Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
By: Mr Intolerance on March 16, 2009  | 
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English, English captions, Spanish, Hindi, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Alexander Witt
Starring: Milla Jovovich. Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Rotten Tomatoes YouTube
In talking about Resident Evil: Apocalypse a while ago, a mate of mine laughed and said, "Oh yeah, that's a guilty pleasure of mine, too." I must admit to a bit of confusion at the time. I don't consider this a "guilty pleasure" any more than I'd consider Commando, Predator, Doomsday or Boa Vs Python a guilty pleasure. We are dealing with movies which never take themselves seriously, provide an almost delirious level of excitement and fun, and provide a wonderfully welcome relief from the increasingly large number of dreary, po-faced, arty, wanna-be classics (Philosophy of a Knife springs to mind), Tarantino-inspired homage-flicks (Doomsday did walk that line pretty unsteadily at times), faux-Grindhouse trash (I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave), or Yet Another Un-necessary Re-Make/Re-Boot/Re-Imagining of a long dead or non-English speaking franchise (if I was looking at Platinum Dunes right now, I'd prefer it to be through the sights of a sniper's rifle). Why should I feel any guilt in taking pleasure from a film that doesn't have any real message, doesn't ascribe to any particular political line of thought, doesn't talk down to me for liking genre films, and most importantly, simply wants to entertain me?

A lot of people who consider themselves to be "serious" movie fans would turn up their collective noses at the very idea of watching a film that was based on a video game. Let's cut to the chase pretty quickly – these people are pretentious wankers who haven't mastered one simple idea: you judge a film on its own merits. These are probably the sort of idiots who would have pooh-poohed the idea of making a film based on a comic book, yet went into paroxysms of orgasmic delight when watching The Dark Merchandise. I mean The Dark Knight, of course – sorry about that; whatever was I thinking? Resident Evil: Apocalypse, like the films before and after it, is an odd beast in that realistically it's based only loosely on its source material – if anything, this film is the most faithful to the games, yet it still doesn't have the feel of the games. I suppose that for the better part of the Resident Evil gaming franchise you're only dealing with one character at a time (and when it deviates from that as in the Resident Evil: Outbreak games for the PS2, it's not too flash), which cinematically isn't too exciting.

Sure, we only have one really central character here – Alice (Jovovich reprising her kick-arse Rambolina role from the first film) – but there's a supporting cast necessary to the plot who are certainly more than just the NPCs you come across in the games. If Resident Evil: Apocalypse does follow in a kind of way the story of one of the games, the obvious pick would be Resident Evil: Nemesis. There's a few links to that game's storyline, some of the characters and situations, the bad guys (including Nemesis himself) and of course the zombie-beleagured town of Raccoon City.

The film begins pretty much where the first one left off. We get a brief precis of the events of the first film, narrated by Alice, and if you haven't seen the first one – nil desperandum, you get brought up to speed very quickly indeed. The evil Umbrella Corporation have had a leak of the T-Virus from their underground research lab The Hive, located beneath Raccoon City. The T-Virus can reanimate the dead, and is transmitted by bites and scratches and bodily fluids from the infected, who upon death become flesh-craving zombies, natch. However, increased doses of the virus cause all kinds of mutations, turning what was once human into something much, much worse...

Umbrella have sent a team into The Hive to see what can be salvaged, but in doing so unleash the zombies onto unsuspecting Raccoon City, currently in the grip of a heatwave. What to do? Wall off the city and let the whole thing take care of itself, having first gotten all of Umbrella's employees, including Professor Charles Ashford, outside the city limits. Worst case scenario? Fuck it – let's nuke the entire city, thus sterilising it for once and for all. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. First up, chaos understandably ensues, and disgraced S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad – the best of the best) operative Jill Valentine (one of the PCs from the games, here played by the truly stunning Sienna Guillory – a bit of a change of pace from being in Love, Actually... She's an arse-kicking zombie extermination machine looking very hot indeed in her boob-tube, mini-skirt and knee high boots) heads to the local police station to offer her services – killing a few zombies with the old fabled one shot to the head, and telling everybody to get the fuck out of Dodge.

Alice wakes up in an Umbrella laboratory (footage from the first film) – let's just say her reanimation is no accident – none too pleased and wanting to find out what the hell's going on, as the scene that greets her outside is one of urban desolation. Most of our key players have been introduced by this point – Alice, the equally kick arse Jill, our square-jawed hero Carlos, petty criminal and comic relief L.J., and Angela, Ashford's daughter. We've also had the displeasure of meeting the rather bloodless and inhuman Umbrella Executive who orders his troops to fire live rounds into innocent and uninfected civilians, including women and children – oooh, what a bastard. It also becomes rapidly apparent that Umbrella aren't making a lick of difference to containing this outbreak, they're using it as an experiment to check out the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nemesis program – the name of which might be familiar to those who have a clear memory of the end of the first film (and definitely for fans of the games). More of this later.

Time to flee! When Umbrella drive the populace away from the only way out of town, and some of our gang hole up in a church. Unfortunately, the church is also home to a number of particularly nasty critters called Lickers – mucho carnivorous fast moving mutants who are a lot more of a threat than a shuffling and lurching zombie. This is the point when Alice makes one of horror/action cinema's most memorable entrances – crashing through a stained glass window on the back of a motorbike firing two automatics at once, leaping off the bike and detonating its fuel tank while in the church in order to totally ruin the Lickers' day. Woo-hoo!

