Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Resident Evil sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse – so it’s time for it to be Revisited

As the dawn of the new millennium approached, the world would start to see a trend of films that would become very mainstream. These types of movies are action horror video game adaptations. As stated in our previous video, there have been a number of different ones, but nothing stood out more than Resident Evil. In 2002, we were graced with the first in this series. It may not have been the critic’s favorite, but it did well enough at the box office to spawn a sequel. The name of that sequel is Resident Evil: Apocalypse (watch it HERE). With a title that big, you would think the filmmakers went for bigger, better and more destructive…right? For the most part, yes and they even packed in some surprises for fans of the series. So today on Horror Revisited we ask that you suit up and strap in for Alice’s second go around in Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Let’s begin in 2002. The first film has become a hit financially. Sony Pictures wants to make a second one. So what was needed to make that happen? Well, Paul W.S. Anderson, the director of the first film, immediately started writing the sequel. He wanted to incorporate more elements of the games. We are introduced to Jill Valentine. She has played an important character to the series, plus it was time to start seeing more women kicking butt on screen! Milla Jovovich confirmed early on that she would return if the first film was successful. Since this was the case, she would be the only character from the first film to return…we’ll talk more about that later.

Talks about what the plot would center around would involve Raccoon City as well as the introduction of the Nemesis character. In the video game series, Nemesis first appears in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It is a bio-engineered weapon that was developed by the Umbrella Corporation as part of their Tyrant project. Nemesis is a powerful and relentless creature and it’s primary objective is to eliminate any remaining members of the special special forces unit, S.T.A.R.S. (short for Special Tactics and Rescue Service). In the film it’s the only word that the creature utters and wouldn’t you know it…Jill Valentine is the leading protagonist.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the basis for the movie, with some elements from Resident Evil 2 as well being used. Anderson would also include parts from Escape from New York and The Omega Man to help build the plot. Early on the title was called Resident Evil:Nemesis. However in 2002, Paramount would release Star Trek: Nemesis to both critical and box-office failure. Sony didn’t want the same fate, or to have the same title, so the film was changed to Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) Revisited

The movie was officially greenlit in mid-2002, but would lose Paul W.S. Anderson as director. He had prior commitments to Alien vs. Predator, but stayed on as screenwriter and a producer. Sony would have to look for another person to helm the film. In came Alexander Witt, who would also be making his directorial debut. After reading the script, Witt made some suggestions to Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, who would alter the script slightly.

As stated above, Milla was the only person to reprise her role. Even though we see Eric Mabius’ character, Matt, hauled off by Umbrella scientists in the end of the first film. Eric Mabius unfortunately wouldn’t return. Matt’s character is turned into Nemesis, but was portrayed by Matthew G. Taylor. They do show Matt in flashback scenes in the beginning of the film though. Since Jill Valentine was going to be a big part of the film, Anderson had considered Natasha Henstridge. She was unfortunately unavailable. Mira Sorvino was also offered the role but would decline. Eventually Sienna Guillory was chosen for the role. To prepare for the film, Sienna bought a Playstation 1, as well as a copy of Resident Evil 3, and studied for Jill Valentine. She would also base her movements on Jill by watching how she moved in the game. Talk about dedication.

The character of L.J. was written specifically for Snoop Dogg, but he would also drop out of production. Mike Epps would take over the role and was rewritten to suit Epps’s personality. Other notable actors who were hired included Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Iain Glen and Jared Harris.

Executive Producer Robert Kulzer, who was the head of production at the Constantin Film has this to say about the production, “the second one, for me, is much more fun than the first. We wanted to give the movie a slightly different tone. When I see the first one now, it’s very much about the terror of the claustrophobia and the music blaring and the sound effects really loud-it’s more of an adrenaline rush-type movie. So for the second one, we thought we should try to have a little bit more fun.”

The plot of the film follows the aftermath of the T-virus outbreak in Raccoon City, focusing on Alice, who is a former Umbrella Corporation operative, and a group of survivors, including Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveira. As they navigate through the chaos of the city overrun by zombies and mutated creatures, they uncover Umbrella’s plans to contain the outbreak by destroying the city. The survivors must evade both the undead and Umbrella’s forces, including the relentless Nemesis bio-weapon, as they seek a way to escape Raccoon City before it is obliterated by a nuclear strike.

