Friday, September 28, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) Review

Resident Evil: Retribution

At this point, is anyone really expecting something worthwhile out of the “Resident Evil” movie franchise? The first one may have been a passable horror/action B-movie, but since then the series has descended into excess and overall idiocy. This fifth movie doesn’t change the status quo; the same “Matrix” influenced action is in full effect and the actors are just as flat as ever. However, I would be lying in saying that I didn’t get some enjoyment out of “Retribution,” which is more than I can say for “Apocalypse” (#2) and “Afterlife” (#4).

Picking up right where “Afterlife” left off, Alice and the other survivors are attacked at sea and overwhelmed by Umbrella’s forces. Alice then wakes up in a holding cell, where she learns that the Red Queen computer has taken over Umbrella. Because of this, previous Umbrella head honcho Wesker enlists Alice’s help in stopping the renegade A.I. It turns out Alice is being held in a massive underground testing facility, so Wesker sends a team of soldiers to extract Alice while wading through the hordes of monsters still hanging around the facility.

That may sound like a plot synopsis, but in the context of the movie itself, “Retribution” has only the illusion of a plot. I owe a few apologies to any action movie I’ve ever called plot less in the past, because this movie takes the same tact as “Afterlife” and literally has only a barebones skeleton of a plot. There’s a semblance of a beginning, and arguably a middle, but there’s no ending. Remember the beginnings of “The Matrix Revolution” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” where Neo and Sparrow have to be rescued from some holding place? “Retribution” is those 20-minute segments stretched to feature length and padded out with exposition and relentless action.

On those grounds, it may be objectively the worst movie of the series. I hesitate to go there though because unlike some of the previous entries, the action is actually really fun to watch in spots. Unlike “Apocalypse,” where the action was incomprehensible, and “Afterlife,” where the abuse of slow motion killed much of the enjoyment, “Retribution” is able to come up with a few over-the-top sequences that stand out. Even though director Paul W.S. Anderson is still not above throwing in tired bullet-time bits here and there, he appears to have a slightly better grasp on creating diverse and fast-paced scenes of carnage for this go-around.

It’s also very clear that Anderson loves his wife, Milla Jovovich, very much, as Alice is still the only character that gets any reasonable amount of attention, more so than the characters that are actually from the videogames. Alice remains a forgettable heroine without a personality back her up, and Milla is as reliably stoic as ever, despite how beautiful she is. She’s also one of the few actors, along with Kevin Durand (Barry Burton) and Johann Urb (Leon Kennedy,) that don’t embarrass themselves. Shawn Roberts (Wesker) continues his forced, cringe-worthy sneering from the last movie, and Sienna Guillory (Jill Valentine) is flat-out awful. On top of her inability to be a convincing antagonist, Anderson saddles her with the worst of his already terrible writing, leaving a character that is only bearable when she doesn’t open her mouth.

The best way to describe “Retribution” is as a 90-minute lead up for the inevitable sixth movie. This is rather irritating, as the movie finally comes to a scene where the pieces are in place for an all-out monster war…and then the credits roll. In the end, the movie is just one big tease that fails to establish the stakes and scope that it promises, and then ends once it hits at something worth watching. Because of this, the film is not as enjoyable as the first film or even the mediocre third one, “Extinction.” However, thanks to its decent action scenes, I would probably watch “Retribution” before the other two installments, as much of a backhanded compliment as that is.


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