Let's get this out of the way up front: Measured objectively, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' isn't a very good movie. Not that the original 'Resident Evil' was a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but it was fun and exciting, and gave horror fans as much action and gore as they could hope for. It was a little dopey but not excessively stupid, and Milla Jovovich looked incredibly hot running around in cramped corridors wearing a sexy red dress and kicking zombie ass. That picture earned a tidy profit, so a sequel was inevitable. Thus we have 'Apocalypse'. The second film doesn't work nearly as well, but on the guilty pleasure scale it has some merit.
Here are some of the things I enjoyed about the first 'Resident Evil':
Here are some of the things I enjoyed about 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse':
Frankly, when it comes to this type of movie, my standards just aren't all that high.
'Apocalypse' picks up immediately after the final scene of the last picture, and makes a valiant attempt to expand the parameters of the concept by taking the action outside of "The Hive" (the underground research facility where zombies and mutant beasts ran rampant through the halls) and letting all hell break loose on the streets of Raccoon City. As we learned in the prior film's finale, the T-Virus had gotten loose and begun spreading a plague that turned anyone infected into undead flesh-eating monsters. In response, the evil Umbrella Corporation responsible for this mess has attempted to contain the disaster by walling off the city and leaving anyone trapped inside to fend for themselves. The problem they face is that our girl Alice is in there, as well as a few well-armed cops, a fast-talking hustler, a nosy journalist, and the daughter of one of Umbrella's chief research scientists, and they all want out. That scientist also really wants his daughter back. Sadly for them, the less ethical members of the Umbrella board have not only decided to screw them all, but to use Raccoon City as a testing ground for their latest biological experiment, a nasty mutant beastie that has ties to Alice.
While the first movie was only loosely based on the 'Resident Evil' video game series (the character of Alice is nowhere to be found in any of the games), 'Apocalypse' makes a token effort to incorporate elements taken mainly from 'Resident Evil 3: Nemesis'. We're introduced to game characters Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), the S.T.A.R.S. Special Tactics and Rescue Squad, and the Nemesis monster. Guillory is almost as smoking hot as Jovovich, and is a dead ringer for the animated version of her character. Certain sequences in the movie are taken directly out of the games, and much of the action is shot in a "run-and-gun" style gamers will find familiar.
The problem is that the script for the movie (written by Paul W.S. Anderson again) is really dumb, more so than the last time. The attempts to add comic relief with annoying sidekick characters (specifically the bimbo reporter and the goofy pimp) are miscalculated, and the plot has some serious lapses in basic logic. In its worst scene, our heroes run through a cemetery and are attacked by zombies bursting from the graves, a direct contradiction of the rules established in the first film, which stated that the T-Virus could only reanimate the recently deceased. Despite being directed by Alexander Witt, an accomplished 2nd Unit Director on countless huge Hollywood action movies ('Black Hawk Down', 'The Bourne Identity', 'The Italian Job', 'Casino Royale', and more), many of the fight scenes are incoherently staged and shot. Worst of all, the big baddie Nemesis monster is just incredibly cheesy and lame.
On the plus side, the movie opens with a really cool recap sequence of the previous picture, and the first ten minutes or so begin the action with a nice jolt. The zombie dogs are back and still awesome. We're also given some zombie hookers and, in an inspired bit of depravity, a gaggle of zombie schoolgirls who provide a much-deserved comeuppance to one of the more irritating characters.
No, 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is not a great movie, or even a particularly good one. But once you've lowered your expectations sufficiently, it offers some legitimate entertainment value.
The HD DVD: Vital Disc Stats
The North American rights to 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' are held by Sony, who have released it exclusively on Blu-ray here. However, a company called Constantin Film holds the distribution rights in Germany, and have released it and the first film on both Blu-ray and HD DVD in that country. The HD DVD has no region coding and will function fine in an American HD DVD player.
The disc starts with an anti-piracy ad and trailer before the main menu, which are annoying but can thankfully be skipped. All of the disc's menus are in German, but aren't difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, the HD DVD has no pop-up menus available during the feature.
Unlike the domestic Blu-ray, the German disc contains an Extended Version of the movie that runs 98 minutes, in comparison to the 94-minute theatrical cut. The extended cut incorporates about half of the footage found in the Deleted Scenes section of the Sony Blu-ray release, but also removes some footage from the theatrical version. The changes are unlikely to radically affect a viewer's opinion of the film, neither helping nor hurting it in any significant measure. My first time through, I had a hard time telling the difference. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the removal of some of the flashbacks to the first movie. After seeing the theatrical cut of 'Apocalypse', I commented to a friend that Eric Mabius should have received an above-the-title credit on movie posters for the number of times the film reused clips from his role in the previous picture. That isn't the case in this version; he's only shown once or twice now.
The 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer on this German 'Apocalypse' HD DVD looks largely similar to the domestic Blu-ray release of the film, which is to say not all that impressive. The 2.40:1 picture is rather soft, with only fair but not exceptional detail. It appears that a lot of Noise Reduction has been applied. Colors are often exaggerated, and the contrast range is dull. The result of all this is a flat image without much depth or dimensionality. The first movie looks a lot better.
I compared to the Blu-ray and found the picture on that disc a tad sharper and clearer, but not dramatically so.
Another problem that American viewers will find is that all on-screen text such as location identifiers are presented in German text in this version of the movie. It's a minor nuisance, but one that can be rather distracting.
Important Notice: This German 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' disc is one of the first HD DVDs to be flagged with an Image Constraint Token. If your HD DVD player is connected by HDMI to your display, there should be no issue in viewing the movie at its full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, viewers connected by Component Video will find the image downconverted to 480p Standard Definition. This is extremely disappointing, to say the least.
Whereas the domestic Blu-ray provides the movie's English-language soundtrack in uncompressed PCM 5.1 format, the German HD DVD uses a DTS-HD High Resolution encoding. DTS-HD HR is not a lossless or uncompressed format, but the results are nonetheless nearly equivalent.
The movie's soundtrack features punishingly deep bass, and a lot of it. There are many sharply recorded gunshots and stinger scares. The car crash at the beginning is sure to grab your attention. Surrounds are used aggressively, but not as creatively as the first film. Overall fidelity is also merely OK. Dialogue and music sound a bit dull, which is largely factor of the sound design continually layering louder and louder noises on top of each other. Subtlety was not on anyone's agenda here. It sounds fine, and will likely impress those who measure sound quality by how much their subwoofer rattles the windows, but I've listened to many superior soundtracks on other High-Def discs.
Unlike some import HD DVDs from Europe (the problem seems to be confined to releases from Studio Canal), 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' has no issues with increased pitch.
Optional German subtitles can be disabled in the main menu.
The German HD DVD includes most of the bonus features from the original DVD release of the movie and the Blu-ray. Unlike the HD DVD for the first film, all of the supplements default to German subtitles that I could not manage to turn off.
'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' is a decided step down from the first film, but once you lower your standards it offers some fun. The main attraction of this German HD DVD is the extended cut of the movie, which is an interesting variation but not dramatically different. The HD DVD otherwise offers only fair picture and decent sound. Die-hard fans of the series will want to scoop it up, but I expect that most viewers will be satisfied with the domestic Blu-ray or even the DVD.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.