Resident Evil: Apocalypse – What happened here?!

Since Resident Evil: Extinction, the third movie in the Resident Evil trilogy, opens next week, I thought I’d gear up by reviewing the second movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. I remember feeling somewhat bored and fidgety when I saw Apocalypse in the theater, but I did not have the same reaction when I watched it again at home. The pacing felt good, there was plenty of action, and I didn’t have to yell at the characters even once to stop talking and get on with it.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed in its treatment of gender and race. I gave the first Resident Evil movie three stars because of its diverse casting and respect for its female characters. Apocalypse could have followed that pattern, but the film’s creators choose instead to rely on stereotypes for the people of color and sexualization for the women.

Men of African descent can be either expendable muscle or flashy streetwise hustler. There’s one other person of color with a speaking part, named Oliveira, and he’s also muscle. There are no people of color among the technicians and scientists that make up the evil Umbrella corporation – and while I wish I could believe that this was some kind of statement about how white men run the world and often do bad things, I think it’s just racist casting. I had noticed in the first film that there were few, if any, people of color among all the Umbrella employees who are killed by the virus. I put it aside because the more substantial characters who show up soon thereafter were much more diversely cast. But by the second film, was it too much to ask that ONE person of color might have been included in the Umbrella machine? Does the Raccoon City university really have this much trouble recruiting diverse candidates into their hard sciences?

Women, and by this I mean white women (no Michelle Rodriguez in this one), don’t fare much better than people of color. Alice (Milla Jovovich) and Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) do kick major ass, but who is dressing them? Alice’s outfit in the first movie was a dress that I would not pick for being beset by zombies, but at least it made sense in the storyline since the outbreak happened while she was getting ready to go out to dinner. This time around, she leaves the hospital and quickly finds Guns N Tank Tops R Us to suit up in this mesh number that looks like one of those strangely named bathing suit “cover ups.” Jill Valentine is first shown in stiletto heels, which thankfully are discarded in favor of boots. However, I can’t be expected to suspend my disbelief far enough to believe that someone who is aware that zombie bites are infectious is going to choose to fight them while wearing a bustier. Seriously, people.

Don’t even get me started on the scene where the African-American hustler character crashes his car because he’s distracted by topless zombie women. I’m not sure how that scene could have been made more offensive.

I give Apocalpyse just one star, and that’s just because there are strong female characters who kick ass and shoot zombies. Truthfully, I had fun watching it, but I’m not sure the fun was worth the eye rolling.

Now I will await Mad Max Beyond Resident Evil Resident Evil: Apocalypse to find out whether it follows this pattern, or returns to the higher standards set by the first film.

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

One thought on “Resident Evil: Apocalypse – What happened here?!

  1. Patrick J McGraw

    Just found the review. You address a lot of good points, though there was one more character of color, the reporter played by Sandrine Holt (who, of course, dies).

    Jill Valentine’s problematic costume was inherited from the third videogame. Your argument applies there, as well, because just like in the movie, this was the outfit that she decided to leave her apartment in when the zombie outbreak occured. Instead of, y’know, her police uniform.

    Reply

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