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Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Jared Harris, Iain Glen, Sophie Vavasseur

Written By: Paul W.S. Anderson Directed By: Alexander Witt

The Short Version

Milla is back with guns blazing…

…and that is almost the only reason you want to see Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

This flick is on auto pilot.

And so’s the script, for that matter.

Franchise and Milla fans are compelled to watch anyway, but this should have been much better.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


It’s edible, but it doesn’t exactly scream “core competency,” does it?

Pairs Well With...


It’s drinkable.  There’s worse watered down beer out there.

“I’m good, but I’m not that good.”

I loved the original Resident Evil flick.  I thought it was a great piece of efficient, exciting action filmmaking; and hey, Milla Jovovich kicked ass.

So when I heard that Resident Evil: Apocalypse was coming out, I couldn’t help but be excited about it.  And when I saw it in a theatre… it didn’t suck.  It was all right.  Not nearly as fun as the first film, but good enough…

After some time had passed, my brain selectively remembered the best parts, and my opinion of the movie subconsciously elevated with no new evidence.  So I bought a copy… and it didn’t suck.  It was all right.  Lather, rinse, repeat a few times, though from then on watching the same copy.  I think you get the idea, and the prime fact that this particular symptom points to: if not for Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Apocalypse would be completely forgettable, and after a brief interlude, all of the parts without her are completely forgettable.  Alas…

The story, such as it is, picks up right where Resident Evil left off, complete with final sequence replay and brief synopsis.  Alas, all of the hard work that Alice (Milla Jovovich, Ultraviolet) and her comrades put into making sure the Hive sealed up tight behind them are screwed when some Umbrella Corporation suits decide to open the door again, letting the undead out and assuring that the T Virus will spread across all of Raccoon City in less than 24 hours.

After evacuating “essential personnel,” Umbrella manages to seal off the city, which is rapidly becoming The Undead Zone.  Will Alice and the new comrades she meets along the way be able to escape before a nuke “sanitizes” the city and eliminates the evidence?  Place your bets…

Almost immediately after Resident Evil was in the can, writer Paul W.S. Anderson began working on the script for Resident Evil: Apocalypse.  The intent was to seamlessly integrate the new lore he’d created for the first film with what was happening in the newer “Resident Evil” video games, and to merge more of those characters and situations in with his own.  That accomplished, he’d then direct the movie himself, just like the first time, and everything would be awesome.

The road to Raccoon City is paved with good intentions.

But… then the real world got in the way.

At nearly every stage along the line, either a preferred actor turned down a role, or an actor accepted a role, only to back out later.  “Resident Evil” game heroine Claire Redfield was cast twice; after the second actress dropped out, the character was axed from the story completely.  With the balance shifted, Anderson decided that instead of having other game favorite Jill Valentine (originally meant to be played by Natasha Henstridge, then replaced by Sienna Guillory after Henstridge turned the job down for other commitments) meet up with Alice right away as initially intended, he’d pursue parallel storylines that would keep them apart for most of the film.  And when he realized that the time required to work on his other project of the moment – something called Alien vs. Predator – was more than he’d anticipated, Anderson handed the directorial reins over to Alexander Witt, who had lots of camera and second unit DP experience, but who had never sat in the big chair before (and as of this writing, never would again, either).  One also suspects that Anderson was feeling script pressure even before making any of the drastic changes that the actor merry-go-round required, because the framework is a pretty straight up remix of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, with zombies optional.

Ideally from an artistic standpoint, the best move would have been to wait a year or so and do it right; instead, pressure and momentum dictated that any damn thing be put in the can as long as it was done by next week (metaphorically speaking, of course), because hey, cash cows need to moo, right?  Looking at the end results… that philosophy shows.  Bigtime.

