Directed by: Alexander Witt
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Feher, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris
Warning: This review is not intended for fans of the Resident Evil video games. I have no idea how faithful this film is (or isn't) to its sources, nor how much it might please (or displease) fans on this basis. The movie certainly plays like a video game -- with one basic, very contrived goal that must be reached through a series of obstacles. That's all I can say about this flick on that level. But as a stand-alone film, frankly, it's appalling.
In its favor, Resident Evil: Apocalypse doesn't achieve the level of mind-numbing godawfulness of House of the Dead. That little outing still holds the dubious distinction of being the worst movie ever made based on a video game. That said, Apocolypse really isn't all that much better. It's just slicker.
Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson made an agreeably cheesy -- if not especially good -- film with the original Resident Evil. And while he wrote what passes for the screenplay here, he turned the directing chores (doubtless, he was busy with the weightier matter of Alien Vs. Predator) over to Alexander Witt. The latter gentleman boasts a not-unimpressive list of credits as second-unit director on such movies as Pirates of the Caribbean and Hidalgo, but all that means is that he has a history of handling action scenes. His directorial debut proves that this training did nothing to prepare him for dealing with anything else -- not that there's all that much to deal with here.
If you remember the original Resident Evil, you'll recall that it set up a sequel, but this film backtracks to explain the origins of the devastation that Alice (Milla Jovovich) finds in Raccoon City (I didn't name it) when she staggers out of the hospital -- not that I think anyone much cares, since this is hardly a movie about narrative coherence. No, this is a film about heavily armed women in kinky, revealing outfits blasting away at zombies. (And despite rumors to the contrary, Ms. Jovovich's private parts do not make a cameo appearance this time. On this point -- like Bogie in Casablanca -- I was misinformed.)
This is a movie about old-fashioned, lumbering, shuffling, lurching, intellectually challenged, flesh-munching, walking dead guys in cheesy makeup who might have wandered in from the set of Michael Jackson's Thriller video. And that -- as much as anything -- is what's wrong with Apocalypse. Not only does it offer nothing new, it offers something old, out of date and not very exciting in the wake of 28 Days Later... and the remake of Dawn of the Dead.
While the "infected" in 28 Days Later... aren't, properly speaking, zombies, they served the same function, whereas the Dawn remake, in which they were zombies, redefined the basic concept of the "walking dead." Gone were the slow-moving corpses of yesteryear -- you know, the ones who could only get a hold of you if you backed yourself into a corner or happened to be standing next to a badly boarded-up window or a perilously cheap door. In their stead have arrived truly alarming horrors who move with frightening speed and pose a much more immediate threat.
For some reason, Apocalypse opted to ignore this development in zombie lore. What makes this particularly strange is that the new film's creators certainly didn't mind pilfering other things from the so-called "turbo zombie" approach. In fact, the scenes set in a church are pretty obviously taken from a much more believably accomplished bit in 28 Days Later.... (Anyone want to try to explain how the Jovovich character knows she ought to crash her motorcycle through the stained-glass window and save the day? Anyone want to try to explain how she got the damned motorcycle up that high in the first place?) If the Apocalypse filmmakers wanted to steal from these movies, why on earth didn't they lift the concept of the revved-up zombie? Instead, we get a boring repeat of the same old stuff George Romero started dishing out in 1968 -- only with absolutely no point this round.
Unless you're hopelessly addicted to cardboard characters blasting away at zombies -- or alternatively being lunched on by the hungry critters -- I cannot begin to imagine why you'd want to see this movie.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke