Published on September 13th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Resident Evil: Apocalypse
The prerequisite requirement for any movie based on a video game is that it actually contains references to the source material. The original Resident Evil did this, while setting up a story of its own and introducing new characters. The less fortunate video game movies failed this aspect, which made House of the Dead one of the most unbearable movies in recent memory. I swear that I still have nightmares about seeing that film again. Now, two years after the original’s release, another Resident Evil movie hits the scene basically picking up right where the first left off and successfully bridging the gap between the movie and video game franchises.
For the uninformed, Resident Evil is the multimillion dollar franchise created in the mid-90s and debuting on Sony’s PlayStation. The first game, which was disregarded in the first film adaptation had two teams of specially trained police officers (called S.T.A.R.S.) stumbling upon a mansion deep in the mountains. To make a long story short five members of the team survived only to face a new nightmare soon thereafter. The second and third games in the series, to which the movie references, take place inside Raccoon City where the T-Virus has been unleashed and is turning Raccoon into a city of the dead.
Fresh off of her survival in Resident Evil, Alice (Milla Jovovich) has been captured and experimented on by Umbrella, the evil corporation at the forefront of this outbreak. She will eventually run into Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), and a few other survivors. Also making an appearance from the video game series is Nemesis a Tyrant-class bio-weapon who sports a mean rocket launcher and mini-gun and turns S.T.A.R.S. into mincemeat.
To enjoy Resident Evil: Apocalypse you need to put yourself in the right mind frame. Essentially the game’s installed fan-base makes this movie equally critic-proof while enjoyable only because first week sales will be driven by fans, such as me, who enjoy the series. Sure, the first film, and now the second, isn’t perfect in any way, in fact I can find a lot of things they did wrong, but when I also look at what they did right a smile comes to my face and I want to see it again.
The most obvious change from the first film to the second is the video game references are handed out in droves this time. The most obvious of which, is the appearance of Jill Valentine in nearly a picture-perfect costume and attitude and Nemesis which both come form Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. If you look hard enough, and believe me, I have, you can also find references to every RE game including the amazing intro to Resident Evil CODE: Veronica complete with helicopter chase and shoot-out. Not only will you find RE references, but there are also shout-outs to other video games including Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto which very few people understood, but had me giddy with glee.
First time feature film director Alexander Witt’s direction is stylistic at times, but also hard to follow. Hollywood’s reliance on the “x-treme camera” during fight scenes is fast becoming tiresome as it makes it harder and harder to appreciate fight scenes when all you see is a big blur from frame to frame. When you do actually get to see some fisticuffs they are well worth the wait. Jovovich’s Alice, who sees herself as the enemy should Sony green-light a third film, is fun to watch kicking zombie butt and taking on Nemesis but the “emotional” attachment left over from the first film leaves the climatic fight scene between the two severely muted. The Nemesis isn’t nearly as imposing as you would believe if you have played the game.
Aside form the questionable camerawork, you aren’t getting award-winning cinema here people, and you need to understand that before you enter the theater. This isn’t the Dawn of the Dead remake or 28 Days Later, this is a video game movie come to life, with bits and pieces of game elements mixed in with original movie franchise pieces placed together in a cohesive mix. Sure there are going to be a lot of people who simply don’t understand the film (one look on Rotten Tomatoes can alert you to that fact) but are aware that a majority of them are simply looking at the film from the same perspective we judge Lord of the Rings or the latest art-house sensation. Resident Evil: Apocalypse simply isn’t that type of film, and after the core audience is satisfied the film will fade away from the box office, but those core fans will be pleased in what they saw, and, in the end, that’s all that really matters when it comes to video game movies. Those expecting full mass-market penetration are simply misled. If you have ever enjoyed a Resident Evil game you will enjoy this film, no doubt about it. RE: A is not a good movie in the sense it creates memorable characters and contains a detailed plot, but it is a good movie by staying close to the source material and providing an outlet to fans starving for the next entry in the series debuting early next year, and, in the end, that’s all I was expecting.