I have to be honest and say I don't know much about the Resident Evil games after Codename: Veronica, but, from what I recall, I used to spend a great deal of time walking around mansions shooting at zombies, dodging half-eaten Doberman pinschers, and cursing out loud every time something shattered a window or fell from the ceiling upon me. As much as it frustrated me, I loved that first game, and, as I said in my review of Resident Evil, it will always have a place in my heart. Still, while I’d love to see where the series has gone since, I neither have the patience or the dexterity to program my alarm clock, these days, let alone master the impossibly complex looking controllers for the latest game systems. Now, years later, and after a whole bunch of sequels, side-games, and retoolings, the Resident Evil world has matured into a full-fledged universe, full of complex characters, crazy creatures, and all manner of supernatural hoodoo.
So, with this in mind, I sat down and watched Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the second film based on Capcom’s popular series. I found the first Resident Evil film to be a bit tame for a horror flick, and a bit silly for a serious action flick, but there were a few solid scares, and star Milla Jovovich looked like she was having a hell of a lot of fun. She really embodied the character of Alice, the amnesiac agent whose ferocious fighting skills and killer instinct helped to guide her out of the bowels of a lab teaming with undead hordes and all manner of nasty critters. I also rather liked the apocalyptic ending of the first film, and, fittingly, Resident Evil: Apocalypse opens where that one left off.
Raccoon City has been designated a biohazard area as the virus from the first film has now spilled over into the city’s streets, infecting the population, and forcing the Umbrella Corporation to quarantine the area in an effort to cover up their nefarious doings. Trapped behind the walls of the city, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Oliveira (The Mummy's Oded Fehr) and Alice must work together to locate the daughter of an Umbrella scientist who promises them an avenue of escape if they safely return her to him. Meanwhile, another Umbrella scientist opts to use the situation to test two of his latest experiments; the hulking killing machine known as Nemesis, and Alice, herself.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse was clearly made for fans of the games, as it features several characters and situations that, I am told, are directly lifted from the plots of the various game sequels, thus making it a very faithful adaptation. So, as far as I can tell, Resident Evil fans will find much to love here. However, as someone who knows next to nothing about the other games in the series (save for the second one, in which I was constantly running out of ammo), I was a bit confused and underwhelmed by it all.
Much like the first film, Apocalypse is more of a Matrix-style action flick than a horror film. Sure, there are zombies, fast-moving reptilian creatures, and the rather horrific looking Nemesis, but nothing about them is particularly scary, and they’re usually just fodder for various kung-fu techniques and high-tech weapons fire, with Jovovich, in particular, wiping out enemies en masse with a slew of dizzying gravity defying martial arts moves. This is all very impressive, at first, but grows nearly as tiresome as the film's trite dialogue by the time Apocalypse lumbers toward its somewhat silly, sequel-ready conclusion.
Still, I didn’t entirely dislike Resident Evil: Apocalypse, as it had the same sort of comic book whimsy that made the first film so entertaining, albeit in a lighter-than-air sort of way. It’s the sort of popcorn chomping entertainment that seeps out of one’s memory like water through a sieve, but that’s not always such a bad thing (see The Rock, or, for that matter, any of Michael Bay’s films). I also appreciated the film’s grrrrl power, with Jovovich and the charming Guillory proving to be two of the loveliest lethal weapons to grace the screen.
Sony releases Resident Evil: Apocalypse in a 2 disc set loaded with special features, including several featurettes, three commentary tracks, twenty (!) deleted scenes, outtakes, stills galleries, and lots more. It’s a lot of stuff that will keep hardcore fans entertained for hours.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse won’t win any awards (unless there’s one for “most panty shots whilst kicking zombies”), but it’s a harmless and mildly charming diversion that manages to put a smile on the face while putting minimal strain on the brain.