Resident Evil: Apocalypse was put before the public in 2004, missing a planned 2003 release date due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak of the previous year. I am sure those in our profession remember the outbreak with sadness. With such inauspicious beginnings, there would appear to be little reason to look forward to this production, following as it does from its hardly distinguished predecessor. However, a closer inspection does provide cause for hope – while Ms Jovovich returns in the lead role, writer Mr Anderson has abandoned directing duties, passing these over to a Mr. Alexander Witt.
Sadly, I can state that the situation is no better under this new leadership. For a start, the title of the production is grossly misleading. The subtitle promises an apocalypse, yet delivers only one American city under threat. While some may argue for a small, personal apocalypse, I cannot be satisfied with the word’s usage unless a good proportion of the living surface of the planet is in danger. (Perhaps one may argue that Mr. Witt is correct in using the term in its original sense, given the revelation of the viral outbreak near the production’s end. I am given to understand that word at root means “something uncovered.” But I cannot abide such a pedantic interpretation so far from the generally accepted use of the term.)
Neatly discarding the title, then, we find the action continuing directly from the end of the previous production, as a number of police officers, passersby and television journalists react to an outbreak in their city – later revealed to be the T-virus. Ms Jovovich is also present, although initially unclothed and disorientated. Throughout this non-apocalypse, we meet creatures with the now-expected array of improbable bodily modifications, including several familiar beings who appear to have sprouted tentacles from their faces.
That being said, the mode of action of the T-virus initially appears more sensible in this film, since it is depicted as acting upon the living, and, for the large part, causing biologically plausible reactions. While science has not yet provided us with a virus that could cause such symptoms, the Raccoon city pedestrians who attack, bite and devour their fellows are not doing anything that you or I could not do, should we be so inclined. I wish I could say that, at least, the virus does not break the laws of nature.
Sadly, I cannot state any of the above pleasantries. Why? Because of one incident in which Ms Jovovich and party are surprised in a graveyard by a horde of the recently-risen dead. The suggestion that this singular event can have anything to do with the T-virus is laughable. After death of the body, the life expectancy of human cells is measured, at most, in days. The gut microbiome may survive longer, but none of these corpses appear to be driven from their bellies. Besides, in an American graveyard, many corpses will be rendered almost sterile (and inedible) by the use of a large volume of formaldehyde. A virus requires living cells in which to replicate – what living cells, pray, remain in these dessicated and chemically treated corpses?
Perhaps the Umbrella corporation have bypassed this requirement – could they be better bioengineers than I give them credit for? Certainly, they appear to be talented civil engineers, building an effective cordon around the city in a manner of hours. This becomes a truly impressive achievement when we recall that a large part of construction must have taken place under the noses and, indeed, feet of the panicked, fleeing populace.
Maybe we can judge Umbrella by their creation – the t-virus infected Nemesis, who we see tested in the closed off city. Certainly, his size and strength appear impressive, and his facial scarring, while unusual, does not stray too far from the realms of possibility. However, once again, the Umbrella corporation to not appear to be using their resources to the fullest potential in this martial creation. Watching Nemesis at work, one cannot help but notice that his major powers come from an array of rocket launchers and ranged weapons. A large man, wearing body armour and appropriately armed, would seem to be an adequate replacement. A suitable chosen large man would also be unlikely to display the sentimentality and insubordination shown by Nemesis in the closing minutes of this production.
As in the case of its predecessor, this film ends on a dark note, with Ms Jovovich defeating another attempt to contain the virus – this time, by riding a helicopter away from a cleansing nuclear blast. A last-minute suggestion that the character may be safe under laboratory supervision is dashed as she makes her escape.
Still, there are signs of hope, or at least moderate interest. A curious sectoral heterochromia suggests that the character may now be reacting to her viral infection. This is an interesting twist – viral infections can have multiple complex side effects.
I live in hope that Mr Witt, or his successor, will learn from his mistakes, and that we will see a realistic and logical use of the virus in further sequels.
Helen lives in the UK, where she works in science media and wastes too much time online. She has a degree in the history of science.