Milla Jovovich - Alice
Sienna Guillory - Jill Valentine
Oded Fehr - Carlos Olivera
Mike Epps - Lloyd Jefferson 'LJ' Wayne
Thomas Kretschmann - Major Cain
Jared Harris - Dr. Charles Ashford
Sophie Vavasseur - Angela Ashford
Sandrine Holt - Terri Morales
Zack Ward - Sergeant Nikolai Sokolov
Genre - Horror/Sci-Fi/Action/Zombies/Video Games
Running Time - 94 Minutes
In 2002, the film adaptation of one of video game company Capcom's biggest and most popular franchises, RESIDENT EVIL, was released in theaters. Critics hated the film and fans were somewhat indifferent about it. Either way, the film was pretty much a worldwide success, which guaranteed that a sequel would be made [especially since the film left the ending wide open].
Sony Pictures wanted to release the RESIDENT EVIL sequel, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, in 2004 with Milla Jovovich coming back as Alice and director Paul W.S. Anderson writing and directing it one more time. However, Paul W.S. Anderson had signed on to direct ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and was unable to direct the RESIDENT EVIL sequel, even though he did write the screenplay and retained executive producer credit. Instead, directorial duties were given to a second unit director for a number of big films such as SPEED, TWISTER, GLADIATOR, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL named Alexander Witt. Realizing that the first film took itself way too seriously, Witt wanted to have more fun with the sequel, making it almost like a modern B-movie of sorts. This led to some cast tension [especially between Jovovich and Witt - with Anderson saying he's not a fan of how the film turned out], but the film was released on time. And like RESIDENT EVIL, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE was a success at the box office. But is the film any good? 'Good' may be a subjective term. But it is 'better' than the first installment, but not by that much.
At the end of the first RESIDENT EVIL, Alice (Milla Jovovich) escaped the newly reopened "The Hive" after been injected with the T-Virus [which reanimates dead tissue, yet has somehow merged with Alice's cell to give her superhuman powers]. She realizes she's in Raccoon City, a once busy city now surrounded by thousands of T-virus infected zombies ready to snack on anyone that stands in their way. The Umbrella Corporation quarantines the city, pretty much killing most of Raccoon City's civilians by leaving them helpless against the zombie invasion.
There are survivors, however. Alice meets up with tough policewoman Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), S.T.A.R.S. members Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and Nikolai Sokolov (Zack Ward), news reporter Terri Morales (Sandrine Holt), and cab driver LJ Wayne (Mike Epps) to confront Umbrella about trying to cover up their mess. Alice and her new allies are contacted by a top scientist named Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris), who needs their help in finding his young daughter Angie (Sophie Vavasseur), who is hiding out in a school in Raccoon City. If she's found, Ashford will arrange a helicopter to pick them all up and take them out of the city. However, Umbrella has caught wind of this and decided to unleash their new project: Alice's old friend Matt (Eric Mabius in the first film), who is now known as the powerful and brutish Nemesis, to kill Alice and her friends.
RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE is the first film in this franchise that I have watched in theaters and I remember having a decent time with it. I didn't expect much going into it, and it ended up surprising me. I felt it was worth the price of admission. After seeing it after a few years, it's still a decent watch and more entertaining than the first RESIDENT EVIL film was. However, the sequel is still heavily flawed in a lot of ways.
The basis of Anderson's screenplay is the video game, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. In that game, Jill Valentine had to fight off zombies in Raccoon City and battle this behemoth called Nemesis, armed with rocket launchers, at the end of the game. Thankfully, Anderson doesn't totally insult the audience by not having Jill Valentine in the film. She's one of the main characters in the film and that begins one of the film's flaws: not having a recognized game character as the lead. Now, I understand that Alice was established in the first film for a reason and she would become the glue that holds this franchise together. But Jill Valentine is one of Resident Evil's most popular characters and she's nothing but a supporting character here. What's even worse is that for a while, we sort of get this feeling that Jill will take front and center. The first third of the film really revolves around her character and her tough, sassy personality. And Anderson really writes her well during this portion of the film. But once Alice enters the film full force, Jill is pretty much a non-factor in the movie. We also have Carlos Olivera, another character from the Resident Evil 3 video game, in this film. He doesn't really do all that much really except make lovey-eyes with Alice. In fact, none of the characters do much except Alice. It's kind of insulting.
Another weak point in the narrative is obviously the lack of character development. I'm not expecting really deep characters with a lot of baggage in this kind of movie. But something to connect to would be nice. Like the first film, they're pretty much all stereotypes. You know nothing really about them besides their names and what they do for a living. Fans of the video games will know who Jill, Carlos, Nemesis, and S.T.A.R.S. are. But movie goers who have no clue really need one for them to care about what they're watching.
