Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Though the film is clearly lacking in many things, what it doesn’t lack is an opening that is bland. I liked the beginning more than the film as a whole, mainly because it succeeds in setting forth what is about to happen despite robbing us of terror. The opening is very close to what the opening of the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” was except it doesn’t take the same risks and supply the same frantic nihilism, however it does succeed in tension from the workers going back into the hive being overrun by zombies, right down to the calm neighborhood interrupted by a car crash which essentially sets the stage for the “plot” of the missing daughter of the scientist of the hive and fades away to Jovovich in her delicious glory on the stretcher where we last left off from the ending of “Resident Evil.”

I enjoyed it with wide-eyed drooling excitement in the last five minutes of her walking through the streets alone, more than the entire movie put together. Speaking of delicious glory Sienna Guillory despite being a basically disposable character looks really good here with her short black hair and short dress resembling Jovovich’s, and she looks damn good flinging a gun at zombie skull. Yum. While I hate to give credit to this movie for anything, this had some parts during the story that I actually liked, like the woman being chased by the zombies in the opening, the riot sequence, and the scene in the classroom which was not only well done, but made me sad because it sort of reflected how good this film might have been, if done right from the get go.

One of the main reasons why zombie movies are so bad, and very few are really good is that directors make the mistake of missing the point about the whole idea of zombies. Zombies are a walking allegory, symbolic of many things, but the constant recycling of the idea has made them more monsters than symbols, and another main reason is that directors make the movies about the zombies. George Romero once said that his movies are really supposed to be about characters surrounded by zombies, situations which are interrupted by zombies, but much like many movies, this unfortunately becomes about zombies and not about characters. “Resident Evil” was an excellent game and a great property for a potential masterpiece, but alas, it was doomed to being watered down for the younger demographic.

Now, I liked “Resident Evil”; granted it was not a masterpiece by any means of the word and ripped off a lot of what made Romero’s movies so good, but it was dumb fun. “Apocalypse” is surprisingly a lot less watered down, but that doesn’t mean it’s any better. There was some gore to the movie, some body parts and what not, but alas we never get the money shots, we never see any one ever really get eaten alive, a lot of the kills are off-screen, and most of it is just left to our imagination. I don’t mind some things being left up to us to imagine, but for god sake, for a film with such a big budget, would it have hurt to see someone ripped limb from limb before our eyes? A lot of the zombie action consists of them biting at someone and though it looks as if the bite is deep there’s not even a blood gush, even when the bite is on the throat. Boy, this is not even disappointing because I wasn’t really expecting much, because Paul Anderson never gives fans what they want; he’s a tool to the studios.

So, the basic plotline of this film is taken from the sequel to “Resident Evil”, the ultra-cool “Resident Evil 2”. Not much of a title, but it’s better than the hyperbolous “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the end. The Umbrella corporation decides to foolishly re-open the hive and accidentally lets out the walking dead which spread all along Raccoon city which looks mysteriously like Canada, but there’s a massive outbreak in the city. The main scientist of “The Hive”‘s daughter is caught in a car crash in an attempt to flee and is now missing. When Alice awakes days later to discover the city in shambles, she must now team with other survivors to find the scientist’s daughter. The Umbrella corporation firstly can not be much of a company if their products make their clients undead, so you have to wonder why they’re such an important asset. That’s the basic plot which makes up about ten percent of the movie, but, surprise surprise, the plot isn’t the focus of the movie, no, we have a product created to lure in movie-goers.

There’s nothing but dumb action here, and there’s plenty to go around. There’s no story whatsoever, it’s just a lot of shooting and dumb action and zero character focus. Primarily, the characters are there to be either killed badly or spout bad one-liners, while the movie’s main story arc is based primarily around zombie, shoot, zombie, shoot, zombie, shoot. Nothing else. It’s almost as if this movie were written by a fourteen year old with ADD. It obviously wasn’t written by a kid with ADD, but it’s close: it was written by Paul Anderson, a man who is really ruining the remaining properties and hopes for horror. Anderson doesn’t direct this time around but instead leaves it to Alexander Witt a man with zero directing experience.

Of course it’s not hard to imagine why Witt was chosen by Anderson because their methods are exactly alike, they take their filmmaking methods from other better directors, Witt, of course, takes his from other directors, and the rest is consisted of really bad directing. The directing here is horrible. A lot of the camera angles are way too dark and murky and most of the time the angles for storytelling are incoherent, and Witt tends to rip scenes of his own from better director devices like the bullet camera angle ala Sam Raimi, and the sleekness ala Cameron, meanwhile much of the movie is very badly staged. The city looks artificial, much of the sets are obviously on a sound stage, and what’s left of the film is just a lot of really pointless sequences followed by pointless characters. Instead of relying on tension and atmosphere, the script relies mostly on cheap scares and there are a lots of them not to mention sudden frights that are really just annoying and never scary.

It’s a tired device already, with the camera cutting to a close shot of a character and suddenly someone pops up from behind as the score reaches a sudden shrill making the audience jump, not to mention there are a lot of reaches for scares like when a zombie conveniently looks into a camera, and the obligatory graveyard scene. This is supposed to be a zombie film, but that was hard to imagine with such a poorly shot movie. Most of the zombies seen here are shrouded in the shadows with barely any features. They’re really just walking staggering shadows who growl and walk slow with painted white faces, and most of their shots are just in very distracting slow motion. The zombies are always very fast when the plot calls for it, but are also really slow when a character has to escape to survive through the next sequence. There’s one scene in the climax where two characters fight for about twenty minutes and then when they’re about to escape, suddenly the zombies appear, conveniently.

Much like the zombies, characters appear and disappear throughout the film, and not one of them is likable; Alice is a terrible rip-off of the “Alien” character Ellen Ripley, the original character Jill Valentine is a walking cliche with a lot of terrible one-liners, and then there’s the stereotype played by Mike Epps who is so annoying because not only is he a stereotype as a pimp, but he also spouts one-liners that are never funny. He’s the unnecessary comedic relief for no reason other than to appeal to the young audience. There’s no need for comedic relief, so it shows the studios haven’t taken this seriously from the get go. Most of the characters are just disposable and always manage to appear in certain places without any explanation which helps to create a lot of really large plot holes.

Alice suddenly appears in a big zombie dog chase scene to save the day, with a cigarette that appears out of nowhere, one ridiculous scene is where Alice crashes through a church window on a motorcycle; what’s ridiculous is where did she get the bike? How did she know what would be on the other side of the window? How did she know she wasn’t just crashing into an altar? And how did she manage to find an open area to launch if the church was surrounded by zombies? Another plot hole is the obligatory zombies rising from the grave sequence; what’s wrong with this scene? Well, if the virus has already infected people that are alive, why are people that are already dead rising from the grave other than to waste time on a movie that has no story?

The plot holes just keep on coming, especially one that really annoyed me. In one great sequence a character with a handheld camera is killed by a classroom of dead kids, and suddenly later, without any explanation, a surviving character has the camera which they hope is used to reveal the incident by the Umbrella corporation. I yelled at the screen: “What the (expletive deleted)?!” How did they get the camera without running into those zombie kids? Well, the lapses in logic just continue with insulting the audience’s intelligence and covering it up with really loud action sequences that never made a lot of sense. Though it manages to get by with a pretty good tense opening, this sinks very fast into idiocy with no plot, no character focus, a bad script, bad acting, and contrived directing.  Loud, messy, senseless, pointless, and cheesy this is a bad movie.