Dir: Alexander Witt. US/Canada/UK. 2004. 94 mins.
More zombies, more screen time for Milla Jovovich and the addition ofsome crucial characters from the games themselves are the draw in this sequelto 2002 video game adaptation ResidentEvil. The new elements may not add many non-gamers to the audience for whatis otherwise a routine follow-up to a lackluster sci-fi/horror original. Butthey might, given the enduring popularity of the Capcom game series, pull inenough fans for the sequel to outperform its surprisingly successfulpredecessor in cinemas and, even more likely, on DVD.
The sequel got off to a better than expected start in the US lastweekend, grossing $23.7m from 3,284 screens, compared to the original's $17.7mfrom 2,528 screens. The opening points to a bigger domestic total than theoriginal's $39.5m and perhaps one approaching the $58.9m managed earlier thisyear by zombie remake Dawn Of The Dead.
In the international marketplace, too, Apocalypse should handily outperform the first film, thanks toJovovich's European reputation, the addition to the cast of Brit SiennaGuillory and the involvement of German co-producer Constantin Film.
Original director Paul W S Anderson hands over the reins for the sequelto Alexander Witt, a second unit director and director of photography makinghis directorial debut. But Anderson once again supplies the script and thistime round he makes more use of characters and events from the video games.
This time, Jovovich's Alice finds herself in a city infected by a viruscreated by the vast Umbrella Corporation. The virus has turned most of thecitizens into flesh-eating zombies, but Alice hooks up with maverick corporatecops Jill Valentine (Guillory) and Carlos (Fehr, from The Mummy). To earn their escape before Umbrella 'cleanses' thearea, Alice and co must battle zombies and other monsters and rescue the youngdaughter of an Umbrella scientist (Harris).
Jovovich is more firmly front and centre in this story and she lookssteely and vulnerable by turns as required by Anderson's formulaic script. Herarresting looks and sinewy physique give the film its only real visualdistinction.
Guillory (recently seen in Love,Actually and The Time Machine)looks like a video game character - Jill, who didn't appear in the first film,is actually the heroine of the game series - and has the dialogue to match.Most of the other human characters are forgettable, though Epps (
The zombies are a dull lot, nowhere near as much fun as the fleet-footedflesh eaters of Dawn Of The Dead. Thefirst film's Lickers (slimy lizard-like creatures) and mutant Dobermans return,but make fairly brief appearances.
The new baddie, lifted from the games, is Nemesis, a lumbering monster -think Jason crossed with the Toxic Avenger - created by Umbrella as some kindof companion piece to Alice.
Though the sequel drops the arcane 'rules' that made the first filmconfusing for non-aficionados it still feels like a video game, offering astring of confrontations between various combinations of good and bad guys. Thefight sequences - most involving gun play with a smattering of wire-assistedmartial arts - are rarely inventive and rely too heavily on fast cutting tocreate the impression of fast action.
Curiously for a film with an R rating (in the US), Apocalypse rarely takes the chance to have fun with its zombies byshowing amusingly gory moments. Instead, the violence is constant butuninventive.
Prod cos: Constantin Film, DavisFilms/Impact (Canada).
Dist: Screen Gems (US), ColumbiaTriStar Film Distributors International (intl).
Prods: Jeremy Bolt, Paul W SAnderson, Don Carmody.
Exec prods: Bernd Eichinger,Robert Kulzer, Samuel Hadida, Victor Hadida.
Scr: Paul W S Anderson.
Prod des: Paul Denham Austerberry.
Art dir: Nigel Churcher.
Dirs of photography: ChristianSebaldt, Derek Rodgers.
Ed: Eddie Hamilton.
Costume des: Mary McLeod.
Music: Jeff Danna.
Main cast: Milla Jovovich, SiennaGuillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Mike Epps.