Friday, September 14, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Title: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Director: P.W. Anderson

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez , Shawn Roberts


The Resident Evil series of films have been an entertaining bunch of films for me; a guilty pleasure of sorts. They are the cinematic equivalent of reading a comic book, the action, the storylines, the dialog all very comic book like, which means that it’s very  unrealistic but at the same time fun! And here’s the weird thing, one would expect that with so many sequels these films would become watered down versions of themselves, each getting worse then the last, but low and behold I loved Resident Evil Extinction (2007), and I had loads of fun with Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010). Hoards of zombies, hot babes with telekinetic powers and a post apocalyptic setting…what’s not to like right? So anyways, here comes the fifth installment in the series, needless to say, considering how much fun I had with the previous installments, I was pumped for this fifth film. Did it deliver? Hell no it didn’t deliver; this is without a doubt the worst of the Resident Evil movies! Why? Read it and weep my friends, read it and weep.

This film picks up right where the last one left off, with Umbrella blowing up ‘Arcadia’ an installation in which  Umbrella had been conducting some experiments with humans, or something like that. But none of that matters, if you think this sequel gives a damn about where the series had been going up to this point, then your dead wrong. You think that this sequel will continue the story arc, or that it’s all going somewhere to tell a grand story, well it aint happening! This sequel doesn’t give  damn about previous films, it eschews with whatever happened previously,, twists things around and gives you an entirely different story, which if you been keeping tabs, is the way Anderson likes it. It changes things so drastically, that you'll feel as if nothing makes sense! I've noticed that director Paul W. Anderson likes to pull you in with a show stopping cliffhangers (like he did in Afterlife) so he can pull you in for the next movie, then he goes and tells a completely different tale. In Retribution, we forget all about ‘Arcadia’ in the first five minutes of film and continue with another story in which Alice is trapped in one of Umbrella Corporations testing facilities. It seems like the Red Queen is the one in charge of Umbrella, and she means to eradicate the entire human race. As usual, it's up to Alice to stop her, but first, she must escape this prison! Will she make it out alive in order to save humanity?

To me, this fifth installment is just sad because I’d been having tons of fun with this series of films up to this point; only to have director P.W. Anderson drop the ball completely with this fifth installment. Not that these movies were ever ‘deep’ or anything, I had fun with the stylish action, the zombies, the look of the film and I was content with the story moving along little by little amongst all the action and zombies. And this one has all that slow mo and action...but something feels off. With Retribution, you’ll get the feeling that director Paul W. Anderson isn’t even trying to deliver anything remotely good, or interesting, or even entertaining, with this film he's simply streeetching things out to make a couple more millions. He’s certainly showing signs of fatigue when it comes to these films; you get the feeling he’s making them just for the money, that there’s no real passion behind them. The film feels like empty calories, but hey, even that can be fun. I did enjoy the fast paced action and the ass kicking fights, but at the end of the day, it all felt kind of redundant. 

Number one problem for me with this film is that there is almost no story to this installment, no mystery, nothing to pull us in. The way the film is structured is that Umbrella captures Alice and sends her to this facility that is divided into different ‘fake’ countries. One part of the facility simulates New York, one simulates Russian, one China, one looks like Suburbia U.S.A. and so forth. You see, in order for Umbrella to sell the antidote for the T-Virus and make kajillions, they orchestrated these fake zombie attacks, and showed them to the world, assuring a sure sell in all countries. After seeing these fake zombie attacks, every country in the world would want the antidote. But the virus got out of their control and you all know how that went, the world became populated by zombies. So Alice is trapped in this facility. Umbrella is trying to reprogram her because she’s the rebel, the one who thinks for her self; but they can’t reprogram her, she’s too strong. She soon finds a way to escape her cell and boom, the rest of the film is her trying to escape this place. In this way it feels a bit like Stuart Gordon’s Fortress (1992) or David Twohy’s The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), where the main characters main mission is to escape a super prison. Unfortunately, it also feels like your watching a video game, passing to the next level, and beating a boss at the end. 

