A lot seems to happen within the confines of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, but you’d be hardpressed to figure out what. As loud music videos in the guise of movies go, “Apocalypse” is pure popcorn, wallowing happily in its ability to be completely lacking in anything resembling substance. Not that it matters, mind you. This is not only a movie adapted from a videogame, but it’s a sequel to a movie adapted from a video game. Doubly worst, you say? Well, not necessarily. As vacuous and loud Summer Event films go, “Apocalypse” makes no bones about being nothing more than 90-odd minutes of mindless, frenzied, and wholly incoherent carnage produced on a Hollywood-sized budget.
Having survived her encounters with the undead in the franchise’s previous installment, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is once again in search of answers. This time around she has help from disgraced ex-S.T.A.R.s commando Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). Jill is a super zombie killer dressed in a hot mini-skirt number. A good thing, too, because Raccoon City is being overrun by zombies. Apparently the film’s Super Mega Duper Corporation, the innocuously named Umbrella, runs all of Raccoon, and when the undead surfaces, the unfeeling corporation shuts down the entire city, chalking up its (one presumes) million or so residents as an acceptable loss.
It isn’t long before Alice hooks up with Jill, and the duo, along with newswoman Sandrine Holt and left-for-dead Umbrella commando Oded Fehr, has to battle their way through the city, which is scheduled for nuclear demolition at sunset. Their goal: locate young Angie Ashford (Sophie Vavasseur), the daughter of an Umbrella scientist who is secretly coordinating his daughter’s rescue from outside the infected city. Angie, we come to learn, was the inspiration for the computer simulation in the first “Resident Evil”. And to make matters worst, a big ugly guy with staples in his face, and lugging around a rocket launcher and a mini-gun, named Nemesis has been set loose in the city. His mission: kill Alice!
If it sounds as if “Apocalypse” is hard to follow, don’t get your hopes up. It’s a cartoonish film, plotted with videogame simplicity by Paul Anderson, who helmed the original but has handed over the directing chores to long-time second banana Alexander Witt. And apparently Witt isn’t very interested in making a good movie, being that his primary concern seems to be making everything onscreen as incomprehensible, jumbled, and incoherent as possible. Nice work, Alex. I couldn’t tell what was happening half of the time.
Not surprisingly, action scenes consist of ear shattering gunfire and blurring bodyparts. Most notable (or, to be more accurate, most unnoticeable) are the hand-to-hand fights where our awesome female duo smacks the living dead around with great panache. Mind you, not that you could tell what the hell they were doing; basically they move around a lot, whirling and grunting, and then zombies just fall down. And get this: apparently being undead doesn’t necessarily negate these zombies from getting their necks snapped and thus killed for good. Go figure. And here I thought losing the usage of some vertebrae wouldn’t really, you know, do much to stop someone who was already undead. Then again, maybe I’m just thinking too hard.
In any case, “Apocalypse” does earn some brownie points from the script’s uncanny ability to shuffle its one-dimensional characters from one videogame-inspired set piece to another. And true to his self-confessed love for the original video games that inspired the franchise, scriptwriter Anderson adapts a lot of the second Resident Evil videogame’s scenarios into the film. The church, the dark basement, the police station, a bus in the middle of the street, and even a cemetery make appearances. For gamers, “Apocalypse” definitely has more of the “adaptation” feel than even the original.
Then again, in the hands of a better director, the mentioned set pieces wouldn’t just last 5 minutes and be filled with frenzied gunfire and indistinguishable action — essentially “Wham, bam, what the hell just happened, ma’am?” A better director would have drawn out the battle with the zombie dogs, for instance. A better director would have gotten more out of Jill Valentine (who, it should be noted, is played perfectly by Sienna Guillory, right down to the uniform and the crouching movements) as she navigates the various dark hallways and rooms.
And of course it needs to be said that having both Alice and Jill was a major blunder. The result? The film struggled to find something for each woman to do. In the end, Alice got to engage in a hand-to-hand fistfight with Nemesis (I kid you not) while Jill is relegated to hostage duty. In what should be considered dubious recognition, at least Paul Anderson seems just as unconcern with dragging out the film’s set-up. The movie hits its stride without a single wasted filler scene, and for that we can all be thankful. It is just a zombie film, after all. Joseph Campbell and his mythical “character arcs” needn’t make appearances.
Alexander Witt (director) / Paul W.S. Anderson (screenplay)
CAST: Milla Jovovich …. Alice
Sienna Guillory …. Jill Valentine
Oded Fehr …. Carlos Olivera
Thomas Kretschmann …. Major Cain
Sophie Vavasseur …. Angie Ashford
Sandrine Holt …. Terri Morales