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When one is a success, make another. That’s the way it goes for sequels of all sorts, even those that aren’t asked for or that come years or decades later, and may still not have been asked for. It’s tough for Hollywood to put out a sequel that’s worthy of following an original film, but once in a while that does happen.

The Screen Gems film Resident Evil: Apocalypse, based on the Capcom series of games, may not be the best example of a prestigious sequel, but when compared with the previous film, and looked at in the context of the rest of the franchise, it’s nothing short of brilliant. It’s certainly a fun, exciting and engaging film that more than lives up to the original, and makes up for anything that may have seemed like it were lacking. When thinking about what was given, is there really more you could ask for in a ?

Raccoon City Chaos

Screen Gems
Screen Gems

One of the best things about this sequel is the scope. It’s so much bigger! I’d kind of forgotten how big this film got, which this time around certainly allowed for me to be a tiny bit on edge. Anything could clearly happen. So many new avenues and locations for danger to be lurking and for various characters to be attacked. On the flip side, with additional locations, you had an increased opportunity for action sequences, which if done well, would make for an even more exciting film. This is one of the things that amazes me about filmmaking, and why I watch special features and interviews, is that I can learn how ordinary city streets or buildings can become dangerous locations in a whole new world. Seeing the action on the streets, complete with explosions, or in the church and graveyard, not to mention the school, just made the ordinary somehow more frightening. We already have enough anxieties about these places, which may seem silly, but throw in chaos, destruction and the undead, and you’ve got a new beast that needs taming. Only a bigger scope could’ve given you this, and I’m glad that was part of the plan with this franchise. It also shows that the creative minds involved in this film, knew they could really only do the mysterious, heavy suspense building once, because audiences are quite savvy and expect so much more with their sequels.

Another great thing about this film, which I’m going to absolutely do my best at making clear, is how this film changed in genre. It didn’t fully, but it took on a feeling that I’m amazed came to me. Think about the film's Alien and Aliens. One is more traditionally considered a thriller, while the other is an action horror-thriller, something like that; with a much bigger focus on action. They’re two totally different types of films, even though they feature the same lead character and familiar aliens. Well, look at this film and the original Resident Evil. No, they’re nowhere near the levels of good as those classic alien films, so please don’t think I’m comparing the two sets of films in that way. I’m comparing them, in that this film franchise, started with a confined and semi-claustrophobic horror thriller, even if it isn’t as scary as it maybe once was, and has now morphed into a full-fledged action film. Now, I’m not sure if that was the original goal, or if there was just the want to up the action because there was so much space to play with, now that the story is set in Raccoon City, but it’s certainly a great perk. People, I’m sure, have been trying to debate the successes and failures of this franchise, and while I may not know too much of what those may be, I find that this helps. The final film in the franchise, (or is it “final” film?), is soon to open in a few days' time, and then I think the talks of what this franchise achieved will be had, if they haven’t already begun. What will that include? What will be missed or covered badly?

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Screen Gems
Screen Gems

It wasn’t just the general scope of the film that increased, but because of the new focus, the action itself was able to be increased and that much more exciting. If I had trouble in the previous film figuring out which I liked most, I’m having an even more difficult time figuring out which action sequence I liked the best. There are just so many, and they’re a bit lengthier as well. No short bursts. The locations certainly helped with this.

You’ve got the decently sized and executed church sequence, which includes some other smaller moments, which while not overly suspenseful, still brought with it enough silence and tension building, that perhaps you yourself might start to wonder if you heard a noise or not. And then our favorite Umbrella Corporation creature shows up. The Licker, although this time, he brought friends. Logically, which you really shouldn’t dwell on too much or often, these seem to be the remaining ones from the underground facility, but I can’t figure out why they’re just now showing up in Raccoon City. I guess, unlike the first one we met, these ones weren’t in a hurry to break free. Anyway, back to the mayhem in the church! They can climb, jump and lash out with their tongues! What?! Strength is also on their side, so when it comes time for Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine and Raz Adoti’s Peyton Wells to take them on, it wasn’t your standard sequence. There was no immediate success, but plenty of hiding. Try as they may, these creatures were too quick and smart for them. That, of course, didn’t stop either of them from looking pretty damn cool pulling out their weapons and firing away or even discarding one when it ran out of rounds. Then, Milla Jovovich’s Alice show’s up, and she brought with her all kinds of badass moves, which while not featuring hand to hand combat or jumping and diving, still upped the excitement factor a lot! Another thing that makes this sequence work, the Lickers come to life with better CGI. You can still spot some off moments, but they’re nowhere near as bad as that seen in the previous film.

