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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

"It's nothing personal, but in an hour, maybe two, you'll be dead. And moments later, you'll become one of them. You'll endanger your friends, try to kill them, probably succeed. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is."
- Alice (Milla Jovovich)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 18, 2005

Stars: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory
Other Stars: Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Sandrine Holt, Jared Harris, Mike Epps
Director: Alexander Witt

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for non-stop violence, language, and some nudity
Run Time: 01h:33m:48s
Release Date: December 28, 2004
UPC: 043396037953
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- D+BA+ B-

DVD Review

Though I think it's safe to say there has never been a good videogame movie, 2002's Resident Evil came closer than most to keeping the feel of the popular franchise but modifying the story to fit the larger screen. The director, Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson, because they actually make good movies), favored loud and obnoxious over subtle or suspenseful, but achieved a reasonable balance for his take on the zombie/gore survival horror story.

The sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, written by Anderson but directed by his protégée, Alexander Witt, goes the other way: It's more like the videogame, less like an actual movie. Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the only survivor the horde of undead in the first movie. If you remember (and how could you not?), when we last saw her, she'd been kidnapped by the multi-national zombie-virus producing Umbrella Corporation and subjected to unspeakable operations. Once she escapes, she discovers the virus has escaped into Raccoon City, which I must say, is a most excellent name for a city, and I can only assume it's a literal translation from the original Japanese game. As everyday people begin munching on each other, Umbrella sets up a quarantine (funny no one noticed the massive walls being built around their city), more to study the mutation of the virus than to keep it from spreading.

A group of special forces soldiers (led by Oded Fehr) teams up with a few red shirts (including a plucky news reporter determined to get the big scoop, even though early on she's shown giving a weather report) and brash cop Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), who wears teal spandex and short shorts, because that's how practical, career-minded, professional women dress in videogames (see also, Lara Croft, examples one and, uh, two). After running into a tougher breed of poorly animated CGI creatures, the group (minus a few members) is illogically rescued by Alice, who now has some sort of experiment-related superpowers stolen from Alien: Resurrection. For reasons that defy explanation, but involve magic cameras that cover every inch of the city, the group is soon contacted by a disgruntled Umbrella scientist whose daughter (Sophie Vavassuer, in her odd follow-up to a delightful performance in Evelyn) is trapped inside the city, and promised a way out if they can find her.

Now, I'm a fan of the Resident Evil videogames, and I'll be the first to admit there's a certain satisfaction to spending two hours running around and blowing away zombies. But watching people run around pretending to be videogame characters shooting zombies? Not so much fun. The first film, whether it was faithful to the game or not, was more about story and atmosphere (more being a relative term, mind you). Apocalypse, on the other hand, is utterly brainless—though, in addition to what's explained above, there is a lot more plot, most of it delivered through piecemeal exposition and strung together from the plots of at least three different games in the horror series, including a bit involving the Nemesis, an experimental super-soldier engineered by Umbrella out of Alice's old boyfriend. Despite all the sci-fi elements, though, most of the movie involves shooting zombies, or kicking zombies, or blowing zombies up, and there isn't one suspenseful scene or well-directed action sequence throughout. Director Alexander Witt, who did second unit work on the first film, favors a style best described as "murky, but also with lots of edits," and not one of those endless fight scenes includes even a moment of visceral, enjoyable action.

