More noise than signal

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

Resident Evil. Bad games, worse film. Every bit as shambling as the undead horrors contained therein, saying simply that it wasn’t very good is to miss an opportunity for a lengthy, foul mouthed rant. With writer / director / culprit Paul W. Anderson electing to ruin both the Aliens and Predator franchises in one fell swoop it falls to experienced second unit chappie Alexander Witt to pick up Anderson’s script, and gosh darn it it’s turned out better than we’d any right to hope for.

Which isn’t exactly the same as saying it’s good, we hasten to add. The basic plot bears some familiarity with the game’s canon, but lets not get hung up with comparisons otherwise we’ll be bemoaning the fact everyone can turn around in a space of time less than thirty seconds. If you haven’t blocked out the trauma of the first debacle, you may remember our heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) mysteriously awaking in a medical facility in a seemingly deserted city after her capture on escaping the evil Umbrella Corp’s Hive research facility. As the opening montage shows, everyone is rather sensibly hotfooting it out of town, stopped only by Umbrella’s border virus checkers.

Once it becomes apparent that the bug has hit the city limits the borders are closed, leaving Raccoon City P.D.’s finest Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) trapped and somewhat pissed. Also perturbed is top science chap Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris), who’s safely outside but whose daughter Angie (Sophie Vavasseur) isn’t. Hacking some systems he contacts Alice and Valentine to make them an offer they’ve little choice but to accept- save Angie from becoming a zombie snack and the good doctor will save them. He makes the same offer to a small squad of disgruntled ex-Umbrella Corp soldiers headed by Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), somewhat annoyed at the casual fashion their employers have abandoned them in the doomed city.

To add some spice to proceedings the Umbrella Corp have decided to use the disaster stricken city as a test bed for their latest addition to the bio-weapon canon in the monstrous shape of the Nemesis project, a hulking, mini-gun wielding, rocket launching behemoth under the control of those nasty corporation fellas and the ominously named Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann). Nemesis seems something of an impersonal name and may cause the unwary to confuse him with a Star Trek film, so I chose to think of him as Colin Nemesis (Matthew G. Taylor, under 90% of the worlds prosthetics supply). Tasked with tracking down and destroying any surviving S.T.A.R.S. members (the Resi Evil series elite cop unit, for the uninitiated) he stumbles across Jill and the more tantalising adversary of the augmented Alice.

The plot, as ever in this kind of fare is of tangential import to the main cause of the film, that being hot zombie action. Action, because for the most part Apocalypse has dispensed with the first flicks tiresome pretense at being scary in favour of a more bullets ‘n’ kung fu approach. This might bring The House of the Dead to mind, which we apologise profusely for but Apocalypse isn’t quite as soul-crushingly awful as that slice of nastiness. The only vestige of archetypical horror movie behaviour lies in some of the characters vastly daft behaviour, a personal favourite being the brief stop for a discussion about life, the universe and everything in the middle of a graveyard. In a city where the dead are rising and chowing down on the living. You won’t need us to point out the flaw in this scheme.

The action scenes are directed by Will as though he was directing a nu-metal video, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. While the same use of zany camera angles and neverending jump cuts ruined Cradle 2 the Grave, that’s mainly because that had the incomparable Jet Li doing the kicking of the ass. Without a lifetime’s training behind them Milla Jovovovovoich and Sienna Guillory aren’t going to be able to compare, and the more distracting camera techniques hide this rather well. With both Alice and Colin having all sorts of whacky superhuman abilities we’re back on the old CG stunt people tip for a few scenes (thankfully very few), and I’m not going to retread that rant. Apocalypse is by no means the worst offender, and it’s certainly leagues ahead of the piss-poor CG Tyrant at the end of the first film.

While the storyline won’t win any awards, everything is competently handled, pacily..er, paced and there’s even a few mildly amusing oneliners along the way. For this scrivener at least there’s no single thing that I can point to and declaim this a bad film because of features X, Y or Z. The main enjoyment hamperer stems from zombie fatigue, if there is such a concept. Between the recent releases of Dawn, Shaun and House of the Dead, there’s only so much hot zombie action a boy can stomach and we’re rapidly approaching it.

Gorehounds would be advised to note the rating of this flick and tone down any expectations of explicit zombie chowdowns accordingly, in fact Witt uses the rather more effective technique of showing very few close shots of any of the evil beasties bar Colin Nemesis. This is actually preferable to my mind, it happily filling in the details in a manner that seems far more real than a close up of a geezer in grey facepaint.

It seems harsh to effectively enjoy a film less because of other films in the genre, but them’s the breaks I suppose. Never claimed this reviewing lark was an exact science. It’s probably a decent enough film (in a brainless, silly sort of way but I’m making the assumption that no-one’s going to be seeing a zombie based film for cerebral kicks) to earn itself three snowflakes on a happier, shinier day but this cookie’s just about crumbled.

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