Home > Reviews > RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE – Jeff Danna


September 10, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

residentevilapocalypseOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

As the second in a projected series of movies spinning off from the classic Capcom computer game Biohazard, Resident Evil: Apocalypse has a big reputation to live up to. The original game is one of the most-played and best-loved survival horror games in history, and is credited as being the inspiration for an entire genre of similar experiences. The first Resident Evil movie made $101 million worldwide in 2002, and was the highest-grossing movie of the year for the Sony subsidiary Screen Gems. Apocalypse, which is once again is written by British sci-fi specialist Paul W.S. Anderson, essentially picks up where the first movie left off, with ass-kicking heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich), having battled hordes of virus-infected zombies and other assorted nasties, escaping alive from the Hive of the Umbrella Corporation building, only to find Raccoon City a desolate wasteland. With the deadly T-virus on the loose and turning the good citizens of the city into slavering zombies, Alice and the other survivors she encounters (Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Zack Ward) must fight their way through the hordes to safety. However, their biggest challenge lies with the seemingly unstoppable Nemesis, a super-human mutation created by the virus, whose sole goal is to kill every living thing…

The score for the first Resident Evil movie in 2002 fused together the orchestral know-how of Marco Beltrami with the confrontational rock stylings of Brian Warner, better known to the world as Marilyn Manson. The result was actually surprisingly successful, an angry, in-your-face collision of styles which suited well the modern and kinetic style of film making (although it was less successful on album).  For the sequel, Anderson made the surprising choice of hiring Canadian composer Jeff Danna, younger brother of Mychael. Until Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Danna’s most high profile assignments were for the TV series ‘Kung Fu: The Legend Continues’ in the early 1990s, the Irish-flavored crime drama ‘The Boondock Saints’ (1999), the modern Othello adaptation ‘O’ (2001), and the critically acclaimed documentary about the life of film producer Robert Evans, ‘The Kid Stays in the Picture’ (2002). Not exactly a filmography which would immediately put him at the top of a list of composers to score a big-budget sci-fi horror movie. But, despite his apparent lack of a genre track record, Danna’s score actually turns out to be quite acceptable – if you like this sort of thing.

Unlike the first movie’s score, Apocalypse is built around a much more powerful orchestral core, although a vast array of synthesizers and electronic effects are still very much in evidence. In the album notes, director Anderson says that Danna seems to be “channeling pure uncut John Carpenter” in his score. I don’t hear it myself (in fact, I hear an orchestral version of Brad Fiedel’s Terminator score more than anything else!). Carpenter is at heart a minimalist, and writes effective but simple scores with a minimum of acoustic involvement. Danna’s work is much more technically assured but, despite its bigger sound and broader scope, it somehow seems to be missing something; as though the cohesion which would otherwise bring it all together as a single work is lacking. There’s no real theme to speak of, and no central motivic ideas – unless they are buried underneath all the thick layers of sound design and overwhelming percussion.

Much of the score is built around power-house orchestral action augmented by electronic beats, sound effects, and assorted whooshes and zooms. It’s fast, loud, and has a certain raw kinetic energy, but on occasion it seems a little muddled, as though there are too many ideas fighting to be heard at once. Cues such as “My Name is Alice”, “The Nemesis vs. S.T.A.R.S”, “Umbrella is Watching”, “The Last Transport” and the finale of “Search the School” and “I Remember Everything” leave a positive impression through occasional flourishes or certain touches – an electric guitar riff, an interesting ostinato, an orchestral crescendo – but others seem little more than noise, without real depth or construction. Taken as separate elements, there’s plenty of “cool” stuff going on; it just never seems to come together properly.

As a result of all this action, there’s hardly any downtime – never a chance to stop and take a breath – and this is ultimately Resident Evil: Apocalypse’s downfall. For all the drum loops and orchestral carnage, the score never goes anywhere. It starts big and loud, remains big and loud throughout the 40 minute running time, and with the exception of odd cues such as “The Crash Site” and “Searching for Alice”, is just as big and loud at the finish as it was when it began.

Having said all that, I nevertheless applaud Screen Gems, Anderson and director Alexander Witt for letting Jeff Danna show his range on a movie such as this; if only Sony had been this brave when they originally hired his brother for Hulk. I want to like it, because Jeff Danna is a talented guy with a great future ahead of him; I just don’t think this style of writing shows his capabilities to their fullest potential.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • My Name Is Alice (2:14)
  • Alice Battles the Nemesis (3:07)
  • The Nemesis vs. S.T.A.R.S. (2:12)
  • Panic at the Gate (1:39)
  • Umbrella is Watching (3:04)
  • Ashford’s Plan (2:38)
  • Cain’s Demise (1:55)
  • The Nemesis is Awakened (2:44)
  • Zombies in Church (1:37)
  • Captured By Umbrella (2:25)
  • The Crash Site (1:06)
  • Dogs in the Kitchen (2:06)
  • Searching for Alice (2:46)
  • The Anti-Virus (2:14)
  • Beneath the City (2:20)
  • The Last Transport (1:55)
  • Search the School (1:33)
  • I Remember Everything (2:04)

Running Time: 39 minutes 46 seconds

Varèse Sarabande (2004)

Music composed by Jeff Danna. Conducted and orchestrated by Nicholas Dodd. Performed by The Philharmonia of London.Recorded and mixed by Brad Haehnel. Edited by Tony Lewis.  Mastered by Brian Gardener. Album produced by Jeff Danna.

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