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Resident Evil: Apocalypse

One must approach a film like Resident Evil: Apocalypse with a certain sense of irony, and a willingness to throw all logic, even zombie logic, out the window. The irony here is resident in the film’s origins specifically. Being the second adaptation from the popular Capcom video game franchise, Apocalypse looks and feels more like a video game than any of its Nintendo or Playstation predecessors. This isn’t a compliment.

The appeal behind the Resident Evil franchise stems from its slow budding storyline, perverse scientific experiments gone awry, and the sense of chilly isolation mixed with investigative discovery. Oh yes, and the fact that you get to blow zombie heads to smithereens.

Granted, they are video games, and the cut scenes are notorious for their stilted dialogue and cheesy demeanor. But they are still wrapped up in a package that feels more organic than anything present in Apocalypse. Unfortunately for moviegoers, the crew responsible for the film couldn’t corral enough of these aspects onto 35 millimeter to fill the entire ninety-four minute runtime.

The sequel picks up where the first installment left off. Milla Jovavich’s Alice recounts the events leading up to her rescue by bio-suit clad employees of the Umbrella Corporation, her former employers and the culprits behind the T-Virus, which in turn is responsible for the whole “zombie issue.” What follows is a pastiche of video game inferences consisting of references to “The Nemesis Project,” the introduction of Jill Valentine, and a layout to events surrounding an outbreak in Raccoon City.

Throughout this sequence, poor writing is quickly sutured and dressed with CGI bandages. Set pieces are redundantly labeled with on-screen tags as ardently overstated as “the only entrance to Raccoon City” when a bridge, which never factors into the plot later on, makes its first appearance.

Valentine, played deftly by Sienna Guillory, should be the real focus here. She was sorely missed in the first installment of the series, replaced instead by Jovavich’s Alice, a character created specifically for the film installments of the series. Guillory plays Jill the way the whole film should have referenced its game console origins. During her patrol of a seemingly abandoned church, we are finally dropped into look and feel that should have been present the whole time.

It is apparent that Guillory studied her video game counterpart’s movements and mannerisms, and it works perfectly here. Her early sequences are the most rewarding throughout the film.

This approach is quickly abandoned with Alice’s re-emergence. In what seems to be direct reference to 28 Days Later, but was the ending of the first film, she awakens in an abandoned hospital, ripping I.V.’s and tubing from her body. She stumbles into the street and is framed by a newspaper exclaiming “The Dead Walk” in homage to Day of the Dead.

Everything about Alice is overstated throughout the film. She is reduced to a walking movie cliché, recalling Ripley from the Alien franchise at times, and Nikita by way of Point of No Return at others.

The church sequence is quickly sullied with the arrival of bloody CG toad monsters with whip-like tongues. Alice, with no apparent motive or reasoning, crashes through a stained glass window on a motorcycle and assumes the role of Neo to dispatch of her enemies. The whole thing is yawn inducing.

It was, however, amusing to hear Jill question Alice, “Who the hell are you?” When the film takes this approach, it seems to shine momentarily through all of the murkiness.

In another sequence of intended self-reference, L.J. (played by Mike Epps) is racing down the street in his Cadillac. He sees a zombie in the middle of the road and slams on the gas yelling “GTA mother F-er!!” It’s silly, but it works.

When a plot finally emerges, it turns out to be nothing more than the typical “rescue for hire” type scenario. One of the T-Virus creators, the one “with a heart,” anxiously awaits being reunited with his daughter, who is trapped inside the quarantined Raccoon City. He monitors all activity from his laptop, with which he hacked the main system using a prompt titled “c:hack_search\.”

He contacts Alice and company to act as his couriers. The logistics alone in setting up enough cameras to allow the type of coverage he has access to is not even worth dwelling on. Instead, just laugh and try to suspend disbelief.

An evil super monster is released to counter Jovavich’s super-Alice, and this is of course the result of the Nemesis Project. Nemesis has no real powers other than the ability to wield heavy artillery and moan loudly. He is essentially ED-20Nemesis.

The film boils down to a multiple ending conundrum apparent in most troubled video game tie ins. A Mortal Kombat-esque sequence between Alice and Nemesis, then multiple explosions provide the prerequisite climactic titillation.

Was the film terrible? In some ways, yes. Was it enjoyable? At times.

Altogether Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a formidable step up from the first installment, but nowhere near as enjoyable as its game console beginnings.


Mario Anima

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