The cast does a decent job with threadbare material, particularly Jovovich, who gets a bit more to play with, particularly in a closing cliffhanger sequence that I liked even though it hints at yet another sequel. Resident Evil was a fairly good time; Apocalypse exists only to fill time, and I can't imagine that's going to change.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Unfortunately (well, not so unfortunately), I did not see this film in the theater, so I have no basis for comparison when I say that the DVD's image quality appears rather sub-par for a new release from Columbia TriStar. The biggest problem is black level, as darker scenes often look muddy and a bit grainy. Putting both widescreen and fullscreen transfers on the same side of the disc has also resulted in higher instances of digital artifacting than normal.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: If there is a reason to watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse, it's the sound design, which really shines in the DD 5.1 mix included here. I don't know if its because it's the only audio track, and has thus been given more room to breathe, or what, but this is one of the liveliest mixes I've heard in quite some time. The front soundstage is very wide, with dialogue always coming in clearly from the center and excellent panning and directionality across the mains. The surrounds are active throughout, whether they're carrying the echoes of gunfire, the moans and shuffles of zombies, or the annoying nu-metal soundtrack. Check out the showdown with the "lickers" in the church early on for a good example of what I'm talking about: As the creatures crawl around on the ceiling, stalking their prey, the mix tracks their progress from left surround to right surround and into the front channels.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring Boogeyman, SteamBoy, Resident Evil, Underworld, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Forgotten, The Grudge, House of Flying Daggers, The Fifth Element
20 Deleted Scenes
9 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Alexander Witt, producers Paul W.S. Anderson, Robert Kulzer, and Jeremy Bolt, actors Oded Fehr, Milla Jovovich, and Sienna Guillory
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster gallery
  2. Blooper reel
Extras Review: Because it totally merits the discussion, Resident Evil: Apocalypse includes three commentary tracks. I found all three to be pretty dull, but your feelings may vary depending on your affection for the film (and your love of German accents, too, since half the dudes on das commentariespiels have them). The first, with director Alexander Witt, producer Jeremy Bolt, and executive producer Robert Kulzer, is focused on all aspects of production, from shooting at night to special effects, and boy, they sure to seem to like the movie. On track two, writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson and Bolt talk about developing the "story" and "characters" and how they wanted to work the feel of the videogame into a more coherent "plot" (presumably in order to make a "good" "movie"). (Hey, until someone invents a sarcasm font, facetious quote marks are the best I've got). The third track is kind of hilarious, not because stars Oded Fehr and Milla Jovovich are particularly funny (they take the piss out of the film and have fun with it, but they didn't really make me laugh), but because co-star Sienna Guillory, recorded separately and edited into the actors' track, is so damn serious. She talks about Jill Valentine like the role was going to win her an Oscar, with comments like, "Jill is very strong-willed, and she has a respect for Alice. I really enjoyed the duality of their interactions." Uh huh.

But wait, this is a two-disc set, so there are lots more features. Resident Evil: Reanimated is a six-part documentary that clocks in at just under an hour. The various sections, played individually, are Game Plan (which covers pre-production and planning), Running, Jumping, Fighting (all about designing the action), Zombie Choreography (or, how to teach an extra to be undead), Building Raccoon City (set design), Big Guns (designing the prop weapons) and Smoke and Mirrors (special effects). All of it is pretty standard making-of stuff. When it comes to these quickie documentaries for big-budget releases, you've seen one, you've seen them all, as far as I'm concerned.

Three more featurettes delve a bit more into the world of Resident Evil. Game Babes is all about the impact of strong female characters in a male-oriented hobby, and how that's positive, except for the part where they have enormous breasts and miniscule spandex outfits, right? Symphony of Evil covers the film's irritating, blaring rock soundtrack. Corporate Malfeasance tries to argue that the evil Umbrella Corporation isn't as far out at it might seem, cough Halliburton cough.

Look further on the second disc for 20 deleted/extended scenes, with a total running time out about 12 minutes, and a goofy blooper reel. There is a gallery of the winning entries in an on-line contest to design the film's theatrical poster, and I can't say I'm too impressed by any of the garish entries, but I don't know what guidelines the budding graphic artists were given, so maybe the marketing team was looking for something ugly.

Finally, there are two Apocalypse trailers, including the teaser, an fake commercial for Umbrella beauty cream that is more clever than anything in the film itself ("Caution: Some side-effects may occur."), and a whole host of spots: Boogeyman, SteamBoy, Resident Evil, Underworld, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Forgotten, The Grudge, House of Flying Daggers, and The Fifth Element.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

The Resident Evil film series has bettered its source material in at least one respect: It took four video games, not counting a prequel and a standalone shooter, before the concept started to feel stale, but writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson has managed to wear it out over the course of two screenplays. Bravo, Anderson. Bravo. Here's to an even more boring sequel in 2006.

 


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