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Unpopular Opinion: ‘Apocalypse’ is the Worst Film in the ‘Resident Evil’ Franchise

A few weeks ago, our own Jonathan Barkan wrote an article ranking the Resident Evil films, and he selected Resident Evil: Apocalypse as his favorite film, stating that “this is the epitome of what a Resident Evil movie should be. It’s got multiple iconic locations, tons of nods to the games, a cheesiness that was absolutely present in the original games, and it was just plain fun! ” That is all well and good, but I couldn’t disagree more. Apocalypse is actually the worst film in the Resident Evil franchise (Extinction is the best). It may be the best adaptation of the games, but that is different from being the best movie (and the subject of an entirely different article). That is something that fans have a hard time distinguishing between when watching a Resident Evil movie. This is not a popular sentiment, and I fully realize that I’m in the minority with this opinion. This article may feel like a rant, and that is because it is a rant. I really dislike this Resident Evil: Apocalypse. If you love Apocalypse, stop reading now. You will hate me by the end of this article. 

I should start this article by saying that I am actually a fan of the Resident Evil movies (and the games). They are not high art by any means, but there is something inherently entertaining about them. The first one probably takes itself the most seriously, and the sequels really dumbed things down (except Extinction, but I’ll write a separate article on my love for that one). My stance on the series (from best to worst) is this: 3, 1, 5, 4, 2 (I legitimately love 1 and 3, sort of enjoy 4 and 5 and dislike 2). Retribution is probably the worst movie in the series, but at least that film makes no qualms about how stupid it is. You may ask why I don’t apply the same level of scrutiny to Afterlife or Retribution, and the answer is simple: Apocalypse is the film responsible for turning Resident Evil into a joke. Afterlife and Retribution may be silly, but they most likely wouldn’t have turned out that way if Apocalypse had stayed on the same path (and tone) as the first film. That is why I hold a grudge against it.

As many of you who read my posts know, I’m not one to hate on a movie. I always try to find the positive in almost all of the things that I watch. When I first watched Resident Evil: Apocalypse in theaters back in 2004,  I convinced myself that it was a good movie. I was actually excited about it for months, ever since I saw the teaser trailer on my DVD for Underworld. I mean, just look at this teaser:

That is a mighty impressive teaser trailer (directed by Marcus Nispel, no less), but unfortunately it was the smartest thing about the movie. Resident Evil: Apocalypse is dumb. It’s not like any of the other entries aren’t dumb too (the aforementioned Retribution is probably the dumbest, and hinges on the thinnest plot out of all of the films), but Apocalypse is insultingly dumb. It thinks it’s more intelligent than it is and relies solely on fan service and video game references to impress. Clearly this worked, as many viewers prefer this film out of all the others in the franchise.

It’s not that people who think Apocalypse is the best Resident Evil film are unintelligent, it’s that they mistake an accurate adaptation for high quality. Lest you think this article is an attack on those fans, let me assure you that that is not my intention. I am merely making an observation. The entirety of Apocalypse feels like the filmmakers had a checklist of things they had to include from the games after the severe backlash the first film received from fans. What must that conversation have been like between Paul W.S. Anderson, Capcom, the other three production companies and the big wigs at Screen Gems? “Hey Paul, no one liked how the first movie had nothing to do with the games other than the inclusion of the Umbrella Corporation and a Licker, so here’s a checklist of things from the games we want you to put in the sequel. Write a script around this checklist.” That is basically what Apocalypse feels like, and it makes it a hollow viewing experience. Nothing in Apocalypse feels personal. At least the first film, as flawed as it is, feels like Anderson actually cared about what he was doing. Apocalypse is just a cash grab to get fans of the games to buy a ticket. The whole thing feels rushed, and it may or may not have had something to do with the fact that Anderson was preoccupied with Alien Vs. Predator at the time (ha). Had Anderson spent more time caring for this script as opposed to finishing it so he could start on Alien Vs. Predator, we may have had a very different Resident Evil film franchise. Apocalypse also feels rushed because it was rushed. The film was set to be released on October 31, 2003, a mere 19 months after the first film’s release. It was pushed back to September 10, 2004 due to a 2003 SARS outbreak.

The problems with Apocalypse no doubt started with the first film. By choosing to make the first film a prequel to the games (and not include any characters from them), Anderson left it entirely up to Apocalypse to build the film series’ version of the video game world. At 94 minutes, the film feels overstuffed, leaving little breathing room to fully take in any aspect of the film. Yes, Sienna Guillory is a perfect mirror image of Jill Valentine. Yes, Nemesis looks awesome and is a total badass until the final act (more on that in a bit). It is cool to see Carlos Olivera (mysteriously changed from the game version’s spelling of Oliveira) on the big screen, though why they chose to include him over Chris Redfield is a mind-boggling decision. Had the film been 30 minutes longer and allowed some breathing room for all of the characters, the maybe it wouldn’t feel so shallow.

No one would accuse any Resident Evil film of being smart, but Apocalypse goes out of its way to show off its lack of sense. If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie where things happen simply because the script requires them to, look no further than Apocalypse. Why do the characters walk through a cemetery when the dead are rising all around them (and why do the corpses decide right at that moment to rise from the dead)? Because the script requires them to. How does Alice know that a group of people are in trouble in the church? I’m sure I don’t know. Why does Jill Valentine post newspaper clippings of her disgrace at RCPD on her bulletin board? To provide character backstory without having Jill actually speak words (her fall from grace also has no impact on the story whatsoever). How did the Umbrella Corporation build a wall around the entire city in 13 hours? No clue. Arguing logic in a Resident Evil movie is pointless, but Apocalypse is the most illogical of the bunch.

All supporting characters are given little to no thought whatsoever. Sandrine Holt’s reporter Terri Morales? Wasted (and what a cliché death, with that whole “turn the child around only to discover it’s a zombie child and then suddenly there are tons of zombie children right behind her” bit). Zack Ward’s Nicholai Ginovaeff? Not only is he a completely different character than his video game counterpart, but he is also underused and killed off after a handful of scenes. Razaaq Adoti as Jill’s partner Peyton? Who is this character and why is he in this movie? The only supporting character to really make much of an impression is Mike Epps’ L.J., and it’s only because he plays to a bunch of racial stereotypes (Extinction would fix this aspect of the character, which is another reason why I prefer that film over Apocalypse).

Resident Evil Apocalypse

Do you care about any of these characters besides Alice? Try to forget that you ever played the video game. Imagine you had never heard of Jill Valentine and spent hours getting her out of the Spencer Mansion and a destroyed Raccoon City in Resident Evil and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. If that were the case, would you care anything about Guillory’s Jill Valentine? The answer is no. Every character, save for Alice and maybe Jared Harris’ Dr. Ashford and his daughter, are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts being played by actors.

Let’s get to Nemesis. This is an aspect that I’m quite surprised game fans aren’t still seething over. Anderson took the main villain of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, a hulking beast whose only mission was to kill all of the S.T.A.R.S. members (an organization introduced in this film, that legitimately holds no meaning to anyone not familiar with the games). The one thing Anderson gets right in his script is have Matt (Eric Mabius) from the first film be revealed as Nemesis. This was not exactly a surprise since the Resident Evil ended with the scientists exclaiming “Let’s use him for the Nemesis project,” but it’s still a cool idea. Anderson completely botches Nemesis in the third act by giving Nemesis a change of heart and flip over to the good side in order to help Alice, whom he just recognizes from his previous life. What?! Why would you take the biggest and baddest Resident Evil villain and neuter him? I get that Anderson was trying to inject some heart into this story, but for a film that is so incredibly devoid of emotion, why try to inject heart into it at the 11th hour?

On the positive side, the film is competently made. by then-newcomer Alexander Witt, though his choice of a distracting blur effect during all of the zombie scenes is a questionable one. Why do that? Did they think it looked cool (it doesn’t)? The fight sequences are well choreographed, but they are edited so poorly that it makes it impossible to tell what is going on. Alice’s final battle with Nemesis is a prime example of truly atrocious editing.

Do the Resident Evil movies deserve this much analysis? Probably not, but here we are 1,800+ words later and the deed is done. Is Resident Evil: Apocalypse a fun movie? Absolutely. Is it a good movie? No. It’s terrible, and it’s certainly the worst and laziest film in the franchise. The film is an insult to Resident Evil fans even more so than the first movie was. At least that movie tried. Apocalypse just stumbles along from one scene to the next.

What are your thoughts on Resident Evil: Apocalypse? Do you disagree with me? Or do you think that I make a  good point? Whatever your thoughts are, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my rant. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below (or feel free to attack me on Twitter). Here is a 20-minute video pointing out all of the narrative flaws in the film. Admittedly, it gets some of them wrong, but it’s 95% accurate. Enjoy!

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  • James

    The first was the only good one and even that one was a weak adaptation

  • Doogie Bowser

    I feel it all is a slap in the face to the franchise itself. It is tough to make a movie based on a game without simply recreating the game.. but I felt if they wanted to incorporate characters from the games, they should have started the first film with at least someone recognizable, and not wait until the 2nd. I personally haven’t watched past the 2nd movie because being a fan of RE, I have no interest in the films that barely have anything to even do with the games other than using Umbrella, and randomly pulling in characters whenever. If they wanted to do it right, they should have taken a lot more from Romero’s script, because that at least used characters (not always perfectly) but we had names we recognized.. not “Alice” which I feel is completely ridiculous character. There is no fear, no horror in these movies. Just an overpowered experiment who can take everything down in a snap of the fingers. The series does not connect with the games and how they were made and designed atmospherically. These movies fit more to the games we have now; the action/shoot-em-up style Resident Evil games that everyone hates… not the nerve wracking, “what’s behind that door” feeling from the originals.

