It has almost been a little more than 10 years since the first "Resident Evil" (aka. Biohazard, Japan title) video game hit store shelves and introduced and defined "survival horror". The game became a phenomenon in the video game industry. Hollywood made attempts in bringing the franchise to life with its "Resident Evil trilogy" into somewhat reactions from the public. Now, Japanese animators with director Makoto Kamiya at the helm, re-introduces the saga in the form of a computer-generated motion picture, "Resident Evil Degeneration" (aka. Biohazard Degeneration) and captures the essence of the Capcom video games.
A Zombie attack brings chaos to Harvardville Airport. Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield (voiced by Paul Mercier and Alyson Court respectively), who fought the sinister Umbrella corporation during the Raccoon city tragedy 7 years ago are back. They're ready to combat the designs of a rogue extremist leader named Curtis Miller who is seeking for revenge after his family was killed in the Raccoon city incident. The deadly G-virus is unleashed and a new mutated "Tyrant" monster goes on the rampage. Will Claire and Leon be able to avert the spread of the much deadlier virus before history repeats itself.
While the knowledge of the plotline of the first 5 Resident Evil may indeed aid in the film's appreciation, it isn't really essential to its enjoyment. The film captures the elements of corrupt authority figures, government cover-ups, corporate espionage due to the draws of power and greed. The big "Umbrella Corporation" is no longer a big player in this installment (or are they?) and a new player in the corporate game "WilPharma" is at the center of all the mayhem. Lust for power and riches on the part of Senator Davis (Michael Sorich) and Frederick Downing (Crispin Freeman) are the motivations for the corruptions. Classic characters Claire Redfield is just in the middle of it all, and Leon Kennedy is his usual "take care of business type" of agent.
The film is action-packed. The rescue mission at the airport in the film's first act is somewhat short but it was quite intense and captures the feel of the games. The plot then slows down a little as it slowly unravels the secrets of the WilPharma Corp., fleshes out its main supporting character, Angela Miller (voiced by Laura Bailey). The film does have its share of emotions but it felt a little too predictable, although I do believe it managed to do the best it could given its source material. There is also quite a number of violent scenes (it is R-rated), the CGI blood and gore plays a minor part in the film's enjoyment.
The zombies are the usual "shambling" slow-moving undead and the camera work executes the scenes fairly well. The gun battle and the encounters with the zombies prove very beneficial although the main draw will have to be our heroic duo's encounter with the new "Tyrant" creature. As with the games, it takes quite a number of attempts to stop the near-invincible monster, although truth be told, it wasn't a question of "If" but a question of "when". I suppose it may the film's weakness, as much as it is its biggest strength; "Degeneration.." definitely is a "cardboard cut-out" of the video games--so therefore, "Resident Evil" aficionados may not feel the slightest sensation of an unexpected outcome. I was hoping for more of an investigative puzzle-solving experience than your usual explosions and hyper-accelerated action sequences. I hope no one takes these comments as negative ones, because the film is entertaining and fun to watch, despite the simple plot--it feels like a "tribute" film to the highly-successful Japanese franchise.
The animation itself is amazing. The motion-capture animation is definitely an improvement over "Final Fantasy Spirits Within" and stomps on the animation in "Beowulf"--but it is a little less fluid than "Final Fantasy Advent Children", (the animation doesn‘t allow wardrobe to move and mimic the characters‘ movements). The facial features are full of expression; pain, disgust, anger and maybe even love are so carefully animated into the characters' eyes and actions. The action scenes are animated quite well, although, some scenes may need more polishing up than others. The Tyrant monster appearance is reminiscent of the monster in the franchise with some very "feral" improvements. Light reflections and the use of shadows are perfectly blended into the sequences and the CGI generated environment is nothing to sneeze at.
I am rather satisfied with "Resident Evil: Degeneration". The film is definitely a must for fans of the video game and is definitely up there with some of the best from Pixar studios in terms of animation. I was a little disappointed with the film's plot as it offered nothing new, but the film never loses its energy and keeps on its pace with a lot of momentum. While it feels to be tailored-made for international audiences, (those familiar with Japanimation know very well that they are mostly philosophical and deep) but it isn't exactly a bad thing either. The action, gorgeous animation will definitely entertain although its emotional ramifications wasn't essentially fleshed out. The film is a welcome treat to fans of the franchise.
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]
Video/Audio: 1.78 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Clean and near-excellent transfer, some enhancements were noticed but it wasn't really that bad. The picture is amazing g on the Dvd when up-converted to 1080p. The 5.1 Dolby Digital English track is clear but unfortunately, there is no Japanese language track. I think this was a huge mistake since I saw the original Japanese release and the dialogue was better suited and emotional than the English track. I wonder why they included French, Thai, Portuguese and Spanish tracks but they skipped the original language? There is no DTS-ES sadly.
Extras: Bloopers/A look at the video games/Cast Featurette/Faux Leon interview/Profiles and Trailers.
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