Meanwhile, one of our other "heroes", L.J., a small-time criminal, holes up with some S.T.A.R.S. and this is when Umbrella unleash Nemesis, another form of mutant, this one armed with a rocket launcher and a chain gun. Y'see, the T-Virus can do different things to different people, some it simply reanimates as walking corpses, others it enhances in terms of physical prowess (as with Alice, who we later find has been enhanced up the ying-yang), others it transforms into monsters, some of them practically unstoppable. Guess which category Nemesis fits into?

Professor Ashford uses Umbrella's resources to contact Alice and the gang to rescue his daughter, who is still in the city – he offers them a helicopter out of the city and reveals that if they don't help him, they'll be stuck in Raccoon City when Umbrella use a 5 kiloton nuclear device to reduce the city to a cinder, thus sanitising the area of the infection, having realised that they can't rely on conventional means to end it. Not much of a choice, huh?

However, deliberations have to be put on hold as Nemesis puts in another appearance, either drawn to Alice because of their chemical kinship, or due to Umbrella's ability to tap into the live feed of the CCTV cameras all around Raccoon City. Ah, this raises a point – the media. Now, all of the Resident Evil films, games, comics and such have always had a healthy distrust of corporations via the Umbrella boogeyman, but the media takes it up the clacker in this film, being basically seen at all points as being Umbrella's propaganda weapon, infiltration and espionage arm and general eyes and mouthpiece. It's not subtle, let me tell you, but then I hardly think it should be given that the makers of the film are not really aiming at sociology or communications scholars.

Angela is found (after the obligatory fight with zombie dogs – Anderson seems to love these critters, having had them in all three films) and the gang move to rendezvous with the helicopter, but things become a little more complicated than that. I'll leave the synopsis there – there's a lot more to go, but spoilers would be in your immediate future if I kept going. Suffice it to say that in the action stakes, you ain't seen nothing yet, and the next film is set up quite nicely – there's also some nice poetic justice involved for those who like such things.

One thing I must mention though before I let you wander off to the nearest video outlet and buy the damned thing, or pluck it from your collection and whack it in the player, is one of the film's more awesome set-pieces – Milla Jovovich running down the side of a sky-scraper and kicking the arses of a whole bunch of Umbrella lackeys with a maximum of hands-on goodness – if this scene doesn't appeal to the action fan deep inside of you, you suck and I hate you. Milla is my action-heroine goddess, and the live-action (remember, they're now making CG ones) Resident Evil films should prove why.
The picture quality is pretty good, which is no surprise considering it's a recent film with a huge budget made by a major company. It's presented in the OAR of 2.40:1, anamorphically enhanced, and looks the bomb. My only gripe with the picture is that the director seemed to think that sporadic slow-mo shots, bullet-time and MTV-style sequences were a good idea. They were not. Anderson's direction of the original film was far superior, and Russell Mulcahy's cinematography of Resident Evil: Extinction was probably the best of the lot. In this regard, although some of the action set-pieces are the best in the series, this film is a let down.
Nothing to complain about in this department – loud and clear 5.1 surround goodness. Those explosions sound awesome, and they're happening all around me. Wheeeeeee!!!
Extra Features
There are three different commentary tracks, one with stars Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory and Oded Fehr, one with director Alexander Witt and producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer, and another with Paul W S Anderson and Jeremy Bolt. There's also a blooper reel (best not seen), a vast amount of deleted scenes (20 of 'em, and again, I really don't think they add anything to the movie), a long doco on the filming of Resident Evil: Apocalypse broken into six different chapters each with a specific focus, a bunch of featurettes, a poster gallery and the teaser and theatrical trailer for Resident Evil: Apocalypse. And on top of all that, you also get three more featurettes which detail the special effects, the female action stars (oh, baby) and some rather inane similarities which are drawn between Umbrella Corporation and the real world. Oh, I nearly forgot, there was also a gallery of artwork from the finalists of the online contest to design the poster art, which actually was a great deal more interesting than the usual gallery fare. All up, this is a pretty complete package. Jeez, that was an understatement – what else could they have possibly given us? Maybe they could've given Sienna Guillory's phone number as well, but that's probably asking a little much. Anyway, the Judge said next time I tried contacting her, he'd...wait, I've said too much.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A splendid edition of a film that re-defines dumb action-soundfest fun, you have to (even if you're not all that keen on the film – and I know some folks think that both the film and specifically the direction are sub-par) tip your hat to Sony for putting together such a fine package. This shows dedication and respect for the fans. In some regards, having 3 separate commentary tracks, for example, it could be seen as too much of a good thing, but it's not like you've got a gun to your head and you're being made to watch the whole thing in one go. It's actually taken me quite some time to write this review, as while I like the film, if I'd watched it four times in a row (once as a film and then with the three commentaries) and then sat through the hours of extras with no breaks, I probably would have gone mental. That said, I always have a whale of a time when I watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse. It always puts a big ol' smile on my face and entertains the hell out of me. Cheesy, you say? Of course it is, and like the other two films in the series all it does is aim to please by throwing loads of gun-fire, stuntwork, explosions, zombies and T-Virus mutants at you with a healthy slug of anti-corporate propaganda and ultra-cheesy macho-bullshit one-liners – if that's the game-plan, well then, mission accomplished, I'd say.

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