That would all be fine and dandy, because hey, who doesnt love a bit of empty eye candy every once in a while, sadly, there’s no reason to care for anyone. These characters are like clones, simply there to push the next pointless action scene to the next level. But even a video game will have more of a plot then this film. Retribution felt like filler, there’s these boring fights that go on and on and on…there are not a lot of zombies in this film either which is what I loved about Extinction and Afterlife, on this one there’s more ‘Bio Hazards’, Umbrella Corporations monstrous experiments. Paul W. Anderson is the one who gets all the blame for this lifeless movie, because he not only directs these, but he also writes them. In this case, it felt as if Anderson was simply going through the motions, not even trying to pull off a good, involving film. Not only that, things just don’t make sense this time around. For example in all previous films,  Wesker is the main villain of the piece, on this one he does a 360 and becomes a good guy trying to help Alice? What the? What about Wesker’s plans with Alice? Who the hell cares, all previous storylines have been dropped, suddenly Wesker "doesn't work for umbrella anymore" we now have a new villain. Forget that Alice and Wesker have been enemies for the past four films, that they had been trying to kill each other since they first met. Now suddenly Wesker needs Alice, like I said, no sense at all. Story lines are dropped and changed simply to shock you with the next cliff hanger ending that will assure your butt will be there in the theater come next sequel. In that sense these films are not unlike a comic book, leaving you with that cliffhanger so you'll buy the next issue. 

The action scenes are so freaking pointless, nobody is in peril on this movie. Everything is fake or cgi, characters escape danger in zero point five seconds, there’s no tension, no feeling of dread. Huge monsters appear and are dispatched in a matter of seconds. And the  matrix style fighting has to be given some sort of break in movies! Something new is needed, seeing characters fighting the same exact way, doing the same exact moves, gets boring and redundant, by the way, thats what most of this movie feels like, more of the same. Another bummer: characters are not developed in the least! In the least! I can guarantee you will not care about a single character on this film. For example, Anderson actually brings back a bunch of characters from the first film only to kill them off in minutes? Characters are disposable on this film, simply empty vessels to kill. Case in point: Michelle Rodriguez’s participation on this film. It’s so pointless! Remember how in the first film she developed this friendship with Alice and you actually cared when she turns into a zombie? On this one, she is no one. She’s a character with zero personality.  Why is she even here? Just to add another popular actress to the film, so they can sell it more effectively. As far as the story goes, she is not an essential part and neither is anyone else on board by the way, these are just characters who shoot guns. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with brainless action, but come on, make it at the very least interesting! Or funny! A good example of a fun brainless movie would be TheExpendables 2 (2012)! Now that was a violent, brainless yet completely fun flick! The only saving grace for me with this movie is the always beautiful Milla Jovovich, she looks great on this one and kicks ass like there's no tomorrow, sadly, she's the only shinning light on this post apocalyptic abyss. 

To top things off, Anderson continues aping other films he admires over and over again. In Extinction he was aping Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Day of the Dead (1985), in Afterlife he aped Escape from New York (1981) and on this one he borrows extensively from James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) right down to having some scenes where Alice is ready to escape, but has to go back to rescue a little girl from the clutches of a monster. By the way, the little girl is in a cocoon, just like Newt in Aliens. He also borrows heavily from Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004). Remember that whole sequence in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead where the main female character is waking up to a suburbia filled with chaos? Anderson does it here all over again, almost exactly the same way, but with Alice. I’ve noticed how much Anderson does this in his films. He does it so shamelessly, he is kind of like a cinematic parasite, I mean one thing is to be influenced by a film and another is to copy whole scenes from a film you admire. Doesn’t Anderson have enough originality to come up with his own film?