It definitely shows itself with the film’s choice of director, whose resume of second unit work is very well represented by the overall second unit quality of the film.  Whereas the original Resident Evil was so effective largely because of superb pacing and rockin’ action direction, Resident Evil: Apocalypse just has no exciting spark to it whatsoever.  Random slo-mo, sure, but no sparks.  It’s just a collection of scenes strung together by a few barely related threads that break on occasion, with a few random cool moments thrown in to keep the audience interested.  (Even those are missing something.  Yeah, the motorcycle crashing through the church window is pretty damn awesome, but only complete moron could screw that up.  And yet, one can’t help but feel after watching a few times that in someone else’s hands, it could have and should have been a lot more awesome.)  Pacing?  What’s that?  Tension?  Ha!  The alleged direction of Resident Evil: Apocalypse is just about as far as you can get from the exciting stuff that Paul W.S. Anderson did the first time around.

Not that Anderson’s getting any free passes here, either; if his script were any sloppier, the actors would’ve needed to read it with a mop.  Indeed, it reads very much like a forty minute concept that had a ton of filler tossed in to bring it up to a respectable feature length.  Like, say, a parallel set of storylines instead of one coherent one.  Or the Token Urban Black Guy (Who Is Totally Useless For Anything But Cheap One Liners That Kill Atmosphere).  You know; the one who crashes his car while ogling topless zombie hookers.  Yeah, you read that right.  Even the zombies are filler in this story.  (And just how the hell do dead people already in their graves get the T Virus so they can pop out of the ground in a cemetery, anyway?  Classic homage, sure, but it just doesn’t fit.  And the zombies look like crap, come to think of it.)  The climactic battle?  Contrived and utterly absurd.  And let’s not forget that the movie actually ends ten minutes before the credits roll; the rest is filler to set up another sequel.

So why, then, with this weak script and wretched direction, would any sane person watch this movie, not just once, but, as I’ve done, four or more times?

For one thing, the moment you decide to turn the analytical part of your brain off, Resident Evil: Apocalypse becomes a passable if trivial action flick.  The Escape from New York plot framework is so easy to follow and figure out that paying attention is optional, especially since, as noted, everything else is random.  Bullets fly.  Often.  Stuff goes boom.  Often.  It’s the perfect couch movie for a rainy day or for where you’re sick and have a head full of Tylenol.  So what if you doze?  You’ll catch up.  Need a beer party background flick?  Problem solved!

Then there are those people who are fans of the “Resident Evil” games, who will gobble up all of the references here.  Most notably, Sienna Guillory goes out of her way to mimic the physical movements of Jill Valentine from the console games as precisely as possible, and she does a great job of it by pretty much everyone’s account.  As an action heroine, though… well, hold that thought.

Another reason to watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse is that you’re a fan of the franchise as a whole, the rest of which isn’t this weak.  At that point, you’re pretty much obligated to watch just to stay on top of the series.

What?  Oh, yeah.  There’s also the whole Milla Jovovich thing.

When all is said and done, no matter who you are, Milla Jovovich is the reason that you watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse.  It doesn’t matter that she’s obviously just going through the motions here or that the script robs her of screen time; the fact is that whenever she is on the screen, she kicks ass, and those are the parts of the movie that I and a whole lot of other people keep remembering long after we’ve set aside everything else.  Indeed, even having just recounted how substandard most of the rest of the movie is, I’ll still say that Resident Evil: Apocalypse was worth the money I spent on it, just for the parts where Milla Jovovich reminds everyone that she is one of the preeminent badasses of modern action cinema, guys included.   (This is also partially why Sienna Guillory fades massively in effectiveness after her first few scenes; the moment that she’s put into the same room with Milla Jovovich, it’s the difference between C Tier and A Tier.  Guillory’s got no chance.)  At the end of the day, it’s all about Milla.  Done.  Period.  End of story.

And really, that is the end of the story. 

Bottom, line, without Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a substandard sequel and a barely passable no-brainer of movie that kinda remembers to toss in some zombies as an afterthought.  With Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a standard action flick bolstered by an asskicking heroine who doesn’t have nearly enough screen time but who owns what she’s got.  No, it isn’t the best of the series – as of this writing, it’s the worst – but it still can’t be skipped by franchise fans, and as for everyone else… did I mention Milla Jovovich?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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