I have no idea why I want to continue with this franchise of films. I wasn’t a fan of the first live action WS Anderson Resident Evil film, yet one could agree that the cheesiness and b-movie dialogue can at times make it watchable (even if I did give it a D). In a way one could have a good drink with friends and simply slip into a film franchise like this, yet I only do that with the movies that never seem to be worth their salt at all. Resident Evil for all its movies feels like a missed opportunity and creating something unique apart from the property, yet in the past two films I reviewed that had “Resident Evil” in the title they both had problems that just consistently undermined a fun franchise about the horrors at home and things that feel intrinsically terrifying. So my thoughts going into this film were “Let me open up my bottle of raspberry vodka (yes I do drink that and yes it does taste like crap by itself) and just enjoy myself.” Problem is I lacked the vodka and therefore was left watching Resident Evil Apocalypse sober. So let’s indulge in just a little bit more of my pain and take a look at WS Anderson’s sequel to his box office hit.
Apocalypse is a movie with a simple premise. The infection from the first movie has leaked out of the Hive and out of Umbrella’s control, somehow, and has been unleashed upon the unsuspecting Raccoon City…somehow. The film neglects to accurately explain much at all about how this got from the HIVE to Raccoon City besides one scene of Umbrella employees being stupid and opening the doors to the HIVE to figure out what was going on. It is a quick “one and done” type of scene that sets up poorly how Raccoon City is now this city festering with zombies and people not realizing they are zombies. I mean at first that sounds logical, people not realizing why some have the ravenous desire to bite them. Yet when a police station has to have one scantily clad cop waltz right in and have a moment where she tells them to shoot the infected in the head whilst killing a few zombies in the process. The logical fallacies slowly drains the film later on, but that is the starting point of this incessant need to be edgy as how could she have known anything about the zombies. Her name is Jill Valentine…which is supposed to be a main character from the original game, yet the movie never gives us any reason as to how she is the only one, in a precinct filled with policemen, who knew that they are zombies and you need to shoot them in the head. Nor will it ever be explained, get ready to hear that a lot.
Leaving Jill Valentine’s entrance aside for a second, Apocalypse focuses more on what happened to Alice at the end of the last film. Which is an interesting path to pursue, detailing how the Umbrella Corporation modified her. Though they then bloat this movie up to the point where it feels over-stuffed and incoherent in its transitions. You have the three Umbrella soldiers sent in to deal with the infection…for some reason and then left behind. We have Jill Valentine and her group trying to escape the city. We have the introduction of Nemesis, the hulking biological weapon. Lastly, but certainly the most prevalent to how the story progresses is Dr. Ashford telling all the remaining survivors (important to the movie) to find his daughter if they want out of the city alive. All of these things need time dedicated to them, and half of these could have been condensed or not used because they add nothing but more characters to the overall plot. Oh and then let’s not forget the comedic relief LJ, who is actually the best part about the movie if I’m being honest. There is so much to tackle in this movie that it feels scattershot on execution trying to appeal far too much to fans of the games with the introduction of iconic elements without making them different in any stretch of the imagination.
There is something to praise about this film, the action is far more entertaining and bombastic than the previous. Milla Jovovich quickly became a highlight this time as they give her some legitimately engaging action sequences. She is dispatching Lickers in a church by way of gravity-defying motorcycle, facing off against a biological weapon equivalent of a walking tank twice, and not even being the main focus of the most of the movie. Yeah, Alice is surprisingly sidelined for a portion of the movie to introduce the bland characters talked about in the previous paragraph. It is like Chuck Norris in the Expendables 2, awesome for that one action scene but when you boil down the character he was only there to be a cool action scene. Albeit Chuck Norris had the added plus of being a nostalgic action hero brought in for a franchise glorifying action heroes, it still rings true for Alice. Her action sequences are competent, mind-numbingly impossible, and shot with enough verve to make me forget if they had any importance to the film at hand. YET, in the end I struggle to see her importance to the film other than she was in the first one and they are setting up a sequel. There is no growth, no identity, just a semi-cool and shallow action hero.
