If Judge Patrick Naugle doesn't like a zombie movie, you know there's something seriously wrong with it.
My name is Alice and I remember everything.
2002's video game movie adaptation Resident Evil ended up being a surprise smash hit for Sony, though it didn't quite negate Touchstone's Super Mario Bros.. Either way, Resident Evil was devoured by moviegoers, even as critics mercilessly panned it. In the fall of 2004, Resident Evil: Apocalypse invaded theaters to eat up more consumer dollars with original star Milla Jovovich returning once again to battle the forces of the undead and the vile Umbrella Corporation. Resident Evil: Apocalypse makes its DVD debut in a two-disc special edition that is sure to make your ears bleed and your head explode.
Facts of the Case
In the first Resident Evil film, a secret underground facility known as "The Hive," owned by the evil Umbrella Corporation ("Our Business Is Life Itself") and located in Raccoon City, was the site of a viral disaster that turned everyone into raving, flesh craving zombies. An elite team of soldiers was dispatched to do some major clean-up work. They found themselves battling for their lives against the army of the dead as they tried to escape to freedom. All of them died except amnesiac Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element) and Matt (Eric Mabius, Cruel Intentions), whom was taken into something called the "Nemesis Program" at the end of the film.
Now the Umbrella Corporation wants to reopen "The Hive," and when they do the viral infection once again escapes, this time leveling Raccoon City with thousands of zombies ready to snack on anyone or anything that wanders into their path. When the city is quarantined, the population quickly dwindles, leaving only a handful of survivors, including holdover Alice (Jovovich), feisty policewoman Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), SWAT specialist Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, The Mummy Returns), news reporter Angie Ashford (Sophie Vavasseur), and a few other folks who will inevitably become zombie meal tickets. Alice and her crew get a chance at getting out when a top scientist, wheelchair bound Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, Lost in Space), requests their help in finding his young daughter in exchange for a helicopter ride out of Raccoon City before it's nuked and obliterated. But Alice will have to first get through the sinister minions of the Umbrella Corporation and a new, powerful enemy that she's personally linked to: Matt, who has now become the monstrous war machine "Nemesis."
Do you ever wonder why some movies get made? I mean, really—let's stop and think what the reasoning is for a certain screenplay to be committed to celluloid. Maybe it's because the makers felt it would instill laughter, tears, gasps, or joy. Or, in the case of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, maybe it was made to bring in large chunks of money, and little else.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a true cash-in, a movie that doesn't have anything to new to say about the zombie genre. The first Resident Evil is by no means a masterpiece, but at least it's mildly entertaining in a "leave your brain in a paper bag at the door and light it on fire" kind of way. This soulless follow-up makes the cardinal mistake of taking its characters and dumping them into a flaccid story that has already been told and retold countless times in movies, especially in the original Resident Evil. So why make a sequel? Well, duh—if it makes a quick buck, do you need any other reason?
I would argue that, yes, you do need another reason. Resident Evil: Apocalypse has all the necessary components for a zombie movie (Blood? Check. Gore? Check. Dismembered, flailing limbs? Check.), but doesn't really do anything with them. George A. Romero—the granddaddy and still unqualified master of the zombie movie—always knew that, in a sequel, to keep the viewer's interests, there should be a solid reason why the zombies exist. In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the shuffling, moaning dead have no reason to be there except the makers wanted zombies—otherwise, this story could have been told sans faces falling off.
