Resident Evil: Apocalypse is ready to be devoured by fans of the video game, zombie movies, and fans of both. Does it succeed where the original failed?
In the original Resident Evil movie, Alice (Milla Jovovich) and Matt escaped the underground, zombie-infested halls of "The Hive," a secret research facility for the huge Umbrella Corporation. The experimental T-virus wreaked havoc on Umbrella employees, turning them into flesh munchers. Unfortunately, the powers behind Umbrella had plans for Alice and Matt. Matt was infected, so he was whisked off to who knows where, and Alice woke up an unknown time later, and discovered that above ground, Raccoon City was becoming one big cemetery.
This is all recapped for us in an Alice voiceover as Resident Evil: Apocalypse begins. And that's pretty much all we see of Alice for a while as we flashback a short time to find out how the city streets turned to chaos (I won't give it away). Anyway, the Umbrella Corporation has become the big brother of Raccoon City. All exits from the city have been cut off except one bridge, and Umbrella's army of men are blockading the mad rush so individuals can be inspected before being allowed through to make sure they aren't zombies. But when rioting starts because the zombies begin outnumbering the uninfected, all those who remain in the city are quarantined, and the bridge is walled off.
Now, a mixed bag of individuals must do everything in their power to stay alive. Amongst them, street talking funny man LJ (Mike Epps of the Friday franchise), who packs some heat of his own. Terri (Sandrine Holt) is a reporter determined to keep the digital handheld camera rolling to get her story no matter what. Then there are member of STARS, armed forces who are trying to gain back control of Raccoon City…and who are also moving in on the truth behind Umbrella's mess-up. There's Nicholai (Zack Ward…and if he looks familiar, it's because he was once the yellow-eyed meany Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story), dark and handsome Carlos (Oded Fehr), and tough, tight mini-skirted Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). Just when things get tough for this bunch of fighters, in crashes Alice, who has figured out that she was used as a lab rat while unconscious, and has been injected with a strain of the virus which has given her superhuman powers. And she's going to need to use them to her advantage. As if zombies, devil dogs, and other freaky mutated creatures aren't enough to deal with, Umbrella Corporation has created a bad-assed monster named Nemesis who has one goal—to destroy all STARS members.
Many fans of the game, including myself, were disappointed in how far the original movie strayed from the game. The highlight of this film is that the producers listened and corrected their mistake. We have Raccoon City, lickers, Nemesis, the computer animated version of Jill Valentine brought to life by a dead ringer, Carlos, action and camera angles that feel like the videogame—even boss battles! This movie so fulfilled that void created by the first movie. Upon, rewatching the original, it has grown on me, but I still feel there isn't nearly enough zombie action, and only few moments that recall the game in that film. It did, however, have a nice dark, claustrophobic edge to it.
Apocalypse has pretty much put aside the dark edge for a film as sleek and frenetic as recent zombie outings such as Dawn of the Dead and the crappiest excuse for a zombie movie ever, 28 Days Later. There's plenty of awesome zombie attacking in the first half of the film, a few good out-of-seat-jumping moments, humor that has become a standard rule in modern horror, and hoards of action. Many complain about how "cheesy" the action is, but I would direct those people to the bullet time and wall climbing stunts of some supposedly brilliant movies I will never bother watching, including The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This movie FEELS like a videogame, and carries you along in that manner, and is just plain fun. Of course, it is a movie that is mimicking a video game that originally mimicked movies, which is pretty crazy, because after all those translations, we come to a totally new kind of movie. Nemesis is as persistent (STARS!!!) as in Resident Evil: Nemesis the video game, which is one of my favorite in the series (although not a favorite of many fans of the game). Aside from borrowing key elements of that game, this movie also taps into Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and fans are sure to smile at CG moments practically recreated frame for frame. Yet, this movie also manages to not stick directly to the storyline (having Alice around helps that effort), so it's not like you're simply watching a live action version of the game. Zombie fans be warned, all the zombies and scares were closer to the beginning of the movie (similar to the video games, now that I think about it), and the second half was the transition period into action flick. There were a few plot holes, and some things that sort of annoyed me. For instance, there's a token cemetery scene. Problem with this, which I also had a problem with in the Code Veronica video game, which first introduced the same thing, is that the T-virus kills the living and then re-animates their dead bodies. The T-virus isn't like a nuclear rain shower that brings back the dead who are already in their graves! And also, the movie made the mistake of not ending when it should have. About the last 15 minutes of the movie would have served better as the OPENING of the next movie (and probably will), because it really brought down the level of energy of the movie.