Now you would think that because they don’t focus on Alice for most of the film that some other character would take the spotlight of the fleshed out action star, but then again this is Resident Evil Apocalypse we are talking about. Every character has one motivation, survive. Every character falls prey to an extreme lack of entertaining scenes as the highlights are only the action sequences, to which Alice is the only one who gets them because she is superhuman. So who do we get instead? We are finally coming back around to Jill Valentine, the girl who wears scantily clad costume and is oversexualized for no reason other than its Jill Valentine. This type of character would later become a model for characters in Micheal Bay films, but here in Resident Evil she finds her home with all the other under-developed action extras this story tries to make us sympathize with. I know it sounds unnaturally cruel to rag on this cast, but when you can’t remember more than half of the names of them and the movie didn’t care enough to really give them much solid development to define who they are you start to feel cold and lifeless. This film feels cold and lifeless for a lot of the scenes involving the cast at large. If they couldn’t get you to connect with the father wanting to save his child type of plotline then there was no way they will get other non-emotional plotlines to connect with us as an audience. Everything feels contrived and each character feels like they are serving a stereotypical function within the film.
There is, in some way, one saving grace in this film however. LJ is the most random edition Resident Evil could have made to its line-up of characters but his comedic delivery on some lines makes him feel like the only character alive in this film. He has multiple quotable phrases, makes me question humanity when he stares too long at zombie strippers, and manages to somehow be a part of this movie longer than reporter girl, guy in church, police dude, and nameless umbrella soldiers. He doesn’t even really tie into the story other than random comic relief moments, and for some reason those moments actually work in this film. Some scenes are creepy and ludicrous, but that makes his character all the more fun to follow around! In a movie struggling to find an actor given proper direction, Mike Epps is trying to make the most of it. Heck a lot of them are trying to make the most of what is given to them, it is just so jumbled and horribly paced that they barely give any character enough time to have their moment in the spotlight if they are even given it at all.
Even with all those negatives I have really warmed up to the character of Alice in this movie and what she entails for the franchise going forward. You can see the action scenes getting better and having a strong female lead doing all the stunts isn’t really that bad either. When it comes down to it I feel more up to seeing if they can make Alice a more convincing character in future films thanks to the over the top discoveries they made in this film about her as an individual. She is infected, but what does that entail? There are so many different paths they could go with this and so many different avenues to make the series more an exciting yet silly action film franchise. Apocalypse showed me that they have little to no idea how to keep up with consistency, like zombies rising from their graves. I mean really? It is a biological virus, how did it reach the corpses in those graves? Questions the film will just leave out like why they dressed Jill Valentine up that way, or what was the point of those Umbrella soldiers? Instead of trying to be something smart or at the very least decent, they fell victim to not caring about the minutia of it all and just creating one giant action set piece disguised as a film. In some ways it is worse as you can never buy into any of the characters they set up making for some bland emotional moments when they let it happen. In some ways I personally feel this is the more entertaining film out of the first two.
Finally let’s talk about one of the biggest elements of the film, Nemesis. The hulking tank of an antagonist with the iconic “STARS!” line to define him. The way the film utilizes Nemesis is actually not half bad. In the beginning he is menacing, packed to the brim with weaponry, and kills a lot of people throughout the film. He is a force to be reckoned with and each action scene he is in is shot in a way that makes the limited movement of the prosthetic seem dynamic in moments. The prosthetic is actually pretty well done and often all practical except for those eye close-ups. I think they handled the presence of Nemesis quite well and gave it even more importance tying it into the story at hand rather than just slapping it in and saying they have Nemesis without giving any effort.
Resident Evil Apocalypse has problems, more than I wish to constantly remind myself of. While I may have enjoyed the spectacle of it all more than the first film’s attempt at a survival horror film, it isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination. The action scenes are more ridiculous and actually well-shot and therefore more entertaining. The characters feel just as bland as last time besides maybe LJ as comic relief. The subplots really don’t matter and aren’t explained well enough to explain why any of the characters do what they do besides Dr. Ashford and his goal to save his daughter and Alice because she has been through it all before. Motivation moves beyond the basic principles of writing! It can be upsetting since the film itself can at times either be so bad it’s good or surprisingly decent in how cheesy it is. It is just hard to connect with characters that lack importance and a script that doesn’t understand who is important until probably the very end but even then it is still ludicrous. Apocalypse let’s itself loose far better than the previous film trying to be scary, and just understands its always only going to be mindless fun and when it can achieve that it is serviceable. The film though has a hard time achieving even that and therefore still just another bad video game adaptation.
I’m starting to suspect a sense of masochism with these films and this whole idea as a whole, but it really comes with the territory. Video Game adaptations are a tough job to do, and while I may criticize the living heck out of WS Anderson I still have to commend him for at least trying. Other films that I will tackle don’t even know the meaning of the word, but at the very least the Resident Evil franchise is entertaining to some degree.
So have you watched Resident Evil Apocalypse? What is a comic relief character in a horror film that you thought elevated the film? Please feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a fantastic day!