  • Daniel Baldwin

    I’ve only seen the first 4, but I completely agree with this.

  • J Jett

    APOCALYPSE is the best out of them all and is easily my #1 fave. i love it. is it perfect? no. but it’s just otherwise awesome.

    • My therapist agrees with me! Actually, I’m no really sure if she does, but I’m sure she would! But I think Apocalypse and Retribution are both pretty bad movies. At least Retributions doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. Apocalypse feels like it thinks it’s better than it is. I still think Extinction is the best entry though.

      • At least Retribution has a cool car chase and the corridor fight was pretty neat in terms of choreography. Guilty pleasure crank up to 11!

  • I remember me being pumped up to see Apocalypse at the cinema. Boy I was disappointed. I thought the firs tone was an excellent techno-horror-action-thriller. So bigger budget and the adaptation of Raccoon city. This could have been neat. But falling to the traps of 2-second editing, the fight sequences are incomprehensible, everyone is superhuman and has amazing aim. There is no real threat. The final fight between nemesis and Alice is just a joke. The zombies looks horrible and there is no real gore or the slightest amount of blood. Only saving sequence is the church and that crazy stunt with Alice going down the building that they did it for real. Very desole!

  • I agree with you.

  • PsychoMantis18

    ‘Apocalypse is actually the worst film in the Resident Evil franchise. It may be the best adaptation of the games, but that is different from being the best movie’

    ‘Afterlife and Retribution may be silly, but they most likely wouldn’t have turned out that way if Apocalypse had stayed on the same path (and tone) as the first film. That is why I hold a grudge against it.’

    So you’re unable to take your own advice and judge the movie on its own merits, got it.

    Now i’ll follow suit and draw the conclusion that – you actually love not one but two of the Resident Evil films and therefore, I can’t give any credence to your critique.

    P.S. – Apocalypse was the only fun one out of the whole boring bunch!

    • No I can totally do that. I think 2, 4 and 5 are all bad movies. I enjoy them for what they are, but I think 2 is the worst one. As a film, it’s certainly the worst. I just don’t get it when people prefer it to 1 and 3. Thanks for the snark though! Much appreciated.

      • PsychoMantis18


  • reaper18783x

    agree 100% i hated apocalypse i saw it in the cinema and it looks so fake and they destroyed nemesis and for that i will never forgive them if i had to choose best to worse it would be 3,1,4,5,2

  • shawn lawson

    Havent seen the last two films but i hate the RE films. Youve already got a blueprint thanks to the games. Theyre too glossy and sci fi. Too bad. Big fan of games 1-5 and couple of the spinoffs.

    • At this point complaining about how the RE films aren’t good adaptations is beating a dead horse. That ship sailed years ago. We’ve just got to hope that this incarnation of the series ends with the next film so they can reboot in in 5 years.

      • shawn lawson

        Haha. True story my man

  • Liam Mountain

    All the movies are terrible lol but are worth a watch , strange I know but I enjoyed watching them for their scenes and action but in no way are they good story telling material.I heard rumors they are rebooting the resident evil movies based more on the games after Anderson’s final RE film.

  • Kermet Key

    The second Resident Evil was the best. The last two have been utter shit.

  • Francesco Falciani

    well…i’m agree “RE apocalypse” and “RE Retribution” are bit shit…and don’t get me wrong i love the franchise, and can’t wait for part6…but yes those 2 chapters are the worst in the saga!…only jill Velentine saves part 2!

  • Luke Owen

    You’re not alone. Having spoken at length with Paul Anderson, he also thinks Apocalypse is the weakest one. He would have directed it, by Fox wanted him to do AVP and Sony wouldn’t delay production for Apocalypse, so he had to make a decision. Funnily enough the same thing happened with Extinction, only that was over Death Race. Having said that, he did direct the movie somewhat from afar. He watched the dailies every night even though he was in a different country. If Alexander Witt wanted to change something in the script, he had to call and ask Anderson – made harder by the time differences. Paul had to fix a lot of things in post because he didn’t like the way Witt had shot things. He’s really not a fan of the movie and thinks the only good stuff comes from his script.