Also, there's no real explanation as to why Alice is immune to the T-Virus. It's just said and forgotten. Is she even a real person? Was she an Umbrella experiment to begin with? Is she just lucky? Tell me something! The ending is just really confusing at this point because I don't understand what makes her all that damn special! And when did some of her allies get some sort of clout within Umbrella to pull off Alice's escape? Things need to be explained! Even if it's a sentence or two - something, anything, would be nice!
And do I need to mention that sequence in the graveyard where the buried all of a sudden pop out of their graves? How the hell did the T-Virus spread six feet underground? The only zombies in the film should be the ones who were infected physically by the T-Virus inside The Hive, followed by the ones who were bitten by these zombies. Things that have been buried inside a coffin for a while now should not be reanimated. It just came off looking silly, even if it was supposed to be a homage to both Romero's DEAD films and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.
But at least the story continues logically after the events of the first film and interesting things actually happen from time to time. The dialogue is better, as the characters actually speak more like real people to each other [as opposed to the first one]. The set up is a lot more interesting and more in relation to the video game than the first film ever was. The pacing of the script is faster and flows better. And there are actually some good plot ideas going on in this film. They're just not executed fully to their potential.
The SFX in RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE is definitely better than the ones in the first. First of all, Nemesis looks really impressive in this flick. He really does look like his video game counterpart, down to the look and his weapons. I'm also glad he wasn't CGI because it would have made Nemesis really cheesy [even though he kind of is anyway]. I thought he looked great. The lickers looked better. The dogs looked better. Also, when Alice's arms would start to morph due to the T-Virus and the zombies looked good. And I thought the death sequences and the explosions and stuff was well done. Just a better representation of RESIDENT EVIL look wise.
The direction by Alexander Witt is hit and miss. The positive? Witt seems to be having fun with this installment. Realizing how silly it is, he pushes the sequel further than Anderson did in the first one. The action sequences are more exciting. The film flows better and moves really fast. And the cinematography of the film and the look of Raccoon City is really cool.
Unfortunately, the editing really ruins the look of the film. It's really quick and choppy and super annoying. Now if this technique was used during scenes where things are happening way too fast to keep track of, then it's fine. But during the major battle scene between Alice and Nemesis? You can't see jack shit what's going on. This sequence deserved to be shot in long shots. It should be shot with different angles, especially overhead ones and panning shots. But this is shot with extreme close ups that don't last long enough on screen to even register. It's just cut, after cut, after cut, after cut. Alice and Nemesis are two different characters in the way they fight. Alice is fast, cunning, and agile. Nemesis is slow, strong, and more offensive. Yet you never get that sense during their battle because you can't even see what's happening! Whoever edited this film either needs to take more lessons in narrative editing or just not bother at all. I can't overlook something like this when it's right in front of you for lengths at a time.
The acting is not the film's strongest suit. Milla Jovovich returns as Alice. This time, however, she doesn't seem quite into the character and looks like she's going through the motions most of the time. She gets more to do and handles action well like a pro, but there's a disconnect somewhere. I heard she and Witt had issues over the character and also due to the really cold filming location in Canada. There's something missing in her performance. Sienna Gullory is somewhat better as Jill Valentine. She's tough, sassy, and performs action sequences well also. I thought she was a more appealing character and should have been the lead here. Plus she's super hot. Oded Fehr does okay as Carlos Olivera. I don't blame him really. The script doesn't give him much to do. Mike Epps is the comic relief as LJ. Unfortunately, I didn't find him all that funny. But at least he was game enough to make it work, which I can't say for some actors in this film. It's not an actor's film, but it's passable I guess.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE RUNNING DOWN A BUILDING TO KICK SOME ASS
- The Ravens Gate Bridge leads into Raccoon City. Fitting because once the T-Virus hit this city, Raccoon was "nevermore".
- If you're a Licker, don't mess with Alice. A giant cross will crush you from above and leave you speaking in tongues...
- Alice had to deal with a big piece of shit known as Nemesis. It's not like she's a stranger to this. After all, I did see ULTRAVIOLET.
- Mike Epps wasn't a fan of facing Nemesis or zombie strippers. This must have been a fucked up FRIDAY AFTER NEXT for the guy!
- Alice incinerated a couple of dogs. Talk about a few bitches in heat!
- Nemesis used a rocket launcher to blow up two helicopters. I say that was a 6-star performance. I see the star for the next Grand Theft Auto...
- Don't look at Alice through security cameras. She'll make your eyes, nose, and ears bleed. Or maybe you're just a True Blood vampire happy to see her escape. I dunno.
THE FINAL HOWL
While a better film than the first, RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE is still a flawed, mediocre sequel that misses as much as it hits. At least the film is quick, harmless, and sports some silly action and horror sequences that I wished the first film had. Still not a great film by any means, but it's still the only film in the franchise [as of this writing] that feels like it was actually based on the video game it references. And that's gotta count for something. Too bad I have to deal with RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION until I get to RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. Where's Nemesis when you need him? Sigh...
2 Howls Outta 4