Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Rating: **
Release Date: 9/10/04
Director: Alexander Witt
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr

Taking place right where "Resident Evil" (2002) left off, Alice (stunning Milla Jovovich) arms herself in preparation for dealing with a zombie infested Raccoon City. The entire city has been sealed off and quarantined by the sinister Umbrella Corporation, which intends to clean up their mess by nuking the city. In addition to Alice, STARS officer Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Umbrella security officer Carlos Olivera (sexy Oded Fehr) are also trying to escape the doomed and dangerous town. Fortunately, they've got help from the outside in the guise of Dr. Ashford, who wants the group to rescue his daughter Angela before sunrise. As if a town full of shuffling undead wasn't bad enough, Umbrella decides to use the situation as a training exercise for their latest bioweapon, Nemesis. Eventually, Alice and Nemesis face off and our heroes make a desperate flight for safety.

Ugh. How depressing it is to see a potentially good film crushed in the hands of incompetence. While the characters aren't as annoying as they were in "Resident Evil," the writing is atrocious and the cinematography and editing are appalling. The two most inexcusable aspects of the film are the zombie scenes and the action scenes, which are unfortunately also the most important aspects of the film. Whenever any zombies show up, they're filmed in dropped frame blur vision, which is what people use when they don't want you to actually see what's going on. Just terrible. These are also not your standard shuffling undead, and certainly not the kind you see in the video games. These zombies appear to be just regular folks trying to find their way to the nearest coffee joint - the kind of people you see every day on the way to work. The only real threat they offer is in their shear numbers. You can almost hear them saying "get out of my way, I want my Starbuck's NOW!" Starbuck's, brains, what difference does it make? But by far the most egregious offense is in the action scenes, which are downright painful to watch. Once again, we have some very talented players who appear like they just might be doing something very cool, but you can't tell because the camera is in their face and jumping around, and the cuts are pointlessly quick. Is Alice fighting Nemesis, or am I watching the spin cycle of someone's laundry? The action scenes are such a chaotic mess that you really can't tell. It's even more frustrating because Milla is so capable and all you ever get to see is glimpses of implied brilliance. Such wasted talent is the real horror in this otherwise horror-free film. The final humiliation is that I watched "Princess Of Thieves" (2001) later that evening, and realized that the fight scenes in a made for television Disney film were assembled better and were more entertaining than those in "Apocalypse." Here's my desperate plea to all filmmakers out there. PLEASE! If you're going to film people fighting, then film people fighting. Shoot long and wide, use smooth tracking shots that anticipate and follow the flow of the action, when you shoot close make sure you focus on something worth looking at, and use slow motion to capture and emphasize physically important events. Don't film the stuff that's going on around them, don't cut away from every single blow, and don't assemble it in a Cuisinart. What's the point if you can't see what the characters are doing and feeling? There's no emotion, no tension, no skill, and no energy in modern action scenes these days, just chaos and noise. More and more, editors are making films that detract from the action instead of enhancing it, and it really pisses me off. Give the people what they want! They're obviously performing it on the set, but the filmmakers are failing to capture it.

Whew! Alright, that's enough of THAT particular rant. For all of the bad things I've said about this film, let's not overlook the good ones. "Apocalypse" does a lot of things right, but it just executes and assembles them all wrong. Fans of the video game series will be delighted with the inclusion of Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera from "Resident Evil 3: Nemesis" (1999). Sienna Guillory does an excellent job as Jill and tears into her role with fierce conviction and determination. She handles a gun quite nicely, and her intensely focussed stare is unarming. You do not want to mess with this woman. Unfortunately, her attitude is way too forced as a result of adolescent and heavy handed writing, but her physical performance is flawless. They even replicated her RE3 outfit perfectly (for better or worse). Oded Fehr breathes some male charisma into the film with his strong and sensitive portrayal of Olivera. And Milla is just awesome all around. She really gets to kick some ass this time around (unless we actually are watching the spin cycle of someone's laundry) and takes no prisoners. She and Sienna make a great pair. Most of Milla's charmingly subtle nuances are replaced by a single menacing glare this time around, but you can still see emotions flickering across her face from time to time. She handles her weapons with deadly authority and performs some excellent (but highly obscured) two-handed swordwork. Fans of the game will also be delighted by the number of details that have been captured and lovingly recreated in the film, like for instance a nearly shot for shot realization of the opening movie in "Code: Veronica" (2000) which made me positively giddy. Unfortunately, the film is assembled so poorly that people who are not familiar with the games will be instantly lost and perpetually confused and annoyed by this movie.