Resident Evil: Retribution
This is the fifth one, right? The fifth one? Is it the sixth? Oh, okay, fifth… I saw the first three in this series-based-on-a-video game… Missed the last one. That was probably a good thing. Although none of the first three made any of my ‘Worst Movie’ lists, they probably could have. I did mildly enjoy the first film, way back in 2002. Milla Jovovich’s ‘Alice’ was still a protagonist instead of a cartoon/video game character. That changed with the second, but there was enough action and unintentional humor to still be somewhat enjoyable. The third was horrible, also, but as I stated in my lead-in to ‘Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Movies Of 2007‘, I kind of liked it. Sue me.
Not enough to go back for the fourth, though. I’m a glutton for punishment, but even I have limits, or so I thought, since I decided to watch ‘Retribution’. Going in I expected it to be light on story, have loads of CGI FX, lots of mindless action of the submachine gun variety, ridiculously unrealistic hand to hand combat, big ugly monsters that are unstoppable until the plot calls for them not be, a spectacular display of Milla’s hiney at some point and eventually a non-ending finish.
I got what I expected, but for some reason, I wasn’t even mildly entertained as I have been in the past with this series. At some point I lost interest and started making a ‘to do’ list until I realized that the movie was still going, so I added ‘watch rest of fifth Resident Evil film’ to my list. Sometimes I can force myself to do things by making a list like that. I guess it worked because I managed to get through the multiple catfights in the finale relatively unaffected. I’m amazed at how successful this was, though. It made over $220 million… Two hundred twenty! Most of it was overseas where they don’t care about the small details like ‘story’ and ‘logic’, but still. Two hundred twenty million!
So Milla Jovovich is back as the heroine ‘Alice’ who has worked for and fought against the villainy of the Umbrella Corporation. The ‘story’ in the past films is so convoluted I cannot begin to explain the events that lead into this one. The film does try to do that for the uninitiated viewer near the beginning of this, though and it’s almost like listening to that kid that didn’t write a book report that he had like two months to write, and ends up writing some notes right before class and tries to wing it. If this is your first Resident Evil flick you’re going to have no frickin’ idea what the hell is going on. I didn’t either and I’ve seen four of ’em now. So, anyway, Alice gives a replay of the opening premise of the original, then just skims over everything else… “Umbrella creates an apocalypse of a zombie creating virus… the zombies mutate… yada, yada yada… I got super powers… Took it up with the CEO… blah, blah, blah… Lost my super powers… Umbrella continues playing around with viruses… They made a clone army of me… etc, etc, etc…” If you’re like me, you’re gonna’ be like “Wait, zombie apocalypse? Can we go back to that?” And if you are, then I would suggest just going with it. You’re lost. Not going to catch up. Characters in this series die and come back to life (sometimes by cloning, sometimes with a shrug of the screenwriter’s shoulders); it doesn’t always make sense. Did I just say that? I mean, it NEVER makes sense. Even when there IS an explanation and there aren’t many of those.
To make things worse (just because he can), the director with four names, Paul W.S. Anderson, seems to have picked up the Zack Snyder Method of Extending Your Movie When You Have No Story: Super Slo-Motion! Lots and lots of super…slow… mo…tion. He opens the film with (I think) a replay of the last film…. In Super slo-mo… IN REVERSE. Then, after Milla’s recount of the series so far, you get the scene AGAIN, this time forwards. Anyway, my point was that the film sans credits is only about 85 minutes long. Take out the 8 minute recap and we’re down to 77. Take out an estimated 5 minutes of slow motion and the extended scenes where people stand there staring at one another with no dialogue… Well, this barely breaks the hour mark. So why the HELL did it feel so much longer than that?
Apparently, the lead character died in the last film’s finale. Unfortunately for the movie going public she wakes up again in (I believe) suburban surroundings with a family before being dispatched again by zombies… THEN she wakes up half naked (now we’re getting somewhere) in an Umbrella holding cell. There’s all sorts of things that I don’t understand from a storytelling point of view in this film, but I’m pretty sure no one making this film understood it or cared. Anderson just ‘rolls wit’ it’. It appears that he (since he’s also the screenwriter, producer and even the real-life husband of Leeloo) just watched a bunch of other sci-fi/fantasy films and just ripped them off whole heartedly for this. There’s a little bit of ‘Aliens’… No, there’s a LOT of ‘Aliens’, especially where Newt… I mean where the little girl is concerned. There’s a bit of the Matrix… A big bit. Some big burly guy stands in for Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith. Anderson also borrows a lot of the ‘bullet time’ FX and Carrie Anne Moss’ wardrobe for his spouse. Or at least a combination of Trinity’s outfit combined with Kate Beckinsale’s leather/latex S&M catsuit from those vampire/werewolf movies…. No, not Twilight, those other ones.
There are a few staged hand to hand fights for Alice that I guess are mildly entertaining if you like these choreographed fights utilizing CGI and wire work. Alice even manages to take out one zombie with bullets, only they’re still in the clip, and she does so by KICKING the clip into the zombie’s face. I guess I just need a little more realism to care. In saying that, I did care more about the staged fight sequences more than the actual characters. I’ll give Milla credit, she does her best here, but she has nothing to work with as far as script is concerned. No one has enough dialogue (other than Milla) for you to get to know any of them. They’re mainly there just to either fire guns, to be killed, or in the case of the little girl for Anderson to create a much crappier, less thought out version of Ripley’s heroic attempt to track down and save Newt in Jim Cameron’s ‘Aliens’.
The movie, after having Alice and an assault team shooting at hordes of zombies and mutants for nearly an hour, finishes up with what you knew would be a catfight climax followed by a non-ending that ‘sets up’ the next film. Supposedly the sixth installment was going to be the series finale, but I read that a seventh installment is on the way, along with a reboot…. I had to edit myself right there… Wanted to say some F-words, but I regained my composure before I hit the ‘Publish’ button. Whew. This definitely will make my revised Bottom 10 of 2012.