Production for Resident Evil: Apocalypse began in 2003 in Ontario as well as Toronto, Canada. Toronto, as well as its surrounding suburbs stood in for Racoon City. 47 locations were used for filming as well as several city blocks would be shut down for filming. The Prince Edward Viaduct bridge was closed for three days so scenes could be filmed on it. Milla and Matthew Taylor would spend several hours daily for six weeks practicing for Alice and Nemesis’s showdown. It was going to be a much bigger action set piece than what is seen in the film. Eventually, it was shot in an open space outside Toronto City Hall because of a decision made by Witt. Because of his commitments to Alien vs. Predator, Paul W.S. Anderson only appeared on set for a couple of days. He would communicate often through email with Witt about dialogue choices and production changes during filming. In the end, Anderson would go on record saying he was very critical of Alexander Witt’s work.

Christian Sabaldt and Derek Rogers, were hired as DP’s on the film. They prominently display a bunch of shaky action for the audience that at times feels difficult to follow what is happening, but I digress. During production, the film was threatened with shut-down when there was a SARS outbreak in Toronto. Ultimately, this didn’t affect the production, as filming concluded in October of that same year.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) Revisited

There were tons of special effects used in the film, including green screen, CGI, as well as scale models and wire removal. Nemesis was created with a costume and only had CGI elements in his eye. Despite the actor, Matthew Taylor, being tall at 6.7ft, aspect ratios were still added to make him appear 10-20% larger on screen. The Lickers would come back for the sequel, this time looking slightly more realistic. They were completely CGI because the effects team wasn’t happy with some of the animatronics that were created. C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures would animate the Lickers and described it as the most challenging special effect they had created for the film. They were responsible for creating over 250 special effects for the film. This included superimposing Milla’s face on a stunt double. Milla performed most of her stunts onscreen, but her insurance company wouldn’t allow her to attempt several dangerous ones. I know you might be thinking of recent films such as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny or The Irishmen, but hear me out, it looks pretty good here.

Frantic Films was hired to create 78 special effects like muzzle flashes and slow motion effects, whereas Mr. X Inc was hired to create the destruction of Toronto City Hall, which took 4 months to do so. Color was heavily worked on in post production to give the film a darker look overall and enhance brightness of blood and gore. Alice and Jill were also given some modifications on their skin and redness of lips…ya know to oversexual female heroins.

For any fan of the first film, you were ready to hear some hardcore electronic score created by Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami right? Unfortunately neither came back to score the production. Instead we were treated to composer Jeff Danna who would conduct the London Philharmonia Orchestra. At the time of release in 2004, it was met with mixed reaction while some loved it’s orchestral and electronic styles, others would complain it needed more thematic development as well as variation.

The time came for promotion and distribution of the film. The marketing team hired director Marcus Nispel to create a different teaser trailer called Regenerate. The teaser promoted skin rejuvenation by the Umbrella Corporation. As the teaser proceeds you notice a woman holding the virus and she eventually turns into a zombie. In May 2004, the teaser was downloaded 8.5 million times from the film’s website! To this day, I consider it to be one of the best teaser trailers ever created for the film. My 14 year old self was so hyped for this movie when seeing this play in front of movies. Screen Gems, who distributed the first Resident Evil film as well, went as far as creating a fake newspaper called The Racoon City Times for promotion.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released on September 10, 2004. It opened in first place over newcomer Cellular and knocked Jet Li’s film Hero down to fourth place. It would open to over $23 million. It also opened to number one in other regions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Mexico and Malaysia. It would go on to gross over $51 million domestically and $129 million worldwide on a budget consisting of $45 million.

