I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALPYSE is the second one. Part 1’s Paul W.S. Anderson scripted it, but handed directing duties over to Alexander Witt (the second unit director for SPEED and the train heist in FAST FIVE) while he himself focused on ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, and it reminds me a little bit of the sequel to Anderson’s MORTAL KOMBAT: it’s way less like a real movie, but therefore kind of more fun. This sequel looks much more expensive than the original – there are huge crowd scenes, explosions and shootouts, it’s not all confined to some underground tunnels. It’s a chaotic mish-mash of styles (normal movie, shaky news footage, blurred frames) and crazy shit happening, often without much regard to rhythm, flow, or logic.

It starts out with a couple minutes of Alice (Milla Jovovich, HE GOT GAME) narrating exposition over flashy computer graphics, but as soon as the title comes up it ditches her and we go back to the day before in happy suburban Raccoon City while the T-virus crisis is going on underground. A menacing procession of identical Umbrella Corp SUVs plow through the streets to bring important scientists to safety. But Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, THE BOXTROLLS)’s daughter Angie (Sophie Vavasseur) is in a vehicle that crashes, and she gets stranded above.

We meet Raccoon City’s militarized police force as well as a special unit called S.T.A.R.S. (“Special Tactics and Rescue Squad. They’re the best”). These are cops who do things like rappel from a helicopter facing straight down firing two machine guns accompanied by rockin electric guitar soundtrack. The kind of people you want, I guess, in a movie version of a video game version of a zombie outbreak. The most memorable of these characters is a wonderfully ludicrous one called Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, HIGH-RISE), an edgy suspended cop who looks like a model but luckily switches from stilettos to combat boots when she learns about the zombies from the news and goes into action. She spends the movie wearing a turquoise tube top, mini-skirt and holsters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but everyone else looks like they’re wearing movie costumes, and she looks like a cosplayer.

It seems like Alice wasn’t supposed to be in the first half hour or so, and then would’ve had an amazing delayed entrance. Instead they chickened out and re-used her waking-up-from-surgery-and-going-into-post-apocalyptic-city scene from the end of part 1, plus a brief new scene where she switches from a towel or robe of some kind to tough girl clothes, then remembers that they put some kind of implants in her. The other way would’ve been way better storytelling, but I guess I have to sort of respect this because I’ve always said it would be cool if after being barefoot in DIE HARD, John McClane had a different article of clothing missing in each sequel, and in one of them is just wearing a towel. Here they tried to do that and even used it for promotional art.

But mostly the first act is about Jill and how her and another cop (Oded Fehr, THE MUMMY) and a news reporter (Sandrine Holt, BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER) get trapped in a church and have to fight a swarm of zombies and three of those licker guys.

There are actually many parts in this one as fun as part 1’s highlight, the dog-kicking scene. But maybe my favorite is what should be Alice’s introduction, when Jill and company are trapped and suddenly Alice flies through the stained glass window on a motorcycle, skids out, does a flip off the bike, sends it driving and wheelying up onto the licker, fires two bullet time bullets at the motorcycle, blowing it up, then whooshity whooshity spins her guns and holsters them, but also kicks a pew into another monster and shoots it with a shot gun and a bunch of other show-offy shit.

And when she’s done saving all of their asses in the most spectacular manner anybody could imagine, Jill says bitchily, “Who the fuck are you?” Like Alice has rudely interrupted them or something.

Okay, if for some reason Guillory and Jovovich got into a fight, I’d put my money on Sienna, due to the important meat-on-the-bones factor. But Milla plays tough better because she’s improved at the grimacing and posturing by this point. Guillory’s self conscious pouting and smoking, combined with the silly Sexy Cop Halloween costume, never stop being funny.

There’s another group of characters, a bunch of paramilitary cops who hook up with “you can call me L.J., on account of the informal situation” (Mike Epps, NEXT FRIDAY), a wisecracking criminal who Jill freed from the police station so he wouldn’t get munched. You could argue that Epps is playing a buffoon, since he crashes his car looking at topless zombies, but he does achieve a few intentional laughs, so I liked having him around.

