Resident Evil: Apocalypse review: series sequel improves on original

Sony Pictures Publicity
Alice (Mila Jovovich) guns for payback.

Video games may not be the best subject to translate into movies, but there are a few rare gems, such as the latest and arguably most entertaining, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”– a film that proves it’s not necessarily game over for the video-game movie genre.

“Apocalypse” is the sequel to the 2002 sleeper hit “Resident Evil,” which grossed more than $100 million. The series, based on a Capcom video game, details the story of a virus created by the billion-dollar corporation Umbrella that infects Raccoon City and turns residents into zombies.

Fanboys [2012 FF: Of which I proudly proclaim myself one of for the “Resident Evil” game franchise.] complained that while it was an entertaining zombie shoot-em-up, the original wasn’t true to the game series itself.

Mercenaries Nicholai (Zack Ward), Yuri (Stefen Hayes) and Carlos (Oded Fehr) try to escape the battleground.

The complaints didn’t go unheard and this installment adds a few of the series’ trademark characters Jill Valentine (played by Sienna Guillory, “The Time Machine”), Raccoon City’s special police force – “S.T.A.R.S.” and mercenaries led by Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr).

As with any worthwhile sequel, there’s twice the action, the thrills and the mayhem.

Returning to the series is Alice (Mila Jovovich, “The Fifth Element”), who awakened at the end of the first film to find herself in an Umbrella laboratory, apparently a guinea pig for an experiment. As she escapes the lab at the beginning of “Apocalypse,” she ventures out into the city and finds it in shambles–the zombies have made their way from the lab to the outside world.

The Licker takes another victim.

A city full of mindless zombies with limited ammunition would be intimidating enough, but the creators also tossed in some of the series’ villains, the Nemesis, a trench-coat-clad, bazooka-armed behemoth and the Lickers, who use their tongues to impale victims. The Lickers are computer-generated images (CGI) and move like a snake/frog hybrid, resulting in some very creepy looking enemies.

Paul W.S. Anderson, who also wrote/directed the first film, opts to just write this installment and deftly handles three subplots that are interesting enough to have you invested in the characters.

Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) prepares for the unexpected.

One involves a group of survivors led by Alice and Jill simply trying to escape; a group of Umbrella soldiers deal with the zombies with predictable results; and Mike Epps (“Friday After Next”) as L.J., a character who just runs around the city and seems to be in the wrong movie. All are recruited by an Umbrella exec who wants them to find his daughter, who’s lost in the city.

Following the trend of the original, both female leads are strong, well-defined characters. Jovovich has found a nice niche as an action heroine and is convincing enough in her role that merely running around in skimpy outfits doesn’t define her character.

Eventually, the surviving characters meet up to plan their escape from the city, but getting there is half the fun. The action leading to the climax is exactly the kind of all-out performance one would hope for in such a sci-fi horror film, complete with the requisite amount of jump-out-of-your-seat moments.

The film only truly lags in its conclusion, as if director Alexander Witt (“XXX”) doesn’t want to end the festivities. There are several false endings that simply are a rehash of the original film, such as Alice being worked on in another lab, but the actual ending is worth the wait and paves the way nicely for another sequel.

“Resident Evil” may not single-handily revive the video-game movie genre, but it appears to be a viable franchise for Screen Gems. And just as any gamer will tell you, there’s always time for one more game–or in this case, a thrill-ride action film.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sony Pictures Publicity
Alice (Mila Jovovich) takes aim.

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