Based on the hit survival-horror video game franchise - Resident Evil The Complete Collection clones and upgrades itself to 4K UHD Blu-ray with very satisfying results. The films on their own are a lot of fun, but as the series went on they strayed further away from the games' original format and away from any sense of continuity with each other. Each film earns a terrific HDR10 transfer with Dolby Atmos audio. If you're a franchise loyalist who enjoys each movie, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Recommended.
I love the Resident Evil games. Since the Playstation One, each game has been the primary reason why I upgraded from one system to the next. I used to rent a PS1 from my local Hollywood Video over long school holiday breaks and would always grab the first Resident Evil game. Sadly, I didn't have a memory card so I'd always have to start over from square one every time, but I didn't care because that game was so much fun. Bad voice acting and complete with cheesy live action cinematics and alternate ending unlocks depending on how well you played, I couldn't get enough of the game so I turned in my old 16bit systems to get the latest and greatest gaming technology. Hell, I even upgraded my family's graphics card so I could play the PC game version!
My love for this game series arrived nearly day and date to when I discovered Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. I was flush with Zombie Fever throughout my teens and as each game came along I devoured it accordingly. So I was over the moon when the first rumors of a movie franchise started to bloom with George Romero attached to write and direct. Unfortunately that version of the movie didn't happen. Opting to bring on Event Horizon helmer Paul (not that Anderson) Anderson, Sony and Capcom went with a different approach to the material with a movie that played homage to the original game but went in its own direction. While I would have loved to see Romero's take, I gotta admit I'm a fan of this first film.
I'm not one who loves literal to the page adaptations so I appreciated where Anderson spun the material into different directions and actually opened up the field a bit beyond just rehashing gameplay. Milla Jovovich showed she could lead a movie like this as Alice offering a vulnerable anchor for the audience who could also kung-fu kick a zombie dog into oblivion. With the teasing finale of a desolated Raccoon City, that first film left open the perfect window for a sequel. Then we got Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
I still don't quite know what I think of this movie. There's time I really enjoy watching it - for this review was one of those times - but it really hasn't aged well. The first half, despite some goofy bits, works really well. It pulls scenes and characters from Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, it showcases the fall of Raccoon City, and admittedly Mike Epps even made me laugh! Then right about the time that Alice rides through a church window on a motorcycle to take out a trio of cheap-looking CGI lickers, the movie kinda goes off the rails. And in a way, so does the rest of the franchise.
By the time we get to Resident Evil: Extinction - it's perfectly clear that no matter who directed it, with Paul W.S. Anderson writing and producing, the series had no clear path to a finale. Each subsequent entry feels piled on one another with alternating satisfying and diminishing results. Where Extinction and Afterlife were entertaining, by the time we got to Retribution the movies had just become the current video games that devolved away from the survival horror puzzle creepy features to frantic button-smashing action cinematics leaving The Final Chapter to clumsily clunk its way to a conclusion that I'm still not sure I understand how it works, but I'm going to lave alone because it hurts my head to think about.
And now Netflix is in production on a reboot television series that looks and feels like it's going back to the roots of the original game. Or at least the remake of the original game. New teases of the cast along with meticulous recreations of fan-favorite locations have been rolling out the last couple weeks. Whether or not it's any good remains to be seen.
For now, this was a fun project. I hadn't ever tried digging through all of the Resident Evil movies in such proximity to one another. The continuity of the movies is held by the same clip holding the girl at the beginning of Cliffhanger - but that's okay. Milla is a game player here and a holds the series together. Paul W.S. Anderson maintains a consistent energy to these films even if they don't approach the steady creepiness of his masterpiece Event Horizon. Each of these movies is entertaining in their own weird little way - the first film is legit the best of the series - but even The Final Chapter offers some genuine entertainment value. It all depends on if this franchise is your particular brand of spread or not. If you're only a fan of a couple of these, a full box set may not be the best route even at the low sale prices hitting stores this holiday season.
Resident Evil - 4/5
Resident Evil: Apocalypse - 2.5/5
Resident Evil: Extinction - 3.5/5
Resident Evil: Afterlife - 3/5
Resident Evil: Retribution - 2/5
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter - 2/5
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
After the fourth and sixth films were released as single entries on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Sony decided to throw the whole mess out into one big convenient box set. Resident Evil: The Complete Collection is a six-film, twelve-disc (six 4K UHD & six Blu-ray) with Digital set. The digital slip offers individual codes for each film, are Movies Anywhere compatible, and unlock 4K streaming playback. The box set opens to reveal six digi-books, one for each film, with two discs to a set. The new 4K UHD Blu-ray discs all load to new Playstation 5 advertising menus that you can thankfully skip to static image main menus traditional navigation options. Even though Afterlife and The Final Chapter did not get new transfers, these are newly-authored discs to squeeze in that PS5 advertisement at the start. Apocalypse has a submenu allowing you to choose either the Theatrical Cut or Extended Cut. The included 1080p Blu-rays are the exact same discs as previously issued, 2D only for Afterlife and Retribution.
