how much time Paul Anderson has spent playing video games. Read some books and work on plot and characterization, sir!
Overall this movie is okay, fun for those of us who like these sort of things, but there's no real good reason to put out a "Deluxe Edition" because it offers little over the "Special Edition" or even the "Super Duper Edition". I am surprised how well this movie holds up (so to speak) with repeat viewings, so if you've been meaning to add Resident Evil to your collection, now is a good time, because the ticket to its sequel is only good until October 1st. If you already have it on disk, there's no reason to double-dip at all.