And there’s the Umbrella scientists, who watch everybody from a control room and send all their evil weapons around to test them. There is a monster called the Nemesis, who I think is supposed to be the other guy that survived part 1, but surgically turned into a giant muscleman cyborg monster guy who massacres most of the S.T.A.R.S. with a Jesse-Ventura-in-PREDATOR type gun. L.J. surrenders and says “Respect!” and the monster lets him go because his computers don’t consider him a threat.

One thing that makes this one way more fun than the first one is that Alice can do all kinds of crazy cartoonish CHARLIE’S ANGELS/HEROIC TRIO type moves, because “They did something to me.” This includes flipping and spinning weapons and rappelling down a building but pretending she’s running the whole time so it looks cooler. The great Spiro Razatos (who has done everything from the MANIAC COP series to the FAST AND FURIOUS series to CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and MONSTER TRUCKS) is the second unit director, Ron Balicki (BARB WIRE) is the fight coordinator, and Diana Lee Inosanto (daughter of Dan “Sticks from OUT FOR JUSTICE” Inosanto) did some of the choreography. And it’s pretty playful with the story, so like there’s a part where a guy (Zack Ward, FREDDY VS. JASON) who’s maybe from the video game who does a bunch of badass shit (he kills one of those cool mutant dogs and then says, “Stay!”), then abruptly gets mauled to death just as he’s introducing himself.

Eventually all of the characters who don’t die band together and have a deal with Dr. Ashford to rescue his daughter in exchange for help getting out of the city, which is going to be nuked (I guess they saw RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but didn’t understand that the plan didn’t work).

First the openly evil corporate/military bad guy (Thomas Kretschmann, HOSTEL: PART III) lures her in and forces her to fight Nemesis. She’s supposed to be a more powerful weapon, and this is the test. I guess it’s just like smart phones, they’re always trying to make the new model smaller and slimmer. They could fit three or four Alices inside that guy.

He actually would’ve won, though, if the dude hadn’t thrown Alice two swords. Not a sound product test, so I’m assuming he was part of the team that pushed this Alice project through, and had alot riding on it.

It’s kind of nice that after she impales the big monster dude she remembers it used to be her friend from part 1 and she gets really sad and refuses to “finish him.” That’s not traditionally video-gamey. I liked that.

APOCALYPSE has another cool, doesn’t-completely-make-sense ending sequence that sets us up for the next one, making this feel like a fun ongoing serial or soap opera. Like in part 1, there are two different parts where she’s naked and it represents her being reborn. The first one is a repeat of the second one from part 1, so she has been born a total of three times in this series. But this time she may have an evil resident in her, like that guy in the cliffhanger at the end of THE MATRIX RELOADED that I never quite figured out. I look forward to finding out what happens next.

You know, I found with LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER and its sequel that I can really enjoy these video game movies ten years later. I highly recommend letting them stew like this.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 at 11:02 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”

  1. This is the one in the series I like the least. For some reason it always felt cheaper looking to me than the others (I really hate those shitty blur shots of the zombie crowds to hide the fact that they have no makeup).

  2. This was my first and only “check your brain at the door” movie going experience. I remember just sitting there, slouched in my theatre seat, watching that whole nonsensical piece of shit unfold in front of my eyes as nothing but a passive watcher who didn’t react to anything, but I had a great time doing that.

    Well, except that the movie has the worst sound mix ever. Every sound effect is cranked up to 12, which becomes especially apparent during the car crash early in the movie, which was so loud that it gave me a headache! And whenever I put the DVD in, it’s a constant volume adjustment, because the dialogue is super quiet, but the rest isn’t.

    Random trivia: That one dude who turns into a zombie in front of the gate when the city is locked down, is played by Tom Gerhardt, an at that time super popluar German trash comedian, who is also into Zombie movies (A really stupid joke involving the German title of Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is the only thing from him that I still quote to this day) and a good friend of executive producer Bernd Eichinger, who also produced Gerhardt’s movies and his TV show. I can imagine that he expected his cameo to be a bit different, since it’s one of those over shaky, shuttered to death scenes and you can’t see his face at all.