Shot on film and finished photochemically before the era of Digital Intermediates, I have to assume this 2160p HDR10 1.85:1 transfer is sourced from a new 4K restoration, and it looks great! The first Blu-ray release was a gem of its era but really shows its age compared to this new edition. Details are crisp and lifelike, colors are bold with brilliant primaries, and film grain has a natural organic texture giving the image a terrific cinematic quality. Black levels are also in great shape allowing for some deep inky blacks with some nice shadow gradience for dark creepy locations providing impressive image depth. The transfer is also free of any nicks and speckling that is apparent on the 1080p disc. This new transfer is maybe a stop or two darker, but it mitigates the hot blooming whites of the original Blu-ray release and gives the image a nice natural feel.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Again shot on film and presumably a native 4K 2.39:1 transfer with HDR10, this is another massive apples to oranges difference from Blu-ray to 4K - and for the better. This is a very dark movie taking place nearly entirely at night or in very low light conditions. To that end, black levels are a notable improvement from establishing Raccoon City shots all the way down to the grimy alleyways with zombies lumbering their way towards their next victim. Spectral highlights like glints of light off the wet pavement or sharp metallic surfaces also pop nicely. Image clarity is great allowing for a better appreciation of all the creature and gore effects that went into this film. Film grain is apparent throughout and looks much more naturally resolved than the old Blu-ray which looked like it could look overly thick and clumpy. This was always a pretty drab film so colors aren't always a highlight but Jill Valentine's blue bustier pops nicely. Again, another nice welcome improvement over the old Blu-ray.
Resident Evil: Extinction
Shot on film and finished on a 2K DI, this new 4K UHD transfer with HDR10 earns higher marks strictly from the fact it's a newer master and HDR really kicks the appeal of this dusty sepia-skewed image. While you may not see immediate detail improvements, middle ground and closeups are much more apparent. Things really cleared up when Alice meets the crazies and fights the dogs in the pit allowing you to appreciate the stringy fleshy makeup on those mutts. Colors are skewed towards yellow/browns but the HDR allows for some extra color separation letting red blood effects pop appropriately and in the subterranean lab gains a cooler steely blue quality. Blue skies when the group is on the road is nice and crisp. Black levels are better resolved with nicely improved shadows. All around a welcome improvement.
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Shot digitally with 3-D exhibition in mind, Afterlife in an upscaled 2160p HDR10 transfer from a 2K DI offers only moderate improvements over its 1080p 2-D counterpart. The heavy CGI-laden intro with the Alice clones invading the secret Umbrella facility in Japan is loaded with weightless CGI effects that only look more awkwardly put together in 2160p. While the HDR coloring offers some great pop, it also makes the double Milla effects look even more out of place. The image greatly improves when the movie calms down and moves to the Great White North, but any time the action picks up it's right back to the weightless smeary detail shenanigans of the beginning. There are moments where this image truly sparkles and we're given some vivid well-detailed photography to enjoy. But this transfer without being presented in 3-D loses a lot of visual impact in 2-D.
Resident Evil: Retribution
Reportedly shot digitally at 5K and finished on a 2K Digital Intermediate, Retribution enjoys benefits of time and technology over Afterlife. Again, this movie was shot with 3-D in mind so there are a number of shots and specific scenes that have oddly composited visuals which make sense if you were watching a 3-D Blu-ray but look just odd flat. Thankfully that's not as bad an issue with this film as Afterlife. Details remain robust and lifelike without becoming overly cartoonish. The color pallet as a whole also gains a welcome boost with HDR10 giving flesh tones a healthy natural tone while giving primaries some welcome pop. Whites are brilliantly crisp without blooming. CGI effects still have a weightless quality to them, made more obvious with HDR, but they're at least well-rendered and hold better than the previous film. All around a satisfying upgrade from 2-D, but I'll still be keeping my 3-D disc as my preferred viewing experience.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
This final sequel aptly subtitled The Final Chapter arrives with the same digitally sourced native 4K 2160p transfer with HDR10 which looks great when the image actually stops and sits still long enough for you to see and appreciate what's on the screen. My biggest issue remains the quick cutting editing and swirling camera movements that make it difficult to really absorb what's going on and the visual nuances. I was harsh in my original review of it and kicking it to a 3.5/5 because that experience was so migraine-inducing, much as it was in theaters, but this time around now that I've seen this movie two or three times it doesn't bother me as much. I still love the incredible black levels for this release with deep inky spots with excellent shadow gradience depending on the lighting. Reds get a lovely pop and flesh tones look great. I just wish the editing was different so we could appreciate what went into this movie.