A scene from Dawn of the Dead (2004), sorry, I mean Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Sadly, this film was a huge, huge disappointment for me. The story goes no where, there is no advancement, previous films seem to be ignored, new storylines introduced forcibly simply to keep pumping out movies, there’s no flow to this film. It feels like a bunch of video games stages strung together and called a film; it felt like filler to me. Even though they squeezed the characters of Ada Wong and Leon S. Kennedy both of which appeared in the second Resident Evil video game back in 1998, the film still feels like filler; like an unimportant film in a franchise. This my friends was a sequel that literally had nothing to say. I’ll give Anderson this, he has impressed and entertained me with his films in the past, for example, I still love Event Horizon (1997), and on Retribution he still shows a knack for handling effects work very well, the opening sequence which starts in slow motion reverse and then goes and shows us the way it really happened in real time again...freaking sweet. So this movie while filled with imperfections, still demonstrates Anderson has a bit of a filmmaker in him. Sadly, with Retribution he is showing signs of fatigue as a director; I sincerely hope he hasn’t lost his love for filmmaking; for doing films that are worth while, for making good genre films. The ending is a grabber, it leaves the doors open for what could potentially be an interesting sequel, but considering how bad this fifth installment is, we’ll be lucky if we even get a sixth, which is  supposed to be about humanities last stand against the undead. Let’s hope Anderson takes a stand against lazy, bad filmmaking as well. This film is enjoyable thrash, but I'm very demanding of my thrashy movies, here's hoping the next and potentially final installment will be a 'one-up' when compared to this one. 

Rating: 2 out of 5   


SFF said...

Gosh, this is heartbreaking news from TFC! Any alternative opinions out there.

Glad you took time to give us your feelings on the film Franco! Damn! I am bummed to hear that from someone who enjoyed the first four like me.


Unknown said...

What a bummer! I had high hopes for this one considering how many actors from previous films are in this one. But I knew something was wrong when I read that neither Ali Larter nor Wentworth Miller's characters appear in this new film! WTF? As you pointed out in your review, it is like this new film is ignoring everything that came before. Weird.

Well, this looks like one to wait for on video. Thanks for the heads up!

Franco Macabro said...

TSFF: I loved the first, didn't think so much of the second but loved the third and fourth ones, I mean, you can read in my review for Afterlife how much I thought it rocked...but this

J.D.: They do bring in actors from previous films but are dispatched so matter of factly it doesn't even matter...they dont matter in the story, they are simply brought in to bring back familiar faces? I don't me there was no point.

They sure did do a lot of thing that pissed me of, for example we get these PLAGA UNDEAD zombies...but we never get a good look at their faces? I wonder what was up with that, they remain in shadows all the time? What's the deal there? No budget? Hmm...I thought that was so weird because I liked the idea of zombi soldiers...but why keep them in the dark that way?

Then there's this little girl who is supposed to be deph, but she speaks perfectly well...and therefore her sign language is completely useless in the film. I was like, why are talking in sign language, we can understand you perfectly well!

The matrix style fights felt a bit redundant this time around, they need to give these things a break in movies or bring something completely new or else they risk feeling redundant, like in this movie.

Well, go see it and tell me what you think, I thought the only good things about it where the opening and closing segments, which last about 5 minutes each.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Milla Jovovich (as the bird was in 1993 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Jack Thursby said...

Disappointed to hear this one's a dud because I usually always enjoy Anderson's movies (with the exception AVP - which was bloodless and limp).

Sure he's no visionary director but he usually turns in solidly entertaining trash. I've never been a fan of the games so I don't have the same complaints that other reviewers have. Will probably give this a go when it hits DVD just for completion's sake.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Jack, I also enjoy Anderson's movies from time to time, Even Horizon is awesome in my book, but on this one it feels as if there was no passion to making it at all, it feels as though it was made only for money, because story does nothing for the franchise.

I actually don't care for the fact that these movies are nothing like the games, I've loved what they have turned into on their own. On this one Anderson did what he's done through out all the films, he brings in characters from the games to fit into the action. Actually, this film feels like it also borrowed some elements from Resident Evil: Degeneration, the computer animated film.

Parts of the plot and even the ending are similar, but ripping off other films shamelessly is nothing new for Anderson, on this one he does it quite extensively!

Kev D. said...

Every review I read of this makes me lower the bar a little more. I was hoping the series didn't peak with Extinction, but I'm starting to feel that it has...

