Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) / Action-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, gore, language and sexuality/nudity
Running time: 94 min. (98 minute extended version)
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Krestschmann, Sophie Vavasseur, Raz Adoti, Jared Harris, Mike Epps, Sandrine Holt, Matthew G. Taylor, Zack Ward, Iain Glen
Director: Alexander Witt
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Review published September 23, 2007
Alexander Witt takes over from Paul Anderson (though Anderson still scripts and co-produces) in this second entry in the Resident Evil series, which goes to show, if nothing else, how much a director makes a difference in a film's overall tone. The first film offered action and a few mild jolts, but took its story fairly seriously. Resident Evil: Apocalypse gives us the same amount of action, but the scares are mild, while Witt injects a cheesy quality to the proceedings that suggests that even he finds it difficult to take such a ridiculous storyline seriously. Unfortunately for us as viewers, while some may welcome the lighter tone, Witt should have tried harder to make the story work, rather than give up, which might have been too tall an order for the longtime second unit director (Apocalypse remains his only film as the man at the helm).
The story takes place pretty much where Resident Evil finishes, with Alice emerging from what appears to be some serious experimentation at the hands of the evil Umbrella Corporation to discover that the deadly T-Virus has apparently made its way to Raccoon City, which now lies in shambles. It turns out that the experimentation has given her genetically altered, superhuman abilities above just the excellent fighting skills she previously possessed. Feeling more than up to the task, Alice joins forces with whatever living humans are still milling about to try to combat the zombie masses that have overrun the city, which puts her in between them and the law enforcement keeping everyone in the city, presumably to die in a quarantine state. Together, they must find the missing daughter of the scientist that invented the substance responsible for all of this madness, hopefully before the evil corporation unleashes more sinister bio-weapons against them.
While the cast looks like they are probably having a good time with the take-nothing-seriously attitude of Witt's delivery, it's unfortunate that not many laughs were translated on the screen. Witt seems more concerned in featuring his actors and actresses in fetishistic cosplay outfits, taking a serious sci-fi horror premise and diluting it under a thick coating of silly banter and a great deal of meaningless noise. As with the first entry, things are just too wafer thin to ever care about, with characters that are complete stereotypes, leaving us with little option but to stare at all of the fire, explosions, and pyrotechnics injected liberally into each scene without respite.
The best one can say about this sequel is that it does continue the story of the first film, as well play to fans by introducing more characters found in the video games. If only Anderson could be savvy enough to realize that his skills for entertaining audiences lie primarily with what he does behind the camera, rather than insist on churning out more plastic elements and simplistic dialogue. The best elements take from the first film -- a film that took its best elements from a video game -- a video game that took its best elements from other films. That's a lot of cannibalism for one film to carry, even if it's a film inherently about mindless cannibals.
-- Followed by Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and Resident Evil: Retribution.
©2007 Vince Leo