  3. This is the only I can’t get behind. On paper and also how Vern describes the movie, it sounds awesome. In execution, they drop the ball over-and-over again.

    They ignore the Alice character but I don’t think they replaced her anyone as interesting or fun. Jill comes close but I don’t think Guillory sells it (she is much more fun in RE: RETRIBUTION). I don’t blame her though, everything is so half-assed in regards to the execution. Supposedly Anderson wasn’t happy with the movie’s direction and that is why he pushed for an experienced director for the next one (the suits were pushing for him to just hire a wet-behind-the-ears music video director, funnily he ended up hiring Russel Mulcahy).

    Glad you had fun with it Vern, but I find the action lousy and the movie has no energy. A pity since this one should be the best of the bunch.

  4. This one was just too sloppily made for me to get into. Like sweettootho mentioned, I particularly hate those blurry, stuttery, double-printed fake slow-mo effect they used. If it’s not the money shot in a LETHAL WEAPON or early FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, stay far away from that effect, filmatists. It just looks cheap, like you couldn’t afford real slow-mo. But maybe a decade or so of marination will make it feel endearingly shoddy instead of insultingly shoddy.

  5. Well, except that the movie has the worst sound mix ever. Every sound effect is cranked up to 12/the dialogue is super quiet

    This is prevalent in MANY nu-action movies. As irritating as shaky-cam and the sole reason I have a compressor hooked up between my DVD player and receiver.

  6. jojo: Not as bad as in this movie. I can’t think of any other one where the difference in volume between dialogue and every single sound effect, even something like a zombie growling, not just gun shots or explosions, is so big! And the Sound FX aren’t even normal action movie loud, it’s like they found a way to make them even louder!

  7. I agree that this was a little more fun than the first, even if it doesn’t feel like a complete movie. It was shot in Toronto, and my dad got a kick out of seeing it on TV as zombies attacked his old high school.

  8. I’ve only ever played Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis, and I’ve never seen the movies. How do these movies compare to the games? From the looks of them, the movies appear to veer pretty far from the games.

    To this day, I’ve always considered Mortal Kombat the most successful video game movie. It’s corny and slapdash, but it’s never boring. There are plenty of bonkers images in that movie, and it has a sense of humor about itself.

    Also, Paul W.S. Anderson has got to be happy with the fact that his most direct competition as a director is none other than Uwe Boll.

  9. RBatty: The movies as adaptation are a strange beast. On one hand they are pretty faithful (especially compared to other video game-based movies) on the other they are as you say, they veer a great deal. Characters and monsters from the games appear and for the most part they act as they do in the games. On the other hand the central hero of the movies is Alice who pretty much a straight up superhero, at least in Hong Kong wuxia sense (as Vern mentioned in this review). Also the movies follow their story with pieces from the games thrown in. The closest the movies ever get to the games is Alice waking up and wandering an abandoned mansion in the first movie and the second one takes a ton of material from the second and third games (including the Nemesis character who mostly acts himself but the movie ends with martial arts fight with him rather than avoiding being blowing up by him) but tonally it is more action than horror (at least in my opinion).

    That said, the video games ditched horror for action starting with 4 (because Capcom where disappointed by the sales of the remake and zero). RE4 starts off great but loses it’s steam when you leave the town for a castle with it’s own underground laboratory. RE5 and 6 don’t even try to be horror and are only okay. Part 7 came out today and goes back to horror and seems to be going for a TEXAS CHAIN SAW and Rob Zombie sorta vibe, the demo was great at least.

    My favorite of the games are 1 (well the remake) and 2 with a preference for 1. I like 1 for the enclosed setting that slowly gets crazier and crazier and creepy gothic atmosphere. RE2 does a good job of making you feel you are in the middle of the chaos. They are supposed to be making a remake of part 2 but there has been no news on it for a while.

  10. This is probably spoiler but I think what soured me on the third one so I never saw it was how it ignores what they set up at the end of the second movie. I thought we were going to get some awesome team up movie but they ditch like every character.

  11. Unfortunately this is the trademark of the movie series: Setting up something at the end and then completely ignoring it in the next movie.

