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Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: Resident Evil: Apocalypse

The first Resident Evil movie was a homage to zombie movies that have gone before. And Aliens. And a few other movies thrown in for good measure. It had a creepy girl, zombies, long-tongued monsters, carnivorous dogs, and Alice (Milla Jovovich) with lots of firepower.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse has all of those things, but none of the spunk. Where the first movie had a relentless ambiance of terror, Apocalypse is a juiced up action horror without much horror.

PLEASE NOTE: This review contains spoilers, but that's sort of like saying "water might be wet"--everything I explain here is painfully obvious from the start of the film. So read at your own risk, but you're not risking much...

Where we last left Alice, she and the other survivor of the movie, Matt Addison (Eric Mabius), were captured by the evil Umbrella Corporation for experimentation. When she awoke, nobody was left alive in the hospital (shades of 28 Days Later). So Alice does what she always does in an uncertain situation…she grabs a shotgun.

Meanwhile, the entire city has been infected with the T-virus, a biological weapon that 1) mutates Alice into a superhuman killing machine, 2) turns poor Matt into Nemesis, a muscle-bound gun-toting juggernaut, 3) turns people into zombies, 4) turns dogs into zombies, 5) allows a little girl (Angie Ashford, played by Sophie Vavasseur) to walk, 6) did I mention it turns people into zombies?

So what does Umbrella do? What all authorities do in a zombie movie: they seal off Raccoon City and call in the nukes (shades of Return of the Living Dead).

Also running about trapped in the city is a cast of stereotypes: the hot police chick (Jill Valentine, played by Sienna Guillory who fails miserably at disguising her British accent), the hot military dude (Carlos Olivera, played by Oded Fehr), and the funny black guy who swears a lot (L.J., played by Mike Epps). After lots of grandstanding, swearing, amazingly accurate zombie head shots, and a lot of confusion, the plot finally gets going when Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris) gives them a mission.

Using his amazing "personnel locator" that only seems to work for Dr. Ashford, he discovers that Angie is holed up in her school, all by herself. We're not sure exactly how this is possible, but never you mind…what matters is Ashford hacks into the entire Raccoon City network and is able to view what's going on from every video camera and microphone. He then calls our heroes with a deal: if they agree to get his little girl out of the city, he will tell them how to escape.

The means of escape is through a helicopter. That's it. That's the big plan. Hijack a helicopter. But of course, it's all a trap, and ultimately Alice and Nemesis must duke it out…for some reason. Something about the perfect weapon, yadda yadda.

There are a lot of neat graphical touches throughout the film. Alice's bullets have little Umbrella Corp. icons on them. The helicopters are painted with the Umbrella Corp. logo. And the end of the film (and subsequent cover-up of the nuclear blast) is entertaining in the same way that the rise of a zombie outbreak was entertaining in Shaun of the Dead. Which is to say it's awful, but you enjoy it anyway.

But that's it. Alice is far too much of a superhero to make us feel concerned about her survival. There are too many characters to keep track of without enough plot development to care about them (Carlos seems to have no actual value at all, less so than even L.J.'s offensive portrayal as a black gangsta). And for some reason, Alice's every move is punctuated by a whiplash sound that quickly gets tiresome.

There's a lot of slow motion action sequences, a lot of blue lensing, and a lot of freeze-frame shots of weapons dropping to the ground. The director (Alexander Witt) is new to directing a film on his own. He doesn't seem to know what to do with Paul W.S. Anderson's script, and it shows.

The movie drags on and on and on long after it should end, such that it feels a lot like you're watching the third film (an inevitability). By that time I had lost interest. When the most interesting part of a film is Jill Valentine's miniskirt, it's hard to care about Alice's fate. StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter



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