[Review] – Resident Evil: Retribution

29 Sep

Title: Resident Evil: Retribution
Year: 2012
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing
MPAA Rating: R, sequences of strong violence throughout
Runtime: 96 min
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 27%
Metacritic: 39

This whole week I’ve been all about watching these small indie movies that all played at Sundance this year: The Words, Bachelorette, Hello I Must Be Going, Keep the Lights On and For Ellen. Well, after those small films I decided to go in the total opposite direction to open up the weekend and watch Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth installment in the popular zombie franchise. Like it or not it really does look like these films are here to stay.

Let me take a quick second to review where we stand with this franchise which is, of course, based on the video game series of the same name. The first film, Resident Evil, was released in 2002 and made over $100 million worldwide on a $33 million budget; the second one, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, from 2004, made $129 million on a $45 million budget; then in 2007 Resident Evil: Extinction, on the same budget, made $147 million; finally in 2010 with a bigger $60 million budget, Resident Evil: Afterlife made a whopping $296 million, benefitting like crazy from being the first one offered in 3D. Like I said, these things are money cows that Screen Gems won’t want to stop distributing any time soon.

The two constants have been Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson, greatest filmmaker alive and maker of The Master which I hope to see tomorrow) and his wife Milla Jovovich. Mr. Anderson has produced and written all of the films and directed the first, fourth and fifth ones and Ms. Jovovich has of course starred as Alice in each of them, the only character to have appeared in all five films. That’s always been a part of of the films, you have Alice and then a slew of characters who mostly last for one film, some for two and then some skip a film and return to the franchise later, a revolving door of zombie killers.

I’ve reviewed only one Resident Evil film, the 2010 entry, and I gave it a C, the same grade I would probably give to every single film in this franchise and the same grade I’ll end up giving to this one right here. This one here sees Alice captured by the evil Umbrella Corporation and having to escape this underwater facility they have where they test the T-virus in the Arctic Circle. The big draw for hardcore fans of the franchise, which really must exist after reviewing those box office numbers, is the fact that Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Salmon return as Rain Ocampo and James “One” Sade, two characters last seen in the very first film a decade ago.

Like I said, to me these films are all the same, and Resident Evil: Retribution is no different, it’s an entirely predictable affair that’s exactly like every other film in this franchise, if someone sat you down and showed you a random scene from any of these films I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to tell which of the five films it belonged to. And yet I’m pretty sure that fans of this franchise don’t care about that, all they want to do is see Milla Jovovich in a skin-tight suit battling the Umbrella Corporation and their deadly T-virus that continues to turn the inhabitants of Earth into the undead.

The action scenes are done well enough, Mr. Anderson after so many go-rounds with films like these definitely knows how to do them, but most of the time they seem totally inconsequential, maybe something that has to do with the fact that after watching five of these films we know that, other than Alice, every single character these films throw at us are totally disposable so we know not to get to attached. This really does feel like an assembly of clips from the videogames played at slow motion with actors that aren’t really great at their jobs seeming very bored while delivering dialogue that’s probably worse than the one displayed in the actual videogames.

I’m sure for fans of this franchise this will do the trick just as fine as the previous installments did, which is why I didn’t even consider failing this one, because part of how I judge films is based on what they were trying to achieve. Yes, to me, and I would imagine to most, this is just something like the Underworld movies with a hot girl making supernatural beings go boom. But diehard fanatics will obviously be delighted at how it evolves the ever-so-complicated backstory of these films and the revelations of Alice’s past that come to light as she makes her way through Tokyo, New York and Moscow.

I’ve only played one Resident Evil videogame in my life and I don’t really remember the specifics of it all that much by now so I can’t really tell how faithful Mr. Anderson’s being to it and which characters were pulled out of that medium and which are new additions to serve the films alone. But maybe this is the one that feels the most like a videogame in which it really is all about airless entertainment and CGI showcasing people being badass in the most stylized of ways Mr. Anderson can dream up. I don’t know, I don’t care, these films will continue to be made no matter what.

The acting sucks because the script does, too. The action stuff can be thrilling and well done, because Mr. Anderson at least makes the energetic bouts feel comprehensible on-screen and because Ms. Jovovich makes up for how crappy she is at acting with how great she is at letting her body do the talking. Nothing of that is, of course, even remotely new, you could describe each film of this franchise with those words, but, you know, whatever, at least the real-life husband-and-wife duo have this paid vacation every other year to have fun shooting at stuff.

Grade: C

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3 Responses to “[Review] – Resident Evil: Retribution”

  1. BigBear85 September 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    sigh, I have seen each of the films though thankfully I only say the first one in theaters and I don’t think I will change that now. I mean the fact they have gone back and brought back characters that died, just to be lifeless on screen and then die again more than likely in the same fashion as before(Rodriguez most likely adhering to fate).

    You are completely right that these movies as sad as it is will continue to be made because they make megabucks. as a player of the video games the first movie was pretty good with sticking to them, the second movie used the video game mythos as a distraction for the first 30 minutes or so then that train jump the rail, shark or what ever analogy you want to use, and never looked back.

    I wish the franchised had stayed sorta true because I am a fan of the games but never will be a fan of the films, and Milla’s acting took a nose dive after Fifth Element a movie were she barely talked lol. I agree with your C rating, and wonder have you done The Raid: Redemption it is a fantastic martial arts film, and has great cinematography. Also do you plan on doing The Man with the Iron fists starring the RZA, Russel Crowe, and Michelle Yo I think it is.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled September 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      Totally agree with you, man. And I it’s probably a bit more infuriating if you’ve played the games like you have.

      The Raid: Redemption is, indeed, pretty kickass. I gave it a high B+ and I think it’s super re-watchable. As for The Man with the Iron Fists, I’m super pumped for it, just looks like super blown-up and stylized fun with Russell Crowe having a damn good time with his role, I’m sold on it.

      • BigBear85 September 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

        I watched the trailer at my cohost on my podcast James(Face)’s urging as he is a huge kungfu fan. This looks like a throw back to the Shaw brothers films that made kungfu films so popular. just with Terentino’s money and love of kungfu films behind it along with the RZA from the kungfu loving Wu-Tang Clan starring and writing it I dont see how this can possibly go wrong if your a kungfu lover and so I wait with baited breath

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