The cemetery sequence which follows is just as awesome for a few reasons. It’s a cemetery with the undead crawling out of their graves. Then, our hero, all but poor and defenseless, which is kind of a shame no matter how you look at it, Terry Morales, played by Sandrine Holt, kick into fighter mode. The moves Jovovich and Guillory possess are quick and effective! These moves are stylish as well, and because it’s in the cemetery, the choreographed moves Jovovich and Guillory sport, are thrilling to witness. Do I need to go on about the flip over the zombie or jump over the headstone Jovovich did?! How about Guillory’s slide kick, where she flipped the zombie?! No? Okay, you get it.

And, if I’m going to talk about the bigger and improved action sequences, I can’t leave out the Nemesis ones. They’re so big and showcase so much originality, that’s also, given the type of film we have before us, believable. Jovovich goes toe to toe with this massive creature, and while never succeeding to do much damage, doesn’t let up. She gives it her all, and with Jovovich’s muscular look and refined fighting style, she brings some much needed intensity to them. It helps too, that I’m certain she did the majority of her own fight scenes and stunt work. It certainly looks like it. There’s intensity elsewhere in these fights, but it’s really the hand to hand that does it. There’s also something a thrill had when watching, a rush and persistent nature, which I don’t feel is often there in other fight scenes in other films. One thing I do love, other than the Nemesis design as a whole, is how Jovovich is running from him, and shoots out a wall leading to the garbage chute, where she lands in an empty dumpster. That entire bit is one big homage to La Femme Nikita, even if it wasn’t intentionally designed as such. I can’t believe I missed that all the other times I’ve seen this film. That alone, is how I feel I was able to have a lot of fun with these action sequences. I’d simply forgotten.


Screen Gems
Screen Gems

As exciting as all of the action sequences are, none of that would mean a helluva lot without the characters. Any and all of them, but in this case, it goes beyond just the fact that they’re in this film and portrayed by these specific actors. It’s actually about how they’re introduced. The majority, including Jovovich’s returning Alice, all have a spectacular character introduction. I seldom look for or pay attention to the way characters are introduced to a film or TV series, but in this case, it’s impossible not to notice. A big flashing neon sign isn’t needed.

First we get Oded Fehr’s Carlos Olivera, who gets to drop out of a helicopter and shoot zombies on a rooftop, all in the hope of saving one person. He then stops mere feet from the rooftop. I’ve always loved that sequence, but that’s not all. He kicks a zombie square in the face and then does that nifty little gunplay, which shouldn’t seem that cool, but does.

Guillory is next, and what looks like it was shot to resemble game play, somehow works. It’s quick, flashy and immediately tells viewers how good Jill Valentine really is. Again, it shouldn’t look that cool or be that interesting, but it is. Maybe it’s just this film series and this film’s overall look that determined this introductory sequence, along with Fehr’s and Jovovich’s. There’s never really been a consistency with regards to style and how it calls back to the video games, but being memorable was certainly a mandate.

And of course, Jovovich. She too got an exciting and memorable introductory sequence, even though we’d already been reintroduced to her earlier in the film. That one alone, while not as amazing as her church entrance on a motorcycle, was plenty good. I guess the film’s writer decided she couldn’t be left out, certainly not after Guillory and Fehr.

While this is definitely one big example of superficiality, it also speaks volumes to the look and feel of the series as whole, especially when looking back at it. Not all action films need to be flashy and stylish, but this one thrives off of it. No, it’s a deliberate part of the series, that without, we’d probably have a different franchise and would definitely feel different towards it. Character introductions aren’t the only way in which style is on display. It goes down to the outfits and the weapons each character sports. Previously, it was very straightforward, military tactical gear, but now, upgrades are available! The one, who benefits the most, is Jovovich. She can accessorize like no other. And, yes, while this is such a ridiculous thing to focus on, somehow, even with Guillory and Fehr, it becomes part of their characters. If you were to restyle them, who are they? It’s such a deliberate move on the side of the costume designer and possibly more, that even now, I find myself getting excited about what these characters will look like. While it’s still strange that there’s a new look each film, it doesn’t make it any less cool and fun to see. How many other films can you say that about?

Original Release Date: Sept. 10, 2004

Director: Alexander Witt

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Sophie Vavasseur, Sandrine Holt, Raz Adoti, Jared Harris and Mike Epps

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