  12. Oh fuck, I accidentally replied as Sternsheim instead of replying TO him. A million apologies, I just got out of bed when I wrote that, but at least my avatar gives away who I really was. Sorry again. Damn.

  13. RE1 was the earnest, trying hard to make a “serious” zombie film, and was frankly a little boring, I think; whereas RE: APOC, as no-one has ever called it, is the cheaper, crazier version and therefore, as Vern states, is way more fun.

    The main problem with the RE films is that Anderson, for whatever reasons, never wants (or maybe isn’t able to, thanks to Capcom?) to advance the story – it’s mostly just wheels spinning, with RETRIBUTION being especially terrible for this: 5 minutes of discernible plot over 90 minutes.

    Any attempts at furthering the story significantly are always killed stone dead at the start of the next instalment. It’s like some weird reset button is pressed ten minutes in. Or maybe Anderson can’t write for shit.

    Yet I still like them. There’s fun to be had here. They get progressively more and more insane and I love that. They don’t get “better”, just crazier.

    I have found myself defending them from time to time – especially back in the day to embittered RE game fans (of which I was also one), who pissed and moaned that the stories didn’t sync up – but give them a go. Just keep expectations low and you might have a good time with them.

  14. GTA, motherfucker! 10 points!!

  15. Back int the day, I got my hands on this screenplay, and the movie I saw in my head while I was reading it seemed like the coolest thing ever. So I ran ran ran out to see the movie that came out, and when ever super-awesome scene I couldn’t wait to see came up, I was like… “oh…” Again and again and again through the film. Which I suppose is more of an argument against reading scripts before you see the movie, rather than an indictment of the film itself (and the whole idea of judging the film that you actually see, rather than the one you expect to see), but I still came away thinking this was a dopey mediocre shrug of a movie.

  16. RBatty: Forgot to mention re-adaptations. One of the reasons for the original not staying super-close to the games is a bit of a two-part answer.

    -George Romero’s script was VERY faithful to the games and Capcom didn’t want that. There’s a Romero interview where he said Capcom didn’t want a horror movie, they wanted a ‘war’ film which may be his old person way of saying they wanted an action movie (which Anderson delivered to them).
    -When Anderson came on board, Constantine Films was thinking of letting the rights to RE expire. So Anderson wrote a zombie movie that took elements from the first three games (only ones out at that point) but not enough that if they chose to continue with making the movie they could get sued by Capcom but still enough that if they did decide to make it an RE movie, it would be kinda/sorta faithful.

  17. My least favorite of the whole series. Except for the 2 times I caught it on the Lifetime Channel (seriously), and EVERY ONE of Mike Epps’ “motherfucker” was replaced with “motivator”. That shit was goddamn glorious. Funny, this one always looked to me as the cheapest of the bunch, despite the more open world aspect. I thought the ‘Nemesis’ big bad looked like a joke that could hardly swing his arms in his cheap-ass suit. And the direction took a huge nosedive without Paul W.S. Anderson, which is saying something. And I think EVENT HORIZON is one of the best horror movies of the last 20 years, so take that as you will.

  18. I’m surprised how much I like this. (I’ve been itching for solid B genre entertainment, I think. Much of my diet from the 80s..) Thanks to Vern I’m watching this series, which I had summarily dismissed long ago.

    The first half was disjointed and agree about Jill but I found her endearing (and a great badass entrance), and I like the STARS guys, Mike Epps, etc. The cemetery was non sequitor stupid (sooooo, the T-virus reanimates long-dead corpses?) and the church also non-sequitor, video game-y but genuinely tense. The second half is almost a different movie, once Alice really gets into the story. I liked Jared Harris’ daughter and that whole shared experience thing. I think this is the spiritual descendent of Robocop – not new ideas by any stretch, but still: evil corporation using humans as guinea pigs for their nefarious purposes. Alice and Matt ala Murphy – I found some of it quite touching, actually. Of course, Milla J commands this movie and in addition to badassness brings real pathos to it. I owe her and her husband an apology for dismissing these films.

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