As successful as the film was at the box office, it would get some scathing reviews by critics. It currently sits at a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus being “Resident Evil Apocalypse has lots of action, but not much in terms of plot or creativity”. It also sits as the lowest rated film in the entire series…ouch. Leonard Maltin called the film a bomb as well as a tiresome sequel that ended up playing more like a remake. Roger Ebert was the most boisterous of all. He was so disgusted by the film, that he refused to review any more upcoming films in the series. His review said, “The movie is an utterly meaningless waste of time…Parents: If you encounter teenagers who say they liked this movie, do not let them date your children”. While critics loathed it, audience members thought it was a standard sequel, with yes more action, but less story. Milla Jovovich has stated that she was disappointed by the film, stating that the studio wanted more action and explosions whereas the story was swept under the rug. In 2009, Time would rank this film as one of the top ten worst video game films.

Let’s take that bad taste out of our mouths and discuss some positives. There are a handful of impressive scenes in this film, but my absolute favorite has to be the introduction of Jill Valentine. Paul W.S. Anderson wrote her incredibly well. Since the introduction of Michelle Rodriguez was short lived, it was nice to see Alice play off a second female lead who actually lasted in the film series. Jill not only is portrayed the same clothing wise, but she comes off as resourceful and adaptable. Her unwavering resolve to survive and protect others drives her actions throughout the film. She is strong, capable and morally driven which reinforced her status as a fan-favorite from the video game series.

I love the opening scene to the film. You see Raccoon City become overrun by zombies from the T-virus outbreak. This intense sequence sets the tone for the rest of the film and immediately immerses you in this post apocalyptic world. Another scene that feels like something straight out of the video games, is the church scene. It not only introduces us to more of The Lickers, but is a great scene. In it, Jill and other survivors take refuge in a church, only to find themselves surrounded by the undead. Alice comes crashing in, like a badass, on a motorcycle and what follows is an intense and adrenaline-fueled battle as the group fights for their lives against waves of undead creatures. Something that, even though we discussed it getting cut down earlier, is the battle between Nemesis and our protagonists. As stated prior, Nemesis is one of the most iconic villains in the video game series. To see Jill and Alice have a showdown against him is one of the big highlights of the movie and showcases some intense action and suspense.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) Revisited

Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released on DVD and VHS on December 28, 2004…just missed the mark of making it a stocking stuffer for Christmas alongside Anchorman. The DVD included three audio commentaries, 20 deleted scenes, several featurettes and even a blooper reel. Guess it wasn’t such a terrible production set to be on. In 2007, it would be released on Blu-ray importing over all of the special features and was met with high remarks on video and audio presentation. Since then, it has been released multiple times in different collections for the series.

I was 14 when Apocalypse hit theaters. While I didn’t think it was as good as the first, I still thought it was a pretty fun action movie and believe that most critics just don’t know how to turn their brain off and enjoy themselves. It stays true to the tone and atmosphere of the video game series that us fans of the franchise have come to expect. I think it features well-developed characters and an iconic villain. While the action is ramped up here, it can be at times hard to see. Also, I dare you to prove me wrong and point out whenever an action scene is taking place, if a shot lasts more than 3 seconds. The film is never boring, full of entertaining moments and has a shorter run time of 94 minutes. Saying that a film is 94 minutes in this day and age is nothing short of a miracle, seeing as average runtimes are over 2 hours. So, I guess you can thank the filmmakers for that.

In conclusion, while it doesn’t deliver the good as well as the first film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a thrilling and action-packed sequel that provides some intense combat sequences albeit choppily put together, suspenseful moments, and a deeper exploration of the post-apocalyptic world established in the first film. While it doesn’t flesh out as worthy of a story, it successfully translates the atmosphere and elements of the popular video game series onto the big screen, captivating audiences with its blend of horror, action, and intrigue.

We can’t end this episode without talking about this series’ future endeavors. Since Apocalypse was so successful, a sequel was greenlit in 2005 and was released in theaters in 2007 under the title, Resident Evil: Extinction. Many, including myself, think this is one of if not the best film in the series and took everything from both the first and second films to create a truly fun experience for its viewers. So how about it? Would you like to see us cover Extinction? If so make sure to leave a comment below!

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

8 Articles Published