Shiny Shelf


Resident Evil: Apocalypse

By Mark Clapham on 09 October 2004

As an obsessive ‘Resident Evil’ player, I feel less like a reviewer and more like a guest academic, wheeled in to provide learned analysis on how this movie fits in with the wider context of ‘RE’ lore. Turn to page 11 in your workbook now…

While it would be tempting to forget the first ‘Resident Evil’ movie, let’s recap both the plot and the quality of the movie. While far from being the worst movie in the world, the first film was a limp CG monster movie robbed of any shocks by Paul Anderson’s anaemic, flatly stylised direction. The cast was perfectly OK, and Milla Jovovich is always a game lead actress willing to combine stupid fight scenes and revealing costumes, but the film lacked the shocks that you’d expect from a zombie movie, and ultimately failed to satisfy. Thankfully, the sequel is much, much better, reaching the giddy heights of being Actually Quite Good.

The instant suspicion is that a change in director has made all the difference. While Paul WS Anderson is still credited as writer and producer, his commitments to family-friendly crossover ‘Alien vs. Predator’ meant that this movie got a new, hand-picked helmer, Alexander Witt. Witt, an experienced second unit director, proves capable of directing both action and ‘jump’ moments, both essential skills for a horror/action hybrid that Anderson lacks. He also seems to be less of a tech-fetishist than Anderson, allowing the grubby gothic of the source material to come to life rather than smothering his film in clean, cold, metallic visuals. So that’s a step up. This feels more like ‘Resident Evil’, a more sweeping story (presumably due to a larger budget) taking us away from the hi-tech Hive and into the more atmospheric streets of Racoon City.

Ah, Racoon City. How many times have I wandered your deserted, rubbish-strewn streets, dodging zombies? Well, quite a few times actually, both in the second and third games, and currently in the recently released ‘Outbreak’. Capcom keep going back to the zombie outbreak in Racoon City because they know it’s the best idea they’ve ever had, capturing the mood of films the games are inspired by: not just the obvious Romero movies and ‘Return of the Living Dead’, but also ‘Assault on Precinct 13′ and other movies set in alienating urban wastelands. There’s just something more appealing about this stuff happening in a modern city than some odd location like a laboratory or military base.

Surprisingly, ‘Apocalypse’ does this rich setting full justice, meticulously showing the spread of the T-Virus and the collapse of civilisation in the city. As mercenaries (employed by malignant all-purpose baddies the Umbrella Corporation) and the local police try and deal with the crisis, we get more of what we want – heavily armed men battling the living dead, with a combination of different weapons. Jovovich’s character Alice wakes up in a medical facility, and is just one of many trying to get out of the city alive.

This certainly isn’t one of those computer game to film adaptations that ignores the original source material – this is more of a love letter to the original games. The script runs as a combination of the best bits from the second and third games, but isn’t afraid to nick a good set-piece from any of the others. The characters are also very game influenced: there’s Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera (‘Resident Evil 3′), the child of a top Umbrella scientist (‘Resident Evil 2′) and a guy with two big gold guns (‘Resident Evil: Code Veronica’). The film also features the games’ best ever bad guy, the relentless hunter-killer Nemesis, a big mutated monstrosity in a leather coat with a rocket launcher.

Now, I love Nemesis, I think he’s a great game boss, and I’ve sworn at my PlayStation numerous times while trying to stop him ripping Jill’s head off. But, I have to say, he’s a bit silly as a movie villain, his lumbering appearance making him a cross between a slasher film villain and a ropy ‘Dr Who’ monster. Luckily, the filmmakers seem to know this, and the reaction of the other characters to the big monster is a combination of fear and outright disbelief at how ludicrous he is. Jovovich, bless her, plays it completely straight, even during the uproariously funny fight scenes she gets with the big guy. There’s even some attempt at ‘Beauty and the Beast’ pathos, which is hilarious.

‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ is a highly entertaining movie. It’s got monsters set loose in familiar setting, vicious bad guys, and a mixed bunch of heroes fighting for their lives with martial arts and big guns. The action scenes and shocks are well executed. Yes, it’s very silly, but on that level it’s also no-nonsense fun. Of course, ‘Resident Evil’ fans will get the most out of it, seeing some favourite moments lovingly recreated on screen, and the whole Racoon/Umbrella/STARs mythology treated with excessive gravitas. However, anyone who likes horror, action and dumb jokes should also find a lot to enjoy.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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