Tag Archives: Jill Valentine

“Resident Evil” week – “Apocalypse” LOL

Yes, this scene appears nowhere in the film. Truth in advertising – how does that work?

Having inspired the ire of survival horror gamers globally by not sticking slavishly to the “R.E.” canon with his first “Resident Evil” film, writer, director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson handed off directorial duties of the sequel, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” to Chilean-born Alexander Witt.

Witt’s long CV encompasses the likes of “The Hunt for Red October“, “Twister“, “Gladiator” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” – as a second unit director of photography.  A pretty crucial distinction, that.  Because whatever he may have picked up whilst working with Ridley Scott, John McTiernan, Steven Spielberg and Rob Cohen, storytelling wasn’t a part of it – even by the questionable standards of coherence exhibited throughout the “Resident Evil” series, this sequel is low on clarity, high on explosions and subject to some bonkers shifts in tone.

“Apocalypse” picks up where the first “Resident Evil” left off, with heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) waking up in a Raccoon City overrun by zombies and possessed of a powerful urge to get even with the all-powerful Umbrella Corporation whose unchecked bio-weapons division are indirectly responsible for the catastrophe in the first place.  As Alice wanders the streets searching for suitably fashion-forward combat gear to replace the hospital gown she awoke in, the film series takes the opportunity to introduce another iconic character from the video games.

Oh hai there Resi Jill!

British actress Sienna Guillory plays tough-as-nails, swaggering Raccoon City cop Jill Valentine –  a quite distinct departure from games series canon, where Jill appeared in the first title and was a bad-ass member of the elite S.T.A.R.S team – and is one of the best elements of this sequel, albeit one who is inexplicably attired throughout the movie: If you found yourself abruptly quarantined within the city limits of a burg violently overrun by the recently un-deceased and needing to fight your out-of-town against hefty P.M.C. aggression, would you dress like you’ve just stepped off the set of a Warrant video?

When it’s not undoing the mostly good, almost feminist work of its previous instalment, this “Resident Evil” sequel is content to barrel along from set-piece to set-piece, merrily jettisoning logic and eschewing characterisation in a hunt for a bigger, badder bang – there’s not a great deal of ambition on display in this entry beyond finding new camera angles for unfortunate zombies to pop in from, periodically attack characters (in order of importance) and get blasted into z-burger by our tooled-up cast.

As we spend the entire film’s running time in and around Raccoon City, the plot focusses on the hunt for Umbrella Corporation’s scientist Charles Ashford (Jared Harris)’s marooned daughter, Angela (Sophie Vavasseur) due to be evacuated from the hot zone before lock down and left behind when her rescue SUV is beaned by a convenient, almost non-sequitor truck collision – it’s staged so abruptly as to boggle the mind.  I know that this is an action movie and that the genre’s not one where logic has to take centre stage, but one might hope that a truck in a recent collision with a vehicle might stop a while and see that it’s occupants are not, you know, dead and stuff.

They’re coming for you, Alice…

The big let-down, for me, with this film was the wholesale lack of coherence in the action sequences – something which really shouldn’t be an issue when a director of photography with experience of shooting just such footage is at the helm.  Rather than a compelling story which follows our rag-tag band of survivors to safety through Ground Z, we get exaggerated, ‘Dutched’ camera angles and film processing techniques employed which don’t add anything to the viewing experience other than annoyance and the distinct sense that somebody’s trying to mask the lack of a script by flinging gun-fights and periodic fights with the new Nemesis villain into the mix.

Yes, I said it – Anderson’s screenplay is perhaps the actual antagonist which besets this film, managing to insult your intelligence and barely pass muster in terms of scares, thrills or storytelling.  If you told me that it was a first draft effort and never meant to be taken to production, I’d have a hard time disagreeing with you – there’s a rushed, unfinished feeling to the piece.  It has real problems with advancing the story, being content instead to give Alice not especially well-explained super human powers which let her perform cool, wish-fulfilling bad ass feats of heroism and make her essentially invulnerable.

You don’t need me to tell you that this creates real dramatic problems, namely that there is no drama if your lead character can’t be hurt and spends half of her time on screen being cooler, more athletic, wittier and more empathetic than anybody else in the film.  If you read my review of the first film , you’ll note my use of the term ‘Mary Sue’ – here, in the second film, Alice becomes a definitive embodiment of that dubious notion.

Razaaq Adoti, Sienna Guillory and Sandrine Holt bask in Alice’s awesomeness in “Resident Evil – Apocalypse”.

