Thursday, 18 October 2012

Resident Evil: Apocalypse - review

2004 (Germany / France / UK / Canada / USA)

Contains Spoilers

Whilst I felt I should come at the Paul W.S. Anderson's second instalment in the fun popcorn flick franchise expecting to be both dissatisfied with it as a coherent action movie and also with its zombie credentials, in truth I was actually looking forward to just being entertained with more of the same. For some reason the Resident Evil series whilst being a huge commercial success, has failed to gain the respect or acknowledgement from zombie film fans; maybe it's that old adage that makes niche and publicly successful mutually exclusive, or maybe I'm just easily satisfied. I mean the zombie genre if we're honest doesn't necessarily demand the highest levels of narrative control or strict serious portrayal of its subject matter, and quite frankly often and successfully plays with this fact. I've watched and enjoyed many a cult classic that under closer scrutiny fall apart, so why Resident Evil should be singularly picked apart so mercilessly is beyond me. I really didn't see much wrong with the first film. It remained true to its video-game roots as well as forging a new narrative branch of its own, its portrayal of zombies was authentic, brutal and didn't stray from established zombie canon, and I felt it satisfied my zombie itch as well as being a good fun kick-ass action film.

And more of the same I got. Directly following the events of Resident Evil Alice again played again Milla Jovovich and again naked to start with, wakes up in a secure Umbrella hospital in Raccoon City. Pulling out her wires and tubes she stumbles out into a city ravaged by the escape of the T-virus from the Hive alone and confused. It's all very apocalyptic, I Am Legend, and very reminiscent of 28 Days Later which was released a couple of years earlier. Slowly regaining her memories Alice learns that during her incarceration she has been experimented on and now possesses superhuman strength and agility; hold on I hear you say, isn't that like the first film and well yes it is but this time she's an even more kick-ass superhuman than before and is aware of the fact pretty much from the off.

On the other side of the city police officer Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) attempting to help evacuate the remaining survivors through an Umbrella checkpoint witnesses firsthand the mega-corporation's callous disregard of law and human rights as they close it off condemning those left inside to certain death. Seeking refuge in an abandoned church with Sergeant Peyton Wells (Razaaq Adoti) and news reporter Terri Morales (Sandrine Holt) we learn that as well as facing zombies they have to deal with overwhelming supermutants, but fortunately, and with a dramatic entrance, they have Alice on their side.

Alice and the gang soon get offered the chance of escape but only if they can locate and rescue the now isolated and trapped daughter Angela (Sophie Vavasseur) of Dr. Charles Ashford (Jared Harris) the Umbrella scientist responsible for T-virus, which was originally intended as a cure for her rare genetic illness. Ashford also extends the offer to Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and his team of Umbrella soldiers who have also been abandoned in the city after setting down to defend innocent citizens from the zombie onslaught and the two groups team up against all that Umbrella head honcho Timothy Cain (Thomas Kretschmann) can throw at them, which includes the latest subject in the Nemesis project.

With the virus out of control, the city designated for nuclear destruction and Alice on the loose Cain sees the perfect opportunity for a live combat experimentation. Taken straight from the video games Umbrella unleashes Nemesis project; a huge, hulking, monstrous humanoid born from perverted T-Virus experimentation uses powerful heavy weaponry and computer controlled guidance on Alice and the gang and in true video game style this even leads to highly styled, action packed and rather contrived boss-fight ending to the film.

 Yes it's all a bit far-fetched and unsubstantial, and you feel what narrative there is, is really there just to drive the many action sequences, but it's all relatively coherent does a good enough job to hold it all together. Gone is the tight claustrophobic feel of the first film; now replaced with the large urban sprawl of the city and a focus on big budget expansive scenes and action. Make no mistake Resident Evil: Apocalypse isn't a horror film and other than a few scenes in the school that you feel were put in for something to talk about; the film is unashamedly an action flick. There's explosions, gun fights, martial arts, helicopters, hordes of zombies getting shot and a big kick-ass climax and it all flies past at quite a pace, Anderson obviously reluctant to give anyone a chance to stop and question what exactly is taking place.

Now I enjoyed the first film and I can say I enjoyed this as well. It is what it is and pulls it off with style and aplomb. Jovovich shines in the role once again as the rest of the cast struggle to impose themselves, but there's no bad performances and her interactions with them feels genuine enough. There's also the question of whether it's really a zombie film. Unlike the first film where the main protagonist was most definitely the zombies throughout, this time the central battle is really Alice against Nemesis and the zombies take a bit of back-seat; it's more an action film with zombies more than a zombie film per se. This being said the pandemic is still very much real and the undead horde still play a very prominent part; there's gruesome deaths, dramatic expansive sequences in Raccoon City, lots of biting and head shots and they are still the ever present constant. It's still very much a zombie film in my book.

Just because one rarely sees an entry from the Resident Evil franchise in top zombie film lists doesn't mean one should ignore them; if you watch them for what you'll find they're competent, compelling and extremely well put together additions to the genre. Like it's predecessor Resident Evil: Apocalypse is fresh, fun and a great action pop-corn zombie flick; just don't think too hard, 7/10.


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