The latest entry in the "Resident Evil" franchise is this direct-to-video animated effort from director Makoto Kamiya. This animated feature takes place a year after the fourth in the video game series, and follows Claire Redfield - who had previously survived the zombie infestation of Raccoon City (a series of newsreel clips provides a look at the backstory.)
Early in the film, Claire is waiting at the airport, only to spot a man who looks to be suffering from the T-Virus. Before she can do much to stop it, others are bitten and - after a plane (apparently with zombies inside, no less) crashes through the airport window - Claire finds that it has spread throughout the terminal. Running for her life, she manages to round up a few survivors and head towards a lounge.
In an attempt to save those left inside, soldier Leon S. Kennedy and his team of soldiers head into the airport, only to find themselves confronted with packs of zombies. When Claire and Leon eventually team up, the movie manages to blend action sequences with a mystery about who's behind unleashing the T-Virus again and eventually leads up to a battle with a new monster.
While the framework for the story certainly has potential, the movie suffers from a few concerns, such as the clunky, generic dialogue and one-dimensional characters. The animation is also just satisfactory, as while some locations look crisp and detailed, the characters appear a little stiff and plastic-y at times. Still, the biggest issue remains the script, which could have used a few revisions in order to develop the characters (who aren't particularly engaging in this film) further and provide a richer, more engaging (and less predictable) sci-fi/mystery.
While the idea of putting out a series of "Resident Evil" animated films has potential, this effort is something of a mixed bag; while there are a few tense moments, the action sequences can feel a little repetitive, and the sections that attempt to focus on the story aren't that compelling, draining tension.
Overall, "Degeneration" stands as a decent time-waster on a Winter afternoon, but the film just doesn't quite manage the tension and eerie atmosphere or sense of dread of the games.
VIDEO: "Resident Evil: Degeneration" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and the results are mostly very good. Sharpness and detail are above average throughout the film, both in the brighter daylight scenes and the film's many dark/dimly-lit moments. However, there are a few problems to contend with: some mild-to-moderate shimmering is seen at times, as are a few instances of minor pixelation. Still, there are some additional positives beyond the presentation's pleasing clarity, as colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level also remained solid, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation wasn't Earth-shaking, but scenes such as the early action sequences in the airport did provide some entertaining instances of surround use for effects and ambience, while some of the creepier moments used the rear speakers for eerie, subtle effects. Audio quality was fine, as while bass could have been a little punchier, effects sounded crisp and clear. While this didn't cause too much irritation, the dialogue seemed a bit out-of-sync.
EXTRAS: While the Blu-Ray edition doesn't include a commentary, we still get a fine set of bonus features, starting with a couple of Blu-Ray exclusives: first, a pop-up trivia track that offers facts and insights throughout the movie. The second - and more elaborate - of the Blu-Ray extras is an interactive picture-in-picture presentation that offers viewers a choice of three different streams: motion capture, animatics or storyboards.
The additional extras include: bloopers, a look at the fifth "Resident Evil" game, a faux interview with Leon, a "making of" featurette for "Degeneration" and both trailers and character profiles.
Final Thoughts: Fans of the games curious to see "Degeneration" should consider giving it a rental. The Blu-Ray edition offers good video quality, fine audio quality and a handful of bonus features.
The Film C+