Resident Evil: Apocalypse

In order to make a good horror movie sequel, the filmmakers must abide certain rules and conventions.  None of which are more important than the underlying rule: More.  And with More comes the equally important: Bigger.   Happily, for action/horror junkies like myself, Alexander Witt understood these rules and delivered the wonderfully over-the-top Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Picking up from before the previous installment left off, Witt shows the audience how the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus spread and devastated Raccoon City leading up to Resident Evil’s (2002) climactic cliffhanger.  Joining (the finally named onscreen) Alice (Milla Jovovich) are a motley crew of actors that continue the first film’s tradition of English people pretending to be American including Sienna Guillory doing a disturbingly-accurate Jill Valentine impression, Oded Fehr being the man, Thomas Kretschman from the five year period in which he was the ONLY working creepy German in film, and Zach Ward playing a Russian…  Riiiiiight.

Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to rescue Umbrella scientist, Charles Ashford’s (Jared Harris) daughter from the quarantined Raccoon City, kill as many zombies as possible in the process, evade and/or stop Nemesis, a monosyllabic hulking monster who uses a minigun but only when he’s tired of using his rocket launcher, and, just so things are not too easy, escape an impending nuclear missile strike.

Witt and screenwriter/producer Paul W.S. Anderson like to pack as much as humanly possible into a sequel.  Luckily, they have more money to do so than the first film and they waste not one penny.  Right from the beginning, the scale of this sequel dwarfs the first film by focusing on an entire town, using primarily exterior shots to contrast the claustrophobic Hive, and inundates the audience with large action sequences.  Within the first eleven minutes, we get car crashes, zombie executions and delightfully ridiculous helicopter stunts.

And all that’s before Alice destroys three Licker monsters in a church with a motorcycle, bullets and sheer badassery.  Upping the ante from merely being tough, Alice now officially has superpowers!  You see the T-Virus, which at least kills everything and at most turns every human it infects into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, simply made Alice hotter, better, faster, and stronger.  One could cry foul but this clearly falls under the “ What’s Good for the Goose is not Good for the Main Character” clause of science fiction/horror writing.

Aside from the larger scale of the film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse exceeds as a sequel for its greater sense of fun, for lack of a better word.  Resident Evil was a very “serious” movie.  Apocalypse on the other hand cannot take itself too seriously if only because at different points Alice runs down a building with no thought to gravity and feels conflicted about destroying a her friend who has now mutated into a horrible creature.  It’s silly and Witt embraces this aspect by giving us gallows humor, creepy zombie children eating a grown woman, Grand Theft Auto references, and, because you’ve been good little boys and girls, Zombie Strippers.

Wanted

What happens when you take a silly script, cast Morgan Freeman to lead an above average cast,  and have Russian-Kazakh Auteur Timur Bekmambetov direct?

Two hours of crowd-pleasing action-awesome !

Professional pretty boy James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a nobody in a dead-end office job. He hates his life to the soothing soundtrack of Nine Inch Nails, and can't stand up for himself yet his internal monologue is seething with rage.

All of this changes after his father is killed, and Fox (Angelina Jolie) comes to his rescue when some sort of super assassin tries to kill him. She takes him to the Secret Headquarters of the Brotherhoood, where their leader Sloan (Freeman), explains the plot to him. Fox then puts him through a BDSM-flavored training montage. The best kind of montage, really.

What's funny about this movie is it's really not an action movie exactly, as it spends a lot of time making the Wesley Gibson character into an action hero. A big part of the entertainment is the loser turning a blood thirsty bullet slinger. It would be a power fantasy, except that Gibson goes through hell to get that power. This is cool and all, but  it's nearly 40 minutes of this stuff before the plot starts to move forward again. You see what happens? We complain about montages in action movies, until we realize they can take up HALF the film.

Then special guest star Konstantin Khabenskiy (of Night Watch and Day Watch fame) gets accidentally shot by Gibson and s**t gets real.

Gibson goes on a quest to kill the man who killed his father, and Morgan Freeman assigns Angelina Jolie to kill Gibson. There's a bunch of ass kicking and shooting, and Bekmambetov actually knows how to use slow-mo, so it's gorgeous to boot. Bullets collide with each other in mid-air. I said Mid-air, people!

Of course, there's the required huge plot twist. But it's after what could be the best on screen destroying of a train, so it doesn't matter much. It's all filmed with such attention detail and style that to call it fetishizing would be like saying Jenna Jameson makes "stag films."

Furthermore , the insane climax of this movie involves exploding rats, and gun play that would make the Clerics in Equilibrium consider taking up flower arranging. In fact, put this movie together with Equilibrium and you can have a great Gun-fu night.

It should be mentioned that only the first 20 minutes in any way resembles the comic (by Mark Millar) on which it is based . For another Millar adaptation, check out our review of Kick-Ass-The Management