Should I Watch..? 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse'
What's the big deal?
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is an action horror film released in 2004 and is inspired by the video game series of the same name. A sequel to Resident Evil, the film follows Alice (the sole survivor of a zombie outbreak at a classified research facility) attempting to escape the city as the virus outbreak spreads. The film stars Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris and Mike Epps while debutante director Alexander Witt takes over from Paul W.S. Anderson. The film is the least well-received of the six films in the Resident Evil franchise although it did earn $129 million worldwide - more than the first film took. The film was followed by Resident Evil Extinction in 2007.
What's it about?
In a secret research facility known as The Hive owned by the pharmaceutical Umbrella Corporation, security operative Alice and environmental protester Matt Addison were part of a team attempting to expose illegal genetic experiments being conducted by Umbrella. But after a viral outbreak which turned anyone exposed to it into zombies, Alice and Matt manage to escape The Hive before being taken into custody by Umbrella, who send their own team into The Hive to determine what happened. Unprepared for what they find down there, they are quickly killed by numerous zombies who manage to escape into nearby Raccoon City.
With a zombie outbreak now on the cards, Umbrella decide to put the city into quarantine and begin evacuating their own personnel while leaving the terrified residents to fend for themselves. Former cop Jill Valentine heads to her old precinct to help evacuate the civilian population while Alice wakes up in a deserted hospital and begins scavenging for supplies. But things don't go well for Umbrella either - the daughter of researcher Dr Charles Ashford goes missing during the evacuation while Umbrella soldiers Carlos Oliveira and Nicholai Ginovaef find themselves betrayed by their employer and they begin to assist the police in taking the fight to the zombie horde bearing down on them.
Major Timothy Cain
Angela "Angie" Ashford
Dr Charles Ashford
Lloyd Jefferson "LJ" Wade
Paul W.S. Anderson
Release Date (UK)
8th October, 2004
Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
What's to like?
Without meaning to sound too harsh, the somewhat imaginative action sequences are the only really interesting thing about Apocalypse which is otherwise devoid of further recommendation. The first film was packed with tense and gripping action scenes but this film takes it further, delivering epic shootouts and not one but two action heroines kicking all kinds of butt. We know that Jovovich can deliver plenty of punch as an action star thanks to both the first film and other subsequent pictures like Ultraviolet but Guillory does well as Valentine. Retaining the character's appearance from the game (however impractical it is) is one of a number of nods to its video-game origins as is the inclusion of other recognisable characters such as the monstrous Nemesis villain.
Sadly, the action is the only thing that makes the film vaguely worth watching. The narrative is lost in a blaze of gunfire and explosions while there are certain moments, such as Alice's running down the side of a building, which appear seemingly out of nowhere with little to explain or justify such lunacy. It may be forgettable in the main but it isn't boring - the film's pace is suitable for such an action-heavy picture and basically starts as it means to go on. And if horror films aren't your thing then don't worry too much - the film is too over-the-top to be properly scary so you can just sit back and watch the chaos unfold.
- The film was criticised for the wardrobe of its female characters for showing too much skin. As a way to explain the wardrobe choices, Jovovich had the idea of having a heatwave hit Raccoon City. Unfortunately, the shoot took place in November in Toronto which complicated things somewhat.
- The zombie dogs were not CG - like the first film, they had makeup and prosthetics applied to them. However, they did have trouble stopping the dogs from trying to remove the prosthetics themselves.
- The suit worn by Matthew G. Taylor as Nemesis weighed over 60 lbs while the mini-gun he uses weighed 65 lbs, even though he had to use just one hand to hold it. Taylor would be so hot on set that he could only be in the suit for just fifteen minutes at a time.
- Witt usually works as a cameraman on films such as The Bourne Identity and Gladiator. After the negative reception that greeted this film, Witt would not direct another film for fourteen years and returned to his previous career.
What's not to like?
The lack of a cohesive narrative for the picture is almost a fatal mistake - having dual storylines makes things interesting but you struggle to understand either of them for the most part so very little makes sense. It's also quite apparent that while Anderson is not in the director's chair for this one, the film's mission to objectify his wife (Jovovich) is exactly the same as the first film - or for that matter, the series. The enigmatic Alice is essentially a more scantily-clad version of Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity in The Matrix while the camera seemingly ogles both Jovovich and Guillory in their needlessly sexualised costumes. It makes the film feel seedy and even more so today in the wake of the Weinstein allegations and the #MeToo movement.
Even with a deficient script and an out-of-touch feel, the film struggles to stand out in any meaningful way. The rest of the cast feel as disposable as any one of the numerous zombie extras and the film completely fails to provide any kind of tension or excitement. It's a dumb and noisy exercise in overly stylised cinematic violence with the occasional ineffective jump-scare thrown in for good measure. The first film at least had some dramatic impetus with a sense of claustrophobia created by the location and a malevolent AI instead of uninspired zombies rampaging over a city - something we've seen dozens of times before.
Should I watch it?
Unless you're Paul W.S. Anderson, I probably wouldn't bother. Apocalypse is a disappointing follow-up to what was a fairly average film to begin in, quickly descending into a brainless and derivative action film so wonderfully excessive that with a bit more effort, might have been a comedy. The film has little in the way of thrills and even less scares but die-hard fans of the games might get a slight kick out of this. Otherwise, there's little reason to hang around.
Great For: Paul W.S. Anderson, forgiving fans of the game series, burying careers
Not So Great For: action fans, horror fans, film fans, ceiling fans (only kidding!)
What else should I watch?
It may hold the Guinness World Record for the 'Highest grossing series of films based on a video game' but the Resident Evil series isn't especially well known for cinematic excellence. The first film is probably the best, being a halfway decent blend of action film and survival thriller and is certainly closest to the games in terms of tone. The sequels - Extinction, Afterlife, Retribution and The Final Chapter - increasingly became less concerned with surviving zombie outbreaks and more focused on dispatching the undead in ever-more violent and stylish ways and none of them especially troubled the critics. After the last film dropped in 2016, rumours have been swirling of a potential reboot without the input of Paul W.S. Anderson this time with a return to the video-game origins by making a truly terrifying horror film. Here's hoping.
There has been a long and inglorious tradition in Hollywood of getting video-game adaptations wrong from the frankly bizarre Super Mario Bros. to more recent flops like Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider (the third attempt to get Lara Croft onto the big screen). Despite this, there are no shortage of forthcoming projects based on video-games like Sonic The Hedgehog, Gears Of War, Minecraft and even Tetris although whether any of these will break the curse remains to be seen. Consider me doubtful...
© 2019 Benjamin Cox