After squeezing out the lacklustre (yet depressingly profitable) videogame adaptation Resident Evil, Paul W.S. Anderson decided to move onto pastures new when the temptation to screw up yet another franchise (this time both the Alien and Predator franchises simultaneously) proved too much to resist. However, before fans of the games could breathe a well-earned sigh of relief, word came out that Anderson himself would still be lending out his “skills” to crafting the script with directing duties being farmed out to Alexander Witt, a former camera operator and cinematographer who went on to become a major second unit director of some renown.
However, even more hope reared it’s head when it was discovered that Mila Jovovich’s second go round as zombie killing amnesiac would veer closer to the overarching plot of the games and actually feature characters from the established franchise. Fingers used to frantic button bashing were hopefully crossed…
After the events of the first movie left The Hive crawling with the DNA warping T-Virus hanging in the air like a pollen count that can turn you into a flesh eating zombie (or worse), the arrogant Umbrella Corporation attempts to salvage the subterranean super-lab with predictable results. Thirteen hours later and life on the surface in Racoon City has descended into chaos as various members of the population have come down with terminal case of posthumous cannibalism and disgraced S.T.A.R.S. operative Jill Valentine figures correctly that things are only going to get worse.
However, the good news is Umbrella have various contingencies in place to deal with such an outbreak but the bad news is this if you’re a resident of Raccoon City you’re basically already royally fucked and the sinister Umbrella operative Major Cain opts to seal off the city leaving it’s inhabitants to fend for themselves against the zombies and various gooey creatures.
Enter Alice, the lead from the previous film who awakes from being rudely experimenting on with the T-Virus to exhibiting full fledged superpowers and unleashes her new abilities of punching, kicking and posing after pulling off a boss movie attracts the attention of fellow survivors, Valentine and stranded special forces agent Carlos Oliveria in order to try and escape the beleaguered city. However, Umbrella just can’t help itself when it comes to pushing it’s experiments as far as they can go, so they deploy a genetically modified, nose-impaired juggernaut dubbed the Nemesis into the hot-zone in order to find out who has the best T-Virus tweaked skills in battle. But it turns out that Alice and the Nemesis has more in common than designer genes and these two very different engines of destruction are due for a showdown that not going to be pretty.
To cut to the chase as soon as someone who rambles uncontrollably can do, he second effort realising Capcom’s ridiculously iconic video game saga is not a great film. Paul W.S. Anderson proves to be as good at crafting a rich, layered story as an illiterate scarecrow somehow suffering from writers cramp and his attempts at characterization feel like something you’d find in a ten year olds notebook; and yet where his first movie was a frustrating exercise of not giving the audience what it wants, RE: Apocalypse ironically tries way too hard to cram as much stuff into your eye holes while not bothering to allow things like finesse or subtlety to get in it’s way. Out of all of the six entries in this franchise, it’s probably the only one that actually manages to feel anything like the Resident Evil experience. Zombies flood the streets as numerous burning cars litter the area much like the opening gameplay of the second game, and a clutch of other beasties from the second and third game strive to make life incredibly awkward for our leads. Alongside the standard flesh eating ghouls, we also have as second bow of a pack of skinned dogs and even a trio of Lickers who, much like their appearance in the last film, are still the bottom bitch of bad CGI; but putting the “big” neatly into big bad is the Nemesis – an unkillable creature realised by a stuntman in a very rubbery suit that limits his movements to an amusing degree. Unfortunately, it’s never revealed where Umbrella managed to source the triple tall, triple wide black leather overcoat that clothes their bare-gummed engine of destruction on such short notice (you try and find clothes big enough to fit a grizzy bear in under 13 hours) and even though it’s lethal abilities are mostly pieced together through the editors desperately trying to make him look more mobile than a paralysed octogenarian, he scrapes by as a decent enough threat for our heroes to easily outrun.
Speaking of the heroes; Jovovich and company deliver their lines as if they’re one of Stephen Hawkins’ talking keyboards things and there’s not a whisper of any character development besides everyone just being the standard, boring cinematic badass. But at least Sienna Guilroy’s Jill Valentine gets to finally add some human continuity to the games even though her game accurate appearance make you wonder why a blue boob tube and black mini skirt combo is chosen garb for zombie fighting.
However, while it’s obvious that Mila Jovovich has put in a lot of work in order to climb another ring toward dodgy action hero immortality, all of the blood, sweat and tears Jovovich has put in to pull off her action scenes are absolutely obliterated by massively overzealous editing that makes her overblown fight scenes almost as incomprehensible as they are illogical. Her full-on hero appearance in a church where shes gone from a naked subject wandering the streets to a combat outfit wearing, superhuman biker wielding an armory’s worth of guns with no forthcoming information explaining how she came to find any of this stuff is unintentional comedy gold.
And that’s the weird thing that makes this zombified car crash so watchable – the film, possibly by more luck than judgement, teeters between being so-good-it’s-bad and just-plain-and-simple-bad so tenuously it somehow actually feels like the cinematic equivalent of frenziedly mashing the buttons of a game you haven’t bothered to learn the controls of yet and therefore ends up being a weirdly accurate experience. Even it’s aggressively confusing epilogue (all fifteen fucking minutes of it) feels like a hastily cobbled together cut screen as it once again obnoxiously points to the bleachers and shamelessly calls for a sequel – the balls on this franchise…
Also, if nothing else, when compared to a few other of the equally hyperactive, sci-fi shoot-em-up’s from the same decade, it’s a little more watchable than most; Jovovich’s Ultraviolet, for example, is utterly impossible to follow compared to this, not to mention that RE:A also has an awesomely wasted supporting cast that bafflingly contains Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann and Jared Harris all struggling to make Anderson’s dialogue sound even remotely genuine…
By no means a good film and still not the experience RE fans have been baying for, Resident Evil: Apocalypse nevertheless manages to be a fun hour and a half – and, if only for all the wrong reasons, Resident Evil manages to scrape some additions to it’s health bar – just.