Back again is Milla Jovovich as Alice, a woman who is long on slapping around the undead and short on emoting. Jovovich (girlfriend of the film's screenwriter/producer, original Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson) spends most of the film looking into the camera with a blank stare with cuts on her face, allowing flashbacks from the original film to tell her story instead of her character. This time around she's joined by Sienna Guillory (Love Actually) who, if you can believe it, has even less to do acting-wise than Jovovich. Both women occupy the film for only two reason: 1.) perform such maneuvers as drop kicks, karate chops, and elbow smashes to zombies and 2.) look really, really hot in their skimpy outfits (apparently, policewomen in Raccoon City shop Fredrick's of Hollywood for their outfits). The women succeed on both levels, but is that really such a good thing? A few men are thrown into the mix, including The Mummy's Oded Fehr and A Christmas Story's Zack Ward (Scott Farkus!), but it matters little—this is the women's show all the way. Fehr seems to spend most of his time standing in the background, gun in hand and waiting for his next cue from the ladies to take down a zombie.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a movie where there is a lot going on, yet very little to engage your brain. Zombie heads explode, bullets whiz past the viewer, and explosions detonate left and right. But it all amounts to very little when you feel like you're just sitting through an hour and a half of what could just as easily be some effects company's demo reel. Paul W.S. Anderson gets two separate lashings: one for starting this whole mess by directing the first film, and another for continuing it by writing this movie into being.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Once again, Sony has come through with a sparkling, crystal clear transfer. The colors (lots of blues and blacks) are all in fine shape without any edge enhancement or digital artifacting to mar the image. In fact, I honestly couldn't find any flaws with this transfer—the fact is that while Resident Evil: Apocalypse may not be a very good movie, the transfer is excellent. Also included on this disc is a full frame presentation of the film, though it's not recommended.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video transfer, this soundtrack is in great shape. The mix is often filled with dozens of surround sounds through both the front and rear speakers. Zombies moan, helicopters crash, and bullets whiz by the viewer's head with frightening precision. In other words, this is a great demo disc if you have a home theater surround sound system. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
For whatever the reason, Sony has decided that Resident Evil: Apocalypse needed an extra big "special edition" two-disc DVD set. Here's a rundown of what you get:
Aside of the movie in both full and widescreen, three commentary tracks are included on this disc: the first is with director Alexander Witt, producer Jeremy Bolt and executive producer Robert Kulzer; the second features actors Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, and Sienna Guillory; and the third is with writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson and Bolt. None of these commentary tracks is especially enlightening, because the film itself isn't very engaging. The best of the tracks is the first, since it covers a bit of ground on the production and challenges of making a film featuring explosions, zombies, and bullets. The cast commentary provides viewers with a very annoying, bubble-headed Jovovich prattling on endlessly about various stories and anecdotes (including one about her widdle pookie wookie doggie, as if we really care). The last commentary with Anderson and Bolt is pretty flaccid. The two discuss their thoughts about the screenplay, which is nearly non-existent. And the reason this film needed a grand total of three commentary tracks is…?
Starting off this disc is a nearly 50-minute long featurette/documentary titled "Game Over: Reanimating Resident Evil: Apocalypse." There are six parts to this feature: "Game Plan," "Running, Jumping, Fighting," "Zombie Choreography," "Building Raccoon City," "Big Guns," and "Smoke and Mirrors." These featurettes covers everything from the casting, script, zombie extras, special effects, fight choreography, and monster make-up effects. When push comes to shove, this feature is really just a long promotional piece for the film. There are a lot of talking head interviews here, including actors Jovovich, Guillory, Fehr, Zack Ward, director Witt, and producer Jeremy Bolt, among others.
Three other featurettes ("Game Babes," Symphony of Evil," and "Corporate Malfeasance") take a look at, in no particular order, the hot sexy women of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Jovovich and Guillory), some of the special effects in the film, and the scary idea of a single corporate entity taking over the nation (ala the Umbrella Corporation). Much like the 50-minute feature, these featurettes feel like typical promotional fluff.
Finally there are 20 deleted scenes (most of which last only mere seconds) that, if included, wouldn't have made a lick of difference in the quality of the final film, a gag reel of the actors blowing and flubbing their lines, a small gallery of posters from an online submission contest, and trailers for Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil, Underworld, The Forgotten, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Grudge, House of Flying Daggers, and The Fifth Element.
To tread a very well worn cliché: Resident Evil: Apocalypse is long on style and short on substance. It's entertaining enough for a little while, but soon grows repetitive and banal. Maybe they should just bury this franchise once and for all. Sony's work on this set, on the other hand, is pretty good—a great transfer, great soundtrack, and a decent amount of supplements should keep rabid fans satisfied for a while.
R.E.: Apocalypse may be just that for the zombie genre.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track with Director Alexander Witt, Producer Jeremy Bolt and Executive producer Robert Kulzer
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.