    With regards to the movie taking too much from the games, what Paul described to me was that the first movie was to act as a prequel to the games and this one was as a sidestory to RE 2 and 3. The way he puts it is that Alice is in Raccoon City with Jill, but it you walked round the corner you’d run into Leon and Claire. The third movie (when it was designed to be a trilogy) was to be a post-script to the games, so essentially the franchise’s final chapter – which is why everything is destroyed.

    I’ve got a lot of time for Paul. No matter what people think of the movies, he speaks with such passion about them. Having spoken with a lot of filmmakers, writers, producers and directors on video game movies, Anderson is the one who gets it the most.

    • This is absolutely fascinating. While I don’t necessarily think his script for Apocalypse is that great, it’s a pretty interesting behind-the-scenes story. Thank you for that!

      • Luke Owen

        Not a problem! I’ve got a book coming out on the subject of video game movies (hopefully) out Spring 2017. Sending the manuscript to the publishers in the next couple of weeks. It’s been a very interesting ride!

  • Eizzy IceBorne

    I got the same “unpopular opinion”, I didn`t like Apocalypse also not so much.

  • Abyss Knight

    I still found them all entertaining in the end. That’s what matters. Vast majority of people just can’t grasp what fun is.

    • I think they’re all fun, but I do think the actual quality of the movies matter too. Even judged by their own standards, Apocalypse is a pretty bad movie.

  • Maxime C

    The first one was the only good one. Period.

    • Max Houston

      THANK you!!!

      • Maxime C

        You’re welcome. I’m tired of people saying #3 was great and oooh those action scenes in #5. Like… are you kidding me?? No. Pure cgi crap, nothing to actually see here.
        And let’s not talk about the…”screenplays”.

        • Max Houston

          Exactly, I feel like 1 was the only one that actually had any heart, regardless of it was far off from the games. They were trying to make their own adaptation and they did a great job. It was scary, surprising, sinister, original, all the great things you love on a ‘zombie’ movie. It wasn’t rushed and the emotion was real. By far one of the better independent films I’ve seen. I mean Marilyn Manson scored the whole thing for christ sake!

  • c-s-a78

    why do people h8 these movies sooo much???
    if you liked buffy the vampire slayer,then you would love these films.
    just leave milla & paul alone.they put a lot of work into these films.
    if you don’t like them…DONT WATCH THEM!!! simple!!!

    • Hey, I think they’re a lot of fun! I love 1 and 3 and find the rest watchable if not good quality. But I’m confused by your statement of “If you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer then you would love these films.” Could you explain that to me, please? BtVS is about 1000x smarter than anything in the RE movies lol.

      • c-s-a78

        Im good friends with them & its not fair to judge when i know for fact that alottt of hard work goes into making these films. The buffy statement was referred to ‘girl kick ass action horror’

    • Brodequin

      “I hate it” is just nowday’s word for “i don’t like it”. Personally, i can feel hate only towards human nature. Otherwise it’s “i don’t like it”…
      Btw: I don’t like Resident Evil films (except animated ones) and Resident Evil games hehehe

    • Sounds like you never played the video games because if you had you would have felt betrayed. Alice was over powered. She took all the fear out of the movie. When you played the game you were always nervous about what might be around every corner. I’m not saying movies need to be clones of video games but they should have the same spirit. The films failed at making a movie that could even be called a fair representation of the games. Its insulting to the games that they share the same title.

  • Oh I understand that a lot of work goes into making these films. Making any film, good or bad, takes a LOT of work. But that doesn’t mean the film is good and that it is exempt from judgment/criticism. By your logic, no film should ever by criticized.

    • Wesley

      Well by your logic the best film in the series is extinction, the most boring unappealing pile of dung to come out of resident evil. Just another post apocalyptic desert movie, so boring. I got news for you all the movies are a joke compared to the games. At least apocalypse was funny and entertaining, but you do have a right to your opinion, i guess i just thought extinction was realy boring and not worth watching,and i have tried several times. My resident evil films list ranked best to worst,1,2,4,5,3. Haven’t seen final chapter.

      • Oh man in no way did I find Extinction boring. I thought it was exciting from beginning to end. And yes I’m fully aware that they are jokes compared to the games. I LOVE the games. But I enjoy the films for what they are.

  • Wesley

    This dude writting this is retarded, extinction is the most boring pile of shit out of them all. Many times i tried to watch it never being able to get through it. At least mike epps brought a few laughs to apocalypse. Extinction takes place in these bland desert inviroments and proceeds to kill off carlos an LJ, 2 of the best characters the movie franchise had. None of the resident evil films are great, but all the other movies besides extinction kept me entertained, extinction is just garbage.

    • John Connor

      Extinction was the last one at the time, so it didn’t matter who they killed.

      I thought Extinction was the second worst (after Afterlife) of the series, but now that I’ve rewatched it, its my second favorite of the series (behind Retribution).

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