Well, whatever goodwill I had for the Resident Evil movies is pretty much gone now. With the first movie, I was willing to live with its numerous flaws because it actually contained decent elements from the video games on which it was based. That was more than I would have expected -- usually, a movie based on a video game actually bases very little on the video game, turning the project into a mess representing the worst of the Hollywood movie-making process and further burying the already low credibility of this genre. At least Resident Evil remained conscious of its source.
Although the same can be said for its sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, this film's more-of-the-same mentality results in even greater disappointment. It uses the same formula as the first movie -- create a horror-action story independent of the story in the games and pop in references to the games to serve as legitimate "connections" to its source. The problem? Story and references remain exclusive, so all that happens is the movie reflects superficial elements of the games without going near the reasons for the games' true appeal.
Case in point: the games are exploration-based exercises in horror and suspense. They emphasize problem solving in between short bursts of terror. Your character is not particularly agile; against monsters, you're naturally weaker, but you can always find solutions to overcoming them. The idea is to simulate dread -- the fear you would feel if you were trapped and had limited resources. The games are decidedly not action-based.
Yet, the movie practically gives up being a horror a movie in favor of becoming a full-blown action extravaganza. Things blow up. Motorcycles fly through windows. Bullets fly in slow motion. And, meanwhile, the trademark zombies are there just to become either target practice or sparring partners in hand-to-hand combat situations. Most unrelated of all, the movie is a showcase for the butt-kicking skills of Milla Jovovich's character, Alice (not from the games, as you may recall). Apparently the bad guys have turned her into a superhuman killing machine, and, since she's the protagonist, we get to watch her do incredible feats, like running down the side of a skyscraper. I don't remember anyone in the games being able to run down the side of a skyscraper, nevermind even finding a reason to.
All this serves to make the game references more infuriating this time, because they don't seem to be in there for any reason other than to be references. The movie has based most of these references on the game Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, but it doesn't create anything significant out of them. For instance, they've now put in one of the games' major characters, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), but she ends up being a side character with not much to do or contribute. Certain famous monsters from the game appear in a church scene, but they're there without any explanation -- they're just there.
The movie has a lot of squandered potential. I like how they were able to work in situations in which the lead characters found themselves in buildings, having to sneak around corners and enter rooms cautiously. But touches like these become forgettable when the movie is obsessed with being as incompetent as possible. The visuals are particularly atrocious -- we get some useless blurry slow-mo in some early scenes and every fight scene has that horrible, popular syndrome of being composed of half-second edits of close-up limbs so that you can't tell at all what's going on. Useless jump scares are so gratuitously plentiful, I barely flinched at them; and you could make a drinking game out of all the times someone fires at another person, only to actually hit the monster that was sneaking up behind that person.
This is an annoying movie. Resident Evil fans should probably wait until the new game comes out later in the year. The trailers for that game are already more entertaining than Apocalypse.
(Released by Screen Gems and rated "R" for non-stop violence, language and some nudity.)