Uniformly speaking every Atmos audio track for these movies is reference quality in its own ways. Picking through this set I would temper my expectations by watching the old 1080p Blu-rays and then switch to the respective 4K discs and the audio upgrade was instantaneous. Those old Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes by comparison are limp and lifeless. Even the later entries that had enjoyed a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix are dusted by the new Atmos tracks.
Resident Evil always had a crushing and intense audio presence thanks to the Marilyn Manson/Marco Beltrami score and the audio design that often smashed dialog while the groans of zombies filled the soundstage. I'm pleased to report that oppressive sound design is still alive and well in Atmos - only better. Dialog is still cleanly heard but the surrounding audio elements, like when the strike team enters the mansion or the first wave of zombies attacks is terrific stuff. Overheads get some distinct action but they're really used to space out the mix and provide an even more distinct location atmosphere. 5/5
Apocalypse sounded just plain awful on Blu-ray when it first came out in my opinion. I've never really loved the movie but I loved the sound design and until this Atmos mix there's been nothing to compare to the theater experience. Now the mix sounds and feels big. When the S#!t hits the fan and Umbrella closes the last highway out of the city, that crowd is a wonderful mix of front/center, surround, and vertical effects come together with terrific results. When Nemesis fires his big rocket launcher and the projectile flies across the soundscape mixing overhead and side channels - it's a great effect! 5/5
Extinction has an equally impressive Atmos mix as Apocalypse but for different reasons. Apocalypse was a close and claustrophobic city movie where Extinction is a wide-open road movie and it actually feels open. The spacing of sound elements compared to the original DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is immediately appreciable. The crow attack is a particular highlight with the full soundstage employed with terrific vertical usage and for closed combat action, the dog attack scene early on is another great moment for this new mix to give your system a workout. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issues and levels are spot on. 5/5
Afterlife warrants a lot of criticism for aping The Matrix during the opening fight sequences where the Alice clones invade the Japanese Umbrella Corp. underground lab. This is true visually but it's a welcome treat sonically speaking. That opening fifteen-minutes is wall-to-wall sound with amazing results with bullets zipping through the sides and rears and giving some distinct overhead action. When the movie moves to the north and the prison setting it becomes pretty basic. The extra vertical space helps add dimension but unless some big action sequence is happening the mix is actually on the bland side. But, since this movie is just one string of boss battles, there's very little downtime and this Atmos mix keeps the pace perfectly. 5/5
Retribution may well be a hot mess of a movie in terms of story and structure - but it makes out with a terrific Atmos mix! This is a great example of how overhead or upward-firing speakers can deliver terrific action to a mix with the sides and rears filling up any given scene. This is a movie with a lot of overhead action going on and from the original DTS mix to the Atmos track, I feel like this one earned the biggest kick in that regard. If it's not a bullet it's rain falling and the effects land with pitch-perfect dimensionality. Levels are spot on - not that you really need to hear the dialog for this one, but there's no trouble there. 5/5
The Final Chapter again isn't a great movie but it cleaned itself up considerably after Retribution and delivers an Atmos mix to match. With the frantic and kinetic action sequences, this mix keeps the pace beautifully. Whether Alice is fighting on a motorcycle or on top of an assault transport shooting stabbing or crunching zombies, this mix is loud and aggressive keeping front, side, rear, and overhead channels active and moving at virtually all times. While this is an aggressive mix, it thankfully doesn't sound overworked allowing some breathing room so you can appreciate the activity when it fires up. I may not love this conclusion, but it sounds fantastic. 5/5
No new bonus features were assembled for this set. Everything that was available for previous releases has been ported over here with the included 1080p Blu-ray discs. The only bonus features on the actual 4K discs are trailers unless you want to count the Extended Cut of Resident Evil Apocalypse as a bonus feature as it runs about four-minutes longer featuring alternate footage with fewer flashback cuts. Click on the
Resident Evil: The Complete Collection certainly is an interesting assortment of movies that differ wildly from one another to the point it's amazing to realize they're in the same franchise. While the later installments certainly had their faults, they're still fun. The original film remains the high water mark for the series ably adapting key moments from the games and charting its own path. After that, the map is pretty wide open as the films pulled inspiration from a variety of game moments at random and without much cohesion. While your entertainment value may shift from one film to the next, Sony brings the series to 4K UHD Blu-ray with terrific results. The first three films in particular score notable visual upgrades while each film rocks out to their own respective aggressive and engaging Atmos audio mix. If you're a fan of the series you should feel secure in a purchase. Recommended.