Franco Macabro said...

The cliffhanger ending on this film makes you feel like the next one will be the "end all be all" of the series, so it has that going for it. But this particular film just feels like filler, like it's an in between chapter simply made to set the next one up and making a little extra money along the way.

I'm personally amazed at how Anderson takes his stories and completely switches things around, things you think are important in the series suddenly get shifted around or completely ignored, in that way, it does have the qualities of a comic book or a cheap paper back novel.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...


I agree with many of your complaints as to why Resident Evil: Retribution was a let-down; especially after the increasingly improving RE: Afterlife and RE: Extinction. I too noticed right away Paul W. S. Anderson’s nearly shot-for-shot recreation of Zach Snyder’s opening sequence in his Dawn of the Dead remake. I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t know that any fan of the zombie film genre wouldn’t instantly recognize this, so he must have meant it as homage to DotD. It is also possible that because this scene was meant to be a recreation of one of Umbrella Corporation’s experiments with their clones of Alice, that Anderson was intentionally imitating a film scene to make this sequence feel less real and therefor let the audience in on the fact that this was not really happening to Alice. Unfortunately, the whole scene just came off as an ineffectual imitation.

I also agree with you that the characters in Resident Evil: Retribution are not developed. Michelle Rodriguez’s Rain Ocampo, who as you say developed a tough friendship with Alice in Resident Evil, was reduced to a one-note clone, who is killed several times in this movie! It would have been better if Anderson had just created one or two new non-clone characters for this film, instead of reintroducing personality-less clones of the original ones. For reasons which I don’t understand, because I’ve never been a big fan of the video games, Anderson felt he had to introduce or bring back every character from the video games in this one film.

The plot twist of having the Red Queen AI, who we haven’t seen since the first film, is the main antagonist in this film really came out of nowhere. I think this was the major flaw of Resident Evil: Retribution, because were never given any foreshadowing in any the previous sequels that she was behind the Umbrella Corporation’s experiments. I’m still not sure what the motivations of the AI were/are, which makes Alice’s eventual escape from the UC facility feel rather anticlimactic.

Despite all the flaws of Resident Evil: Retribution, I still enjoyed it on a visceral level, but I would have enjoy it even more with just a little more effort put into the script. I agree with you that because this film made less domestically than the previous film, we can only hope that the world-wide box office receipts will be enough to warrant the sixth Resident Evil film, so that Anderson can finish his second trilogy and hopefully clean-up some of the plot mess that he made with Resident Evil: Retribution.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree about the whole Suburbia scenario, his homage was fully intentional, but still feels like a blatant rip off.

I think Anderson introduced all those characters from the video game simply to give the fans of the games something to be happy about. I guess he finally realized that true RE game fans don't really like these movies because they have practically nothing to do with them, I guess this was his way of giving them something back by bringing some of these beloved video game characters to life.

Yeah, the whole thing behind the Red Queen taking over felt forced, but I think he did it so Umbrella could keep on going without Wesker, because he wanted WEsker to join forces with Alice, so who do we give Umbrella too? Oh yeah! The Red Queen!

I re-watched this movie last night in theaters just to make sure it was as bad as I thought the first time out, and yeah, it has a lot of weaknesses, but same as you I ended up enjoying it as well. Yeah it's mindless, yeah it has some non sensical stuff going on, but I enjoyed it. It certainly feels like Im reading a comic book and waiting for the next issue to come out with these movies. I simply hope that Anderson tries harder with his next film, at least inject the damn thing with some emotion, some character development, cause he has the effects side and the style squared out, he's always been good at making his films look slick and modern.

Here's hoping the sixth installment is better, I think it will be big on's hoping.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Agree with everything written here. Just a mess of a film on a narrative structure. But it sure looked pretty.

Franco Macabro said...

Exactly! The opening sequence is pretty amazing, I wish theyd placed as much of an effort for the rest of the film.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

The intro was stunning. Definitely the best part of the film. The ending was pretty cool too. Too bad there was stuff in between that.


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