The underground headquarters for the Umbrella Corporation (known as “The Hive”) has been opened, allowing a deadly zombie virus to spread to the citizens of nearby Raccoon City. As the population slowly succumbs to the plague, and evil Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann, “The Pianist”) orders the city sealed, a group of survivors, lead by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, “The Time Machine”), try to find a way around the zombie-infested city streets to safety. Help comes in the form of Alice, (Milla Jovovich), one of two survivors of the Hive massacre who was given superpowers by Umbrella without her consent. Looking for a way out of Raccoon City, the team is trailed by Umbrella’s ultimate weapon: an 8-foot, bazooka-toting, lipless monster known as the “Nemesis.”
“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” makes me wish I didn’t shower the original film with faint praise. An unexpected horror treat back in 2002, noted hack Paul W.S. Anderson (who scripts the sequel) seemed to know just what he had with the “Resident Evil” video game franchise, and fashioned a decent film out of an empty gaming experience. “Evil” had style, pace, and a wonderful kicker of an ending that promised a wider scope and evil streak for the follow-up.
That promise was not kept.
“Apocalypse” was helmed by longtime second unit director Alexander Witt, who is making his feature filmmaking debut with this sequel. As a former stunt director, Witt knows two things: how to blow up buildings and shatter glass. “Apocalypse” features both these elements, and sometimes, if the audience is really, really good, he will shatter some glass while blowing up a building. “Evil” had a constrained setting in the claustrophobic Hive, so Anderson was careful and exact with his action set pieces. Witt has the entire Raccoon City to play with, but elects to keep his action tightly photographed (extremely annoying) and limited in imagination. “Apocalypse” misses the crucial opportunity to crank this franchise up to full blast, instead rehashing old bits (the infected dogs are back), replacing zombies with an Umbrella suit as the bad guy (where are the scares therer), and spending way too much time setting up another sequel without tending to the problems that are clearly at hand.
There are some ideas of Anderson’s that Witt does manage to sell correctly, including Alice’s new superhero powers, which culminates in a bravo sequence where she literally runs down the front of a skyscraper to tag some baddies on the ground floor. Jovovich accomplishes what she can in “Apocalypse,” but whatever entertaining tough guy skills the character has for this continuation, Witt obliterates with rapid-fire editing and a disturbing adoration for deafening “boo!” scares, which slowly consume this entire production like a cancer.
“Apocalypse” is much more of an action movie than the original film, with plentiful amounts of gunfire, martial arts, and an obvious pandering to the urban audience with the awkward inclusion of comedian Mike Epps for no good reason. Epps seems about as comfortable and confident here as Richard Pryor would be if he co-starred in “A Room with a View.”
Whether or not there was charms found in Anderson’s “Evil” is certainly up for debate. I enjoyed how he approached the material, and tried to create something mysterious and absurd at the same time. If you can believe it, Witt can’t even match Anderson’s tremendously limited range, and uses “Apocalypse” as his calling card for a future career that should never come to fruition at any costs. I immediately regret writing this, but I missed Anderson’s touch, and he could be counted on, at the very least, to explain why the Jill Valentine character would willingly elect to go hunting for zombies wearing a blue tube top and miniskirt.Rating: D