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Film
Resident Evil: Apocalypse is the follow up to the hit film Resident Evil, released during the late summer season of 2002. After a brief recap of events up to now, the story immediately picks up where the previous film left off with Alice (Milla Jovovich) staggering half naked out of a hospital to the empty streets of Raccoon City. The T-virus, a bio-engineered chemical that reanimates dead tissue, has breached the underground facility from the first film (known as ‘The Hive’) and is causing the dead to return and kill the living. As the outbreak quickly deteriorates and transforms the city into a hot zone, the evil Umbrella Corporation quarantines the city in hope of stopping the spread of the plague.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Among the survivors still fighting for their lives within the city are police officers Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Peyton Wells (Razaaq Adoti), Umbrella solider Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and the streetwise L.J. (Mike Epps) who are eventually saved and joined by Alice in their attempt to rescue the daughter of one of Umbrella’s most important scientists and secure their ticket out of the sealed city. But something more insidious than zombies and Licker beasts is now roaming the streets of Raccoon City—a hulking creature known as the Nemesis has been unleashed by Umbrella to combat Alice and eradicate any remaining survivors so they may cover up the disaster on the evening news.

As a sequel to Resident Evil, the film works in furthering the story left open by its predecessor and adding layers to Jovovich’s Alice character, but it doesn’t work as either an action or horror film and left to its own devices falls flat. With virtually no plot to speak of, no frightening moments, no suspense, and action that is of the point, shoot, run to the next scene variety, the film is a fairly boring way to spend ninety minutes.

I have heard that many of the characters in this sequel are based on ones from the video game series and that they look the part. Not having played the games in any detail I personally cannot vouch for that fact, but I would assume that the games have better character development than what this film offers. It’s hard to care about the characters or be held in any suspense when you know little to nothing about them, or they are immediately tagged as zombie food the moment they appear on screen by actors that can’t elevate the material beyond the printed page. It’s also difficult to feel sorry for characters stupid enough to wear short skirts and other skimpy clothing when fighting an enemy whose primary method of attack is biting your ankle or forearm. Add a bunch of action scenes that contain cuts and camera shots so jarring that you won’t be able to tell what is going on and fight scenes shot so close in you’ll swear the actors must have had the cameras hung around their necks and the result is a dull, repetitive movie that only manages to make a lot of noise and make your head hurt.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Not to be completely negative though, there were a few things that I did like about the film. The production design and the fact that the story takes place in an open city with larger areas allowed the filmmakers to at times pull off some impressive camera shots and set pieces. I also enjoyed the idea of graphically showing where the characters are in the city by use of the computer generated maps and security cameras much like they did in the first film. The special effects are, for the most part, decent, and an improvement over the previous film, although the zombies are often times seen from a distance or clumped together in large groups. The Licker beasts and Dobermans are also a bit on the recycled side. The Nemesis creature is done well enough for the film too, but I couldn’t help thinking at times it was nothing more than a zombie that made one too many trips to BALCO. Without the foundation of a decent screenplay however, it’s all for naught and doesn’t make up for the film’s other numerous shortcomings.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse was made for one of two audiences in mind—adolescent boys and those that have played the video games for countless hours. Since I am neither, I didn’t care for the film and thought it was a step down from its predecessor. I find it hard to recommend the film to anyone but fans of the first film or Capcom’s series, but I’m afraid a number of even those people will be disappointed with the film as well.

Video
Columbia Home Video has offered consumers the choice of either an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, or a 1.33:1 pan & scan transfer on disc one. The widescreen transfer presented on this DVD is a mixed bag of sorts, and while it isn’t bad, it could have been much better. The colours are good, no grain is present thanks to the digital transfer, and the contrast levels are deftly handled for a dark film, but the transfer suffers from too many compression artefacts; this fault is especially apparent in the video since much of the film takes place at night and in sparsely lit buildings. The transfer also seems a bit soft around the edges and the video isn’t as clear and sharp as it should be. Like some of their other recent efforts, Columbia should have excised the pan & scan transfer from the package and concentrated more of the disc’s capacity into delivering a higher bit rate transfer for the widescreen version of the film.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Audio
Resident Evil: Apocalypse offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English with optional English subtitles for its debut on DVD. Perfectly mixed to all speakers including the discrete subwoofer channel, the disc’s audio presentation is near reference quality and one that offers viewers a great auditory experience while watching the film. Dialogue is crisp from the centre channel and the surround sound field is totally immersive while the heroes of the story blast their way through the streets of Raccoon City leaving behind them a sea of bodies and shell casings. The film’s score by Jeff Danna fits the different tones and action scenes of the film, but like the film is totally forgettable stuff.

Extras
Columbia Home Video has supplied Resident Evil: Apocalypse with extras spread across the two-disc set that should please fans of the film that include three commentary tracks, a documentary on the film, featurettes, deleted scenes and outtakes.

First on disc one are three audio commentaries including one featuring the director Alexander Witt and producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer, a second featuring principle cast members Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr and Sienna Guillory, and a third featuring writer and producer Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt. All three of the commentaries are worth a listen for their different perspectives on the making of the film, but the commentary from the cast, while the least informative, is the most entertaining; those who enjoyed the commentary from the first film’s DVD featuring Jovovich should know what to expect. Also found on disc one are trailers for Boogeyman and Steamboy.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Disc two of the set features a nearly hour long documentary, ‘Game Over: Resident Evil Reanimated’, presented in six parts that may be played separately or as one feature. The piece looks at the total production of the film and includes interviews with director Alexander Witt, the producers of the film and the principle cast members. Much of the focus is placed on the special effects and stunt work incorporated in the film and covers the zombies and their choreography, the Nemesis creature, the Licker beasts, the zombified Dobermans and some of the more intricate stunts performed in the film. Other areas discussed include the production design, transforming Toronto into Raccoon City and the weapons used in the film. I found the documentary to be a solid and informative piece on the production of the movie.

Next there are three featurettes, ‘Game Babes’, ‘Symphony of Evil’ and ‘Corporate Malfeasanse’, each with running times of between three and eleven minutes in length. The featurettes are fairly redundant to those who have already viewed the hour long documentary, but include more blurbs from the female leads, a montage of the effects work and storyboards set to the film’s score and a comparison between the fictional Umbrella Corporation and real life corporate entities respectively.

The second disc is rounded out by twenty scenes wisely deleted for pacing with a running time of eleven minutes, three minutes of outtakes and bloopers, a poster gallery of the finalists selected from an online contest and trailers including the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers, trailers for Resident Evil, Underworld: Extended Edition on DVD, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, The Grudge, The Forgotten, House of Flying Daggers and The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition on DVD.

Overall, the only extras really worth a look are the commentaries and the ‘Game Over’ documentary as many of the other features seem like filler material, but fans of the film will probably find much to enjoy in the set.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Overall
Even though the film contains decent enough sound, visual effects and production design, the screenplay, actors and most of the film's other technical merits are a real letdown. Columbia has given fans of the film a decent DVD however, with good special features and sound but only an average video transfer of the film. Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a DVD that I can only recommend to fans of the first film or the video game series, all of whom are the built in audience for the film anyway and are sure to purchase or rent the disc regardless of any review. As for anyone else who might be looking for some mindless entertainment, go watch the first film or Van Helsing again instead.


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