It’s not all a downer – Jared Harris brings genuine class and invests a by-the-numbers role with layering, Oded Fehr pops up as Carlos Olivera and reminds us that he should have been a much bigger movie star than he is and the soundtrack’s quite good in a Fluffrick Playlist kind of way – Deftones, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish (on the Euro release), the glorious A Perfect Circle and Rammstein bang out state-of-the-art metal tunes which still have a place on my mp3 player today.

Overall, though, this is definitely the least accomplished entry in the series – crap action sequences, cardboard cut-out characters with ersatz motivations and throw-it-in-the-air-and-see-where-it-lands plotting all conspire to make this film live up to every criticism often levelled at video game to movie adaptations and make a boring zombie action movie.

It takes real talent to make an action horror movie with a ninety minute running time dull.

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“Resident Evil” – one film series, hundreds of dead(er) zombies, multiple opinions…

Regular readers of this blog will doubtless be aware of – and lamenting quite a bit by now – my inexcusable “Resident Evil” film fandom.

Massive, hugely absurd set-pieces wholly at odds with the original video games? Don’t mind if I do!

Given that it’s nearly September, I must forewarn the thus concerned that I may be posting a fair bit of guff and balderdash concerning the popular Paul W.S. Anderson shepherded film series. as the fifth entry “Retribution” will be in cinemas in the US on September 14 and in the UK a week later.  Expect much discussion of the heretofore hidden, unexplored nuances and deeply coded meanings inherent in the subtext of Mr Anderson’s bitchin’ Zombie smash-em-ups.  Or, like, reviews of the previous movies and junk.

Those of you likely to gag at the numerous ways in which this series of films has messed with the continuity of the games and the universe therein may wish to skip the odd post or two – I’ll try to make them obvious enough for you to be able to do that.

How we started, back in 2002 – when Marilyn Manson did the soundtrack and Michelle Rodriguez’ character popped her clogs for the first time…

Truth be told, the films and games began an inevitable process of divergence before the first movie was released ten years ago – other than the presence of the Umbrella Corporation‘s proverbial moustache-twirling villainy at the decaying heart of each plot twist, there’s been precious little to link the two cross-media properties, save for director/producer Anderson’s propensity to cut-and-paste in elements from the games which particularly tickle his fancy (uber-bad guy Arnold Wesker, Jill Valentine, Lickers and the like).

It’s this going-off-script, cavalier disregard for canon which seems to upset fans of the games so much – the “Resi” flicks would be an otherwise easy-to-ignore sequence of sci-fi/horror mash-ups , were they not performing double duty by offending fans of video games and the long-lived Capcom franchise – why does their pioneering survival horror video game sequence have to bear the unfair burden of being the poster child (in the eyes of critics) for mediocre ‘games-to-films’ adaptations?  And where’s their George A. Romero directed version of the first movie, more to the point?

I strongly suspect that your prospective enjoyment of the series is in inverse proportion to your love of genre fare in general – if you have an uncritical love of things that go ‘Boom!’ and ‘Aarggh!’ in the night, this franchise is almost certainly up your zombie-infested alley.  If you love Bela Tarr, however, the rather more rudimentary pleasures of a Paul Anderson genre flick are almost certainly going to be denied to you.

As an object lesson in seeing how audience and critical reactions diverge on films, take a look at the professional critical response and the general public’s take on “Resident Evil”.  What I take away from those responses, other than that film critics can write and the general public has some way to go in attaining that goal, is that people don’t go to these films for the same reasons.

It’s enough for many viewers to have familiar horror tropes, action set pieces, characterisation and even plotting in place when they see a film like this one – they neither want nor expect an entry in this series to deliver anything more than uncomplicated fun and the odd jump-scare.  Critics, meanwhile, seemingly have to take a jab at video games in the body of their review – perhaps on the basis that they view them as low art and incapable of conveying anything worthwhile to an intelligent viewer or because they are aware that their reviews are being read by an ageing audience who hold the same prejudices about the medium and adaptations thereof as they do.

Milla Jovovich’s Reddit “AMA” appearance didn’t end well…

Those without knowledge of a subject matter presuming to publicly critique something in the full knowledge that they won’t have to answer criticism about it – what a marvellously tenable position from which to offer an informed opinion to an audience who will presumably take you seriously.

Expect more musings on the undead, Alice’s questionable Zombie-slaying attire, the confusing web of insanity which is the ongoing series’ plotline and the “Resident” iterations thus far in the weeks to come…

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