I love the first Resident Evil movie for a gazillion reasons, all mentioned here.
Getting through the second one, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, is a chore, which is sad because there’s a lot I want to like. Watching this installment is a lot like critiquing a teenager’s first draft of a story. “Why did you have that happen?” “Duh, because it’s cooooool.”
Because it’s cool. Because the movie said so. Because why the hell not?
The first movie is a clutch-your-popcorn-bucket-close-and-eat-nervous-handfuls as you watch. With Resident Evil: Apocalypse you throw your popcorn at the screen while groaning. Because why not? You could definitely make a drinking game out of all the peculiar things that happen in the name of “cool” here. You just might not make it to the end of the movie, and my favorite moment happens there.
The basic plot: Umbrella, the corporation run by criminally insane idiots, reopens the Hive, lets the infected dead out, and basically causes the city above to become a giant disease vector. Alice wakes up with new superpowers! Because it’s cool! To be fair, her sudden Buffyness is cool — she’s super-strong, super-quick to heal, and ooh, now has the ability to sense the infected! She meets new people — some of whom will survive to become regular players in this universe. They’re “hired” by Dr. Ashford, an Umbrella scientist, the creator of the lovely T-Virus, to rescue his daughter who got left behind in Umbrella’s evacuation of the city. In exchange, he’ll arrange a helicopter out for her crew before Umbrella nukes the city.
An aside: I am increasingly convinced that Umbrella is actually ruling the world if they can call in nuclear strikes at will. Even more convinced they’re delusional if they think you can pass off a nuclear strike as a reactor accident.
The first movie has genuine tension. The characters are fighting for their lives beneath the ground, trapped in a “hive” of zombies, with only one exit that may or may not be destroyed by the time they get there.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse attempts to recreate that exact same tension but instead turns the underground hive into the city that they’re trapped in. That doesn’t work for me. It’s one of the many, many examples of plot logic fails in this movie. The city is not isolated geographically; Umbrella has barricaded it off after the infection began. But these barriers can’t be manned, because the nukes are coming, so… I feel pretty confident that my team of gun-toting, zombie-killing, super-soldiers could manage to scale a perimeter fence and escape.
Pretty much all of this movie feels like a retread of the first movie, made more illogical. IMDB has pages of goofs about this movie which are quite entertaining.
The bad guys have ruined a city now to the point that they’re going to nuke it, and so… to make things more interesting they’ll manipulate events so that they can watch their two experiments, Alice and Nemesis, fight a death match with each other. For research? Or something? The illogic is stunning.
Plus, the movie lacks heart.
Truthfully, that may be the point. Where this movie does work for me is in Alice’s heart-broken confession: “They did something to me. I barely feel human anymore.”
And to cement that confession, Alice doesn’t behave with the same humanity she did in the first movie. When she meets a bitten man, she wants to shoot him dead, instead of saving him.
I could blame her character change on poor plotting, or the change in director, but since that’s boring, I prefer to think that this is the core of the movie. Alice doesn’t feel human any more. She’s losing her compassion, her humanity, and her connection to other people.
The moment she meets Angela, the girl they’re there to rescue, she starts to regain herself, because Angela’s like her. Infected, but not mad, not contagious. A connection is made.
Then Alice makes a second connection when she and Angela save Carlos the soldier from his looming death by infection. But the final link that makes her regain what Umbrella nearly stripped from her? Nemesis, the giant, remote-controlled, voice-activated, rocket-launcher wielding zombie (Why is Nemesis all that? Because it’s cool!). During her forced death match, Alice regains a sense of self. Not because she hates the monster, but because she remembers him — the man beneath the monster.
All of this culminates in a weird pace-destroying epilogue where Alice has been killed, revived, healed, and decanted from a tank. A doctor asks her if she knows her name.
She’s stuttery and hesitant, rocked by shivers and by memory. And while he’s busily plotting what to do next with his experimental subject, she remembers it all. Her name is her talisman.
“My name,” she says, “is Alice, and I remember everything.”
It’s a very Buffy moment. She’s the protector, not just a killer. Not just some company experiment. She belongs to herself and she will not be used by the company, even when they’ve done… things to her.
Her struggle to define herself for herself is a plot line I can really get behind.
Pity it’s not brought out more.
As for the cast: I love Oded Fehr who plays Carlos Olivera, an Umbrella soldier. Carlos is the kind of character that the first movie loved so well — a soldier who wants to save people first and foremost. When he’s told to ignore a civilian in distress, he jumps out of a helicopter to rescue her without even bothering to make sure he’s anchored first. (Because it’s cool, dammit!)
I like the character of Jill Valentine, and she provides me with the (inadvertent) humor for this movie. Jill keeps trying to save the day, then Alice sweeps in and does it better, bigger, and usually with explosions. On the other hand, Jill starts out in one set of clothes and keeps them all. Even after multiple viewings, I still can’t figure out when Alice loses one jean leg. Just the one. There’s talent for you.
Women with lines: Jill and Alice, Angela and Terri, only one of which dies.
Non-white important characters: Carlos, Peyton, L.J., only one of which dies and two of whom are recurring characters. Negative points for L.J. being a stereotypical Hollywood pimp-type character?
Overall, not the high point of the series for certain.