An American operative battles zombies and other assorted nasties as he attempts to make his way across what remains of a former Eastern Bloc nation.
Resident Evil: Damnation is a direct-to-video sequel to 2008’s Resident: Evil Degeneration. These animated features tie in not to the Paul W.S. Anderson theatrical flicks (Anderson not being involved is a good thing) but instead into the game franchise that spawned this world. Hardcore fans of that franchise are the only people who’ll get anything out of these releases, as they’re geared toward people who want nothing more than to see characters and themes from the games transported to something with what passes for a slightly stronger narrative.
I’ve never played any of the games, and I know absolutely nothing about the mythology they establish, so I suppose I went in here at something of a disadvantage. The very existence of this release wasn’t enough to get me excited, so I didn’t sit down to watch it with any sense of joy or anticipation. I was just hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be the world’s longest cutscene, but that’s pretty much what it is. While it doesn’t exactly play like someone took all of the cutscenes from one of the games and strung them together, it also doesn’t exactly not play like that.
The narrative here is loose and thin. One character gets dropped into a fictional country, tasked with completing a mission for the government of a country that actually exists. He starts making his way across the fictional country, meeting other characters and getting into scrapes along the way. Most of these scrapes involve zombie-like creatures and bloodthirsty monsters spawned by a plague. And every once in a while a power-mad woman with a thick Slavic accent is shown sitting in a wood-paneled office and making ominous threats. Seeing as how I went into this blind, what any of this has to do with anything is beyond me.
I guess there’s a tiny chance that those who want nothing more than a bit of blood-drenched action will find something to enjoy here, but the action isn’t all that special. The animation itself isn’t bad (like so much animation of this level, it looks pretty good in medium shots but gets creepy whenever any of the characters appears in close-up, and the extreme disconnect between dialogue and lip movements is annoying), existing somewhere between what you’ll find on television and that of a feature film. But the action sequences also look an awful lot like what you’d expect to find in a game. About the only thing missing is a flurry of pop-up icons to let you know which buttons to push. The fights resemble boss fights, but watching them is even less satisfying than watching someone else complete a boss fight. And if you’re not the one holding the controller, what’s the point?
The 1.78:1/1080p transfer--encoded with AVC onto a 50GB disc--is a good one, but it suffers from the same flaws you find in so many animated features. The image here is often dark, with colors that waver between subdued and wan, but this is in keeping with the overall intent, and it’s a good fit for the story being told. The climax, which takes place in blazing daylight, offers a bit of visual pop, and the free-flowing blood provides some good contrast. Faces are waxy and unnatural (no surprise; most “realistic” CG animation fails to make any of its human characters actually look real), but vehicles, weapons, and clothing are rife with detail and texture, all of which is brought out by the transfer. Not surprisingly, some banding is visible, as is some moiré and judder.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (in English, French, and Portuguese varieties) boasts an active mix, and the sound design benefits from having been built from the ground up in the digital realm. There’s good atmosphere in the mix, and the action sequences are extremely convincing and immersive. Bass action is deep and tight. Dialogue is problematic; it sounds a little flat (and not just because most of the voice work is terrible), making the disconnect between it and the animation that much more prominent.
Spanish and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are also included; English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai subtitles are available.
All of the extras here are presented in high-def.
The DNA of Damnation (30 minutes) is a fairly thorough making-of piece, giving a look at all phases of the production.
Las Plagas: Organisms of War (7 minutes) is an animated short that provides a bit of backstory for the movie’s plot.
You also get a gag reel (6 minutes).
A Conceptual Art Gallery offers a look at some the earliest design concepts for the movie.
A code to access an UltraViolet digital copy is also included.
As I said, I know not of what I speak. Unless you do, this movie probably isn’t for you (and I probably didn’t need to tell you that).