"My name is Alice...and I remember everything."
The original "Resident Evil" was a swift, sleek enough offering to be mildly entertaining. The picture promised zombie action and it gave zombie action. There wasn't much in the way of character development, but there was a few slight hints of plot and glossy visuals. The sequel opens with Alice (Mila Jovovich) discussing the events of the first film: the massive Umbrella corportation was experimenting with viral weapons, and there was an incident where one was released. The victims, however, eventually came back to life, becoming zombies that stalked the main characters.
The second feature sees original director Paul Anderson (who instead chose "Alien Vs. Predator") leave (he wrote this sequel) and first-time director Alexander Witt take his place. The result is a picture that has a considerably different feel than the first film and about just as many leaps of logic. Characters make real brilliant decisions like walking through a graveyard. The sequel does feel more like a video game (the films are based upon games), and that's the problem - where the first film felt more like a film, the sequel feels like a series of choppy, rather loosely connected action sequences. There are times when the movie doesn't even tell how characters got to where they are or how they got out of where they were.
After the prologue explaining the events of the first film, we see that the virus that was the focus of the first film has gotten out and infected the citizens of Raccoon City. With the population continuing to turn into zombies, the corporation has no choice but to seal the city, locking in the uninfected, which - at least at the opening - includes military squad officers Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillroy) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), a reporter (Sandrine Holt), a hustler (Mike Epps, playing his usual wisecracking character, but the comic relief is awkwardly inserted here) and Alice (who has been infected with a strain of the virus that has resulted in superhuman powers.) Alice gets contacted by Dr. Charles Ashford (Jared Harris), whose young daughter (Sophie Vavasseur) may hold the answer to the virus. If they can find and save her, he'll get them out before the corporation drops a nuke to erase their mistake. There's also the matter of the Nemesis project, a super zombie test project the corporation has unleashed into the city.
The film's relentless action - there's really the barest minimum of plot here - does become a tad tiring after a while, especially some of the loud "boo!" scares. There's some enjoyably absurd bits here though, especially one bizarre moment where Jovovich runs down the front of a skyscraper just to engage in some hand-to-hand combat. Some of the action scenes seem fine enough in theory, but they suffer from some ridiculous use of slo-mo and irritating, rapid-fire editing choices. Rather generic heavy metal accompanies the zombie sequences, which doesn't do anything for the movie aside from pound the eardrums.
Overall, certainly not a great movie, but I was in the mood for something mindless and this was rather satisfactory. Those looking for considerably better zombie fare should look into the "Dawn of the Dead" remake or "28 Days Later". Of course, the ending of "Apocalypse" sets things up for another movie.
VIDEO: "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. The different versions are available via the main menu. The anamorphic widescreen presentatin boasts fine quality, although there are some concerns that take away from the overall impression. Sharpness and detail seemed good, but not remarkable. The picture maintained a pretty consistent level of definition, but never appeared razor sharp.
The picture's main problem was edge enhancement, which was noticable in a handful of scenes. A few traces of pixelation also appeared, as did some minor grain. The print used appeared to be in fine condition though, with no specks, marks or dirt. The very subdued color palette appeared accurately rendered here.
SOUND: I expected an aggressive, loud, over-the-top soundtrack and the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation delivered. Surrounds kicked into high gear to deliver gunfire, zombie noises, fly-overs and other sound effects. Not subtle in the slightest, the rear speakers are put to constant use - those who can enable a rear back surround should, as it effectively gave the experience a 360 degree feel. Sound effects seemed punchy, fierce and well-recorded, while dialogue and music remained clean and clear. Bass was powerful and deep, but never overpowering. I'm guessing a Superbit DVD edition of the title that will offer a DTS soundtrack will come out eventually.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers no less than three audio commentaries: one from director Alexander Witt, producer Jeremy Bolt and exec producer Robert Kulzer; one from actors Sienna Guillory, Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr and finally, one from writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. The first disc also includes trailers for "Boogeyman" and "Steamboy".
As if three full-length commentaries weren't enough, the second disc starts off with "Resident Evil: Reanimated", a nearly 50-minute documentary made up of smaller pieces ("Game Plan", "Running, Jumping, Fighting", "Zombie Choreography", "Building Raccoon City", "Big Guns" and "Smoke and Mirrors".) There's also three more featurettes: "Game Babes", "Symphony of Evil" and "Corportate Malfeasance". Next are no less than 20 deleted scenes, which make-up 12 minutes of screen-time and contain both deleted and extended moments. 3 minutes of outtakes offer some amusing goofs and improvs.
Finally, there's a gallery that shows winners of an online contest to design the poster and trailers for: "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (teaser + theatrical), Resident Evil , Underworld: Extended Unrated Edition DVD, Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Grudge, The Forgotten,The Fifth Element and "House of Flying Daggers".
Final Thoughts: Loud, rather dumb and over-edited, "Apocalypse" still moves along quickly and I found it to be a decent popcorn flick. Those who are fans should enjoy this feature-packed DVD and fans of the game may want to try a rental. Columbia/Tristar's DVD offers fine video quality, very good audio and a surprising amount of supplemental features.