Review: 'Resident Evil: Retribution' - Paul W.S. Anderson Isn't Trying
by Jeremy Kirk
September 14, 2012
The latest in the Resident Evil franchise is Resident Evil: Retribution. You got that? Good, because it may become difficult differentiating these movies before long. Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson isn't keen on doing much besides throwing Milla Jovovich in the middle of flames and zombies all in ultra-slow motion. That's the fall-back this fifth time out, which may have been a lot like the fourth time out. Hard to tell at this point, but somewhere along the line the Resident Evil movies got too convoluted for their own good, allowing cheap effects to fill in for anything with substance. But sadly, times haven't changed much.
This time around, Alice, obviously played again by Jovovich, is trapped in an underwater base controlled by the very ostentatious Umbrella Corporation. Actually she's being helped by people in the Umbrella Corporation to stop the Red Queen, the company's security system, from overrunning the planet with flesh-eating zombies and mutants. Some of them are zombies, others are mutants. You can tell the mutants, because they require CGI. There's more to the story with past characters showing back up like Michelle Rodriguez and Oded Fehr, a team of mercenaries sent in to extract Alice, and indoor simulations of cities like New York City and Tokyo. Basically Anderson's way of creating all of these locations without having to explain travelling to them.
If the story seems thin, it's because it's made of rice paper. Plot direction seems to come straight out of video games, not the Resident Evil games, something with much less effort put into it. Each scene that doesn't include hails of CG bullets and giant, digital monsters serves as a video game cut scene, expelling as much information so the player can get through the next level. Item show up in places they have no place being, much like a video game. Why a set of clothes is stored in the same room where Alice is being held captive could only be found in something from Capcom. Or a movie based on something from Capcom.
There's hope for the film right at the beginning with a very cool action scene shown in reverse playing over the opening credits. It moves slowly, making you focus more on the credits and the tomandandy score, and for a fleeting moment, there's hope that Paul W.S. Anderson has learned to craft a feature film with innovation and excitement. All of that disappears as the next 10 minutes catches us up through the entire series, then plays out the exact same action scene we just saw in normal time. All of this mixed with the ample amounts of slow motion shots can only make one wonder that it was a struggle getting this thing to 90 minutes. There are only so many giant, mutated monsters that can be blown up by deus ex grenade.
The action might serve some level of entertainment if it was ever clear who was shooting at who. After five films of characters flipping sides, having their mind taken over, and even being cloned, it's difficult to keep it all in check. Basically the blonde girl is being told to kill Alice by that spider thing on her chest. The guy with the sunglasses used to want to kill Alice, but now he needs her, because "things are bad on the surface." That sounds like an interesting movie, what's going on on the surface, but we'll just have to wait for the next one to see how that plays out.
Resident Evil: Retribution tries nothing new with the series and even finds a way of ripping off in the most blatant of ways. Somehow the zombies have been retconned from being the slow walkers of old to the hyper-speed sprinters of more recent years. If you thought it was sad seeing Anderson take from George Romero, imagine what it's like when he rips off Zack Snyder. Other blatant nods to horror of past show up here and there, some far too obvious. The Aliens reference is cringe-inducing.
At this point it doesn't even matter where the Resident Evil franchise goes from here. They're made so quickly and so cheaply that it's no wonder at all that Anderson and crew can punch one of these out in two years and probably have a year or so to kick back and relax. The effects are the same, the stunts are the same, and the monsters all end up looking the same. Thought and effort never even become a factor because of a built-in acceptance that these movies are going to be terrible. They could at least be entertaining.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10