With those few exceptions, Apocalypse is everything I wanted a movie based on my favorite video game to be.
This DVD benefits from being transferred from a new movie. The film is in epic 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image is crystal clear, with no signs of specs, and retains the dark blue tint of its original theatrical presentation. I simply can't complain about this gorgeous visual that is best viewed in progressive scan.
Once again, the theater experience comes home. The 5.1 surround sound is nerve-shattering. Sounds swirl around you in every direction, and the walls in my house nearly came crashing down from the bass response.
For starters, this 2-disc special edition comes in a hot transparent slipcase with Alice painted on it, so that the artwork on the DVD case can show through in the background. The downside, and a foolish decision on the part of the company, was to put all the tiny fonted copy about the disc on the slipcase also—it's practically illegible. Annoying.
Disc 1: The main menu shows a single clip from the movie over and over again. Scene selection offers 28 chapters. The single-sided disc allows you to choose from widescreen or full screen, and the only subtitle option is English. There are 2 previews on this disc (guess they had extra room to spare, because there are a bunch more on Disc 2). Next, we get THREE options for commentaries. And this is the breakdown:
Commentary with the director, producer, and executive producer—the guys do a lot of talking about the first film, how they wanted this one to be different, how they wanted to introduce the videogame characters for the gamers, and explain why the first film was a "prequel" to the first game. Hm… Anyway, this commentary is kind of dry.
Commentary with Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, and Sienna Guillory—if I'm not mistaken, Sienna recorded her commentary separately, and with some editing, the two commentaries have been spliced together to fill the whole movie with talk. Either that, or she didn't talk to either of the other actors at all during the recording. Sienna's commentary rocked. It is clear that she wanted Jill Valentine the character to live up to gamers' expectations. She did her homework. As for Milla and Oded, I couldn't bare it. Milla sounded like a smart-assed commentator through the entire thing, as if she were mocking the film instead of appreciating it. She laughed continuously, and was probably hanging flirtatiously all over Oded, because he just played along with her. What a waste.
Commentary with the writer-producer and the producer (again)—this is the better commentary of the two from the non-cast perspective. Paul W.S. Anderson, the man who directed the first film, wrote the screenplay for the second film. He discusses game vs. movie and also compares this film to other zombie movies.
Now onto Disc 2. Here's the rundown of this packed collection of extras:
Deleted Scenes—really not much worthwhile, although there are a bunch of them. I guess it was felt they'd slow down the action, because most of it was character development. There were a couple of scenes I wish they would have left in.
Outtakes—some funny clips of the cast goofing off during filming.
Poster gallery—Still shots of art entries from contestants in a contest for the movie poster.
Previews—7 previews PLUS the RE:A movie trailer and the teaser which once floated around the net that was like a commercial for cosmetics made by Umbrella.
Game over: RE Reanimated—This is an awesome 50-minute documentary on making the film by cast and crew. Milla was much more focused and enthusiastic about the film in this documentary. Wish she could have been the same for the commentary. I was particularly excited to see Nemesis out of his costume—to find out he was stuntman/actor Matt Taylor, who played a monstrous muscular hunk of a man on an episode of Queer as Folk several years back. Ah, the things documentaries teach us.
Featurettes—three short smaller documentaries with cast & crew again. One is about the action flick chicks in the film, one is just a visual montage of special effects used in the movie, and the final one is cast and crew talking about the concept of Umbrella as a symbol of big time corporations.
Finally, unless it's an Easter egg I don't yet know about, I'll never understand why they didn't include a preview for Resident Evil 4, the video game. All you get is an inlay card advertising it on just one side.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse has put the movie franchise on target, accepting the fact that the movies are based on a video game, and that the gamers wanted that to be reflected in the films. It definitely feels like the game, is a rollercoaster ride of action, has a fair share of zombie creeping, some laughs, and leaves us cliffhanging for a sequel. While not as dark as the original film, this one makes up for everything the original lacked—more zombies, and more references to the video game.