Film

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Cynthia Fuchs

Back for another go-round with the Umbrella Corporation, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is leaner and lots meaner.


Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Director: Alexander Witt
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Thomas Kretschmann, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Sophie Vavasseur
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Screen Gems
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2004-09-10

Back for another go-round with the Umbrella Corporation, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is leaner and lots meaner. She has good reason: the company has not only decided to revisit the T-virus program, but also to elaborate and is worth revisiting, partly because it hasn't been eradicated anyway, and partly because sequels tend to replicate the original film's formula. The first Resident Evil, based on a video game, concerns Alice and company's escape a terrible place, namely, the Hive, Umbrella's underground virus-making facility. The second film repeats, only changing the location to above ground, namely, Raccoon City. Now Alice now leads another hardy crew, less military, more motley, and inclined to be, like, totally awed by her brutal talents.

Alice, as she reminds us, was once head of security in the Hive, and so she has some training and serious understanding of how the system works (essentially: all humans are "expendable assets," as one of her new friends puts it). Though she asserts, "I learnt the error of my ways," she also retains a grudging association with the corporation, which has genetically mutated her into a super kick-ass soldier. And so, much like Ripley (of Alien Resurrection) and Max (of Dark Angel), and a little like Jovovich's own Leeloo (The Fifth Element), Alice wakes here inside a lab where she's watched over by wicked malevolent-seeming folks in white coats.

At first, it appears that she's weakened and incoherent, but no. Alice is only regathering herself, having been infected with the very virus she so abhors. Though the doctor-types expect her to perform again in the interests of Umbrella, as you might imagine, Alice isn't so keen to comply. And so she heads to suburban Raccoon City to save humans locked in when the giant gates are locked, in an effort to contain the virus, per order of the Germanic-accented Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann).

Among those locked in the city is Angie (Sophie Vavasseur), daughter of Umbrella's most usefully brilliant Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris), the very man who thought up the virus, as a way to speed little Angie's recovery from a dread ailment (you'll recall that the virus is regenerative, only it works too well, bringing dead people back to life and igniting in them a craving for live flesh.) He spends most of his onscreen time with notebook computer in his lap (he's in a wheelchair), smoking furiously. Though he's ordered to leave the military camp just outside the city, he stays put, using his machine to locate little Angie and then direct the actions of Alice and assorted other potential saviors, chosen because they're in the vicinity and he'll try anything. The reward he proposes is a chopper to lift them out of the city. It's the oldest trick in the book: a promised chopper, a barricaded city overrun by cannibalistic insurgents, and a wholly untrustworthy set of military and civilian authorities: it's clear this will end badly.

These would-be rescuers form the sort of rag-tag team that allows for serial deaths and increasingly vengeful, if not exactly emotional, responses from survivors (it's worth noting here that Jeff Danna's score is strangely disconnected from most of the action, as if it's been cut and pasted from another action movie altogether, making "emotional" connections with characters even less likely). A couple of cops form the nucleus, slamming and very short-skirted Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), apparently on the department's shit-list at the moment of the zombie outbreak, but very good at her job (she's sort of reprising Alice from the first film), and her already-bitten buddy Wells (Raz Adoti). Together, they're sort of protecting Terri Morales (Sandrine Holt), a tv reporter inadvertently crewed with them, who brings her video camera everywhere, imagining it's her ticket to a Pulitzer. (Such blatant ambition, in addition to her lack of humor, makes Terri likely dead-meat, though the means of her demise, a squad of zombified uniformed schoolchildren, quite ravenous, is notably revolting.)

Also included among the living are super-soldier Carlos Oliviera (Oded Fehr, who plainly deserves a real movie role, please), a couple of his fellows (soon dispatched) and a street hustler called L.J. (Mike Epps). Providing the sort of commentary that the scared-unto-giddy black guy usually offers in slasher films (noting the absurdity of specific situations, articulating the abject fear that everyone else is feeling), L.J. is a mostly welcome commentator on the action, especially as it's so predictable ("You shoulda told me you got bit, motherfucker!" he advises one of their doomed compatriots).

As the zombies appear to target the white guys first (Carlos's friends, in particular), it's not long before the group of survivors is comprised of only of non-white-guys. An increasingly common strategy in action movies, this race-gender assortment paints the Umbrella Corporation reps as altogether ghastly villains. As much as this might visualize a current, general resentment against corporate entities, the fact that Alice is at once that resentment's instrument and embodies its target is the film's cleverest conceit, lifted directly from the first film, of course.

Alice's sense of dislocation drove the plot ofResident Evil, as her desperate search for her "identity," or at least some way to piece together the fragments of memory that seemed to assault her at every turn. Here she disappears for long minutes at a time, leaving you with the much less engaging others, often split up, often in spaces that have no clear relation to others, so that Alice or some other rescuer might show up at the last second, to whip some zombie's butt.

Most of Resident Evil: Apocalypse's repetitions aren't imaginative, including another set of zombie Dobermans and a different sort of Big Bad, named Nemesis, and wielding weapons born of first-person-shooter games. But its best reiteration, Alice's identity crisis, is refitted here to extend the game (yet another sequel seems likely), as well as to complicate the very idea of identity. Before, she sought to recover her memory as a means to "know" who she was. Now, that doesn't help, as what she comes to remember only leaves her at a loss for words and even matching pronouns. "I thought we survived the horror," she says, "but we were wrong."

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image