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Resident Evil Apocalypse
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Alexander Witt (director) & Paul W. S. Anderson (screenwriter)
Genre:   Action / horror
Released:   September 10, 2004
Review Date:   September 19, 2004
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

"What if he's watching us on those cameras, like this is some sort of game?" — Jill Valentine, halfway through the movie.

I'm a zombie fanboy. I will watch just about any flick with zombies in it, no matter how bad. So it should come as no surprise that I'm a fan of the Resident Evil PlayStation games. I love the first two; have two Lickers and a Nemesis figure on my computer desk and the Resident Evil sticker that came with the Nemesis on my monitor. Keep all this in mind as you read further.

I really liked the first Resident Evil movie. It wasn't a great film, but it was very enjoyable. It had cool music, cool effects, lots of zombies, a few "real" shock moments, a few scant peeks of nudity and a stand-out performance by Michelle Rodriguez as Rain. The main problem was that as a zombie film, it was pretty bloodless.

There are a few bites and icky creatures, but the zombies really didn't tear into anyone. The new Dawn of the Dead was a lot bloodier. It was really frustrating because Resident Evil was an R-rated movie, so it's not like they had to preserve their PG-13 and had to hold back. You're doing a zombie movie, go all out!

This movie is a bit more of the same. And that's its biggest problem. We have a few bits of "more" in places. More zombies. More action. More complex stunts. But once again, it's pretty bloodless for a zombie flick. Most of the deaths happen just after a quick cut away, then a shot of the aftermath a few moments later. The film is an R mainly for nudity and kung fu or gun violence. I don't know, maybe the original Dawn ruined me, but I want my zombies to really CHEW on people.

Plot-wise, the movie is a mixed bag. Paul W. S. Anderson wrote the script for this one and the first one, but this time he was too busy with Alien vs. Predator to direct. The film is much more "video game"-based than the first one was, to its detriment.

As you watch, you can practically see the "LOADING — PLEASE WAIT" between scenes. Thoughts like "OK, in this level I have to cross the bridge, watch the cut scene, then fight the Nemesis," leap to mind as the action unfolds.

The story picks up around the end of the first film with a decent recap sequence, where it's explained how the evil Umbrella (boo! hiss!) Corporation was testing bio-weapons in a secret lab under Raccoon City.

Of course things go Horribly Wrong, and the T-Virus, which makes zombies, is unleashed, turning the helpless workers into a horde o' zombies. Now the facility has been re-opened and the virus has spread into the city, which is promptly overrun by the zombie hordes.

After that recap, we're introduced to our leads Alice (Milla "Big ba-da-BOOM" Jovovich), who survived the first film but is now not all together human; police officer Jill Valentine (Sienna "sexy gal with a gun" Guillory); and Umbrella Spec-Op Carlos Olivera (Oded "best thing in the Mummy movies" Fehr).

They and a gaggle of mostly disposable side characters (most of whom you know are destined to be Zombie Chow when you see them) are trying to make their way out of the city before Umbrella "sanitizes" the city.

The standout side character is Mike Epps as LJ, a street-smart, small-time cook. He's well played, for what's really just a 1970s-style urban caricature. I expected him to punctuate every other line with "honky," but he's fun.

Meanwhile evil Umbrella scientist Dr. Isaacs (Iain "I was bad in Tomb Raider" Glen) decides this is the perfect time to test the Nemesis program and sics said monster on our team. So there is lots of running, shooting, kung fu and other such action scenes.

Resident Evil 2 is definitely more of an action flick than a horror movie; it's just got zombies instead of car chases. The main problem is that the direction of the fight scenes is jumbled with lots of quick cuts, jerky filming, and weird blurry slo-mo at times, which makes some of the action hard to follow.

After Spider-Man 2, which had frantic but clear fights between Doc Ock and Spidey, I'm getting spoiled. The rest of the direction is nicely done, but then Witt has worked for both Ridley Scott and Gore Verbinski, so he's bound to have picked up a few good pointers.

The effects and makeup are nicely done, but most of the movie takes place at night in a city without power, so that darkness covers a lot of errors. The Nemesis, however, is just about perfect. It's like someone blew up the figure on my desktop to full size and set it loose. My kudos to the makeup team for the work they did on him. The zombies are also well done, and the cool zombie dogs return as do the Lickers via CG, but only in one scene.

There are a few standout scenes: the Umbrella Spec-Ops and cops' last stand against the zombie horde; watching Alice beat up zombies and goons; Oded rappeling down from a chopper with two guns blazing to try and save a woman in distress; any scene with the Nemesis, and the gaggles of zombies, especially in the school.

We have even more nudity in this film, provided by some undead strippers and Milla, who is once again naked at the end of the movie. Milla being nude at the end of Resident Evil films might be a theme for her in these flicks, we'll know for sure when the third one comes out. And since in three days this one grossed more than its budget, you know there will be a third one.

Overall, Resident Evil 2 is decent but it doesn't put in enough effort to be great. It just coasts into average. If they had gone all-out with the zombies, I'd rate it higher; I still don't understand why they hold back on the zombie action. The unclear fights, jumpy plot, lack of real zombie carnage and thumbnail characters really hold it back.

Contributing writer Gary Mitchel survived the first film but is now not altogether human.

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