It’s strange to say it, but maybe we haven’t given enough credit to Paul W.S. Anderson for managing to turn his terrible script writing into something mildly entertaining. Or maybe the first Resident Evil was just blind stupid luck. Anderson is back writing the sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but gives way to Alexander Witt for directing duties. Under Witt’s hand, the material feels every bit as hackneyed and listless as it really is, and though Milla Jovovich turns in another great performance as the world’s skinniest, runway model ass kicker, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a brain deficient little stinker.
It is at least not a prequel or a confused sequel which ignores the continuity of the previous film. Blissfully, it picks up right where the original movie left off, with that great closing shot of Alice awakening half naked and wandering out into a city that’s apparently deserted, overrun by the dead. The T-Virus you see has spread, and under the all powerful hand of the evil Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon city has been sealed off to contain the infection and cover up Umbrella’s mistakes. Unfortunately, the citizens are all left inside to be knawed upon by savagely hungry zombies and then become ravenous flesh eating undead themselves.
So the movie follows a few survivors, trying to find a way out of the place before they turn into re-animated corpses. Jill Valentine is a bad ass cop, whose uniform seems to be a form fitting corset, complimented by super-tight, super-short shorts. Kudos to the Raccoon City Police force for outfitting their female members like they’re trying out for the role of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Jill’s partner is with her, a muscular slow witted fellow who doesn’t seem to be able to figure out what’s going to happen to him after the zombies take a bite out of his arm. Jill doesn’t either, nor does the whiny TV anchorwoman who runs around with them, which is strange when you consider that they’ve just literally seen it happen to several thousand people.
Eventually the trio hooks up with Alice, who isn’t the normal ass kicking Alice, but a souped up, hot rod version of the former Umbrella security chick. Umbrella has done a little experimenting, gifting her with all the powers of Spider-Man sans the wall sticking and body secreted webbing. To get out of the city, they must rescue the daughter of an Umbrella scientist, which means putting them in a position to actually go find more zombies, as if the ones running around in the street aren’t scary enough.
Well actually they aren’t scary at all, since the movie doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with them. Eventually Apocalypse gives up on trying to find some interesting zombie action and brings in a super-villain to tangle with Alice and mercilessly slaughter the city’s few remaining cops. It’s a movie filled with dozens of cringe worthy moments of outlandish, over-the-top action in which you’re never sure if you should laugh or simply get up and go home. Maybe throwing a little Ritalin at the screen would do something. But then there isn’t time for that, since the film never lets up for even a second, introducing new characters so the zombies can eat them or the super-villain to shoot them, or finding new ways to make Alice look ridiculously super-cool as in a scene where she crashes through a church window, does a few matrix flips off a bike then shoots the gas tank of it in mid-air just because that looks really really good.
None of this fits together; the action sequences have no real bookend to them to fit into a complete movie. It’s disjointed and sometimes just flat out weird which is a shame since Jovovich is pretty damn stunning when doing crazy karate kicks on film. The rest of the cast mostly engages in a lot of outlandish posing, there’s no real room for acting from anyone, Jovovich just poses better than the rest. The special effects are generally awful and when they’re at the worst Witt just lets the picture get all fuzzy so you don’t know what’s happening. This summer has seen a lot of movies using the shaky cam, but Witt opts instead to use the slow motion fuzzy cam rather than spending the money necessary to create actual zombies or cool special effects.
Still, I can’t say I didn’t have any fun at all watching Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Jovovich does have a few exciting moments and the good vibes I carried in for the character from the sort of decent previous movie held all the way through the end of this one. The ending is ridiculous and stupid, but if you can ignore that it is in its own retarded way a little bit neat. When the movie isn’t being totally repetitive and derivative, it comes close a few times to having nearly good ideas. Of course it always backs out again to do something stupid like have Alice shield herself from a missile with a plastic garbage bin.
I don’t know if this movie is trying to be Dawn of the Dead or Mortal Kombat, but either choice is woefully bad. Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t just suck as a director he’s also a terrible writer, which I think makes him Hollywood’s first legitimate black hole. The story he’s concocted will sink over the audience like a wet paper bag, and the plot’s about as small and meaningless as Milla Jovovich’s left breast. Filmmaking doesn’t get much shallower than this.