Awful, Just Awful
A Film Review of Resident Evil: Retribution
By: Lawrence Napoli
I don’t particularly care for Paul W. S. Anderson’s work as a filmmaker during his tenure as Capcom’s official Hollywood adapter of the Resident Evil franchise. I believe Mr. Anderson only has a cursory understanding of the overall storyline which has afforded him the gall to write all of the iconic characters as secondary support roles that do not impact the story in any way shape and form. Anderson has been quite blunt with his need to generate original characters that drive his vision forward which is why most of his main characters have been conjured out of thin air: Alice, Rain, K-Mart, L.J., the Red Queen, Luther West, etc. I don’t mind the concept of expanded fiction referencing characters from the source material. In fact, a great example would be The Walking Dead video game by TellTale Games. The problem I have with Anderson’s use of character is twofold: 1) his original characters are quite flat and 2) the iconic characters are basically cannon fodder for Alice. This is not good, not good at all.
Warning: gratuitous cleavage shot
Resident Evil: Retributionis a perfect example of a writer/director’s ego gone wild. Anderson’s tunnel vision in using every film (including this one) to further explore and expand the bloated importance of the character of Alice has forced him to severely limit his options in terms of plot and the story suffers for it. I will rephrase that last comment. The story is perversely warped as a result of it. Fans of the game series see a story in the film adaptations that is simply not Resident Evil. Those who aren’t fans will experience this film as a sci-fi, action film unconcerned with details like “who are these people?” “where do they come from?” “what is happening here?” and “why is any of this important?” It is true that Retribution opens with its signature review of the plot thus far in the previous films, but even with that refresher, the audience will be completely confused by the relevance of anything they are seeing that doesn’t involve Alice running away from monsters. Despite frequent expository scenes that spoon feed the story, none of these moments address some of the basic viewer questions I mentioned earlier.
The "S" stands for "suck-ass"
On top of Anderson’s failings as a writer, his degrading ability to get decent performances from his actors is obvious. Sienna Guillory apparently forgot how to act all together as her awkward line delivery made Jill Valentine look like she was in a high school musical. Bingbing Li may not know the English language as all her dialogue seems like it was post-dubbed, thus making Ada Wong look like she was pulled out of a cheesy kung-fu flick. Colin Salmon could not be persuaded to get in shape for this film and his performance as One in the first Resident Evil was Academy Award winning material in comparison to this. Johann Urb’s rendition of Leon S. Kennedy seemed more concerned with the placement of his hair than coming off as a suave badass. And Michelle Rodriguez should not be a professional actress in the first place.
There are some shining lights to this film in regards to the performances. Milla Jovovich will never win an Oscar, but she is quite comfortable in action films and the confidence she shows in Alice works for that character. I still tend to snicker every time Alice tries to be poignant on screen, but then she punches someone in the face and it’s suddenly all better. Aryana Engineer’s (an 11 year old) performance as Becky (Alice’s “daughter”) is uncharacteristically moving amidst the various degrees of anger-filled rage from the rest of the cast. Her chemistry with Jovovich onscreen is charmingly sympathetic. But the best performance is displayed by the (once again) underused Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker. The attitude, the snide remarks, the accent: this man simply embodies every inch of Wesker and for the life of me; I cannot understand how dense Paul W. S. Anderson must be to not feature this actor/character more.
More of me would have made more millions for this movie
The action and effects in this film actually take a step back from the last film: Resident Evil: Afterlife. The audience was treated to a slew of super human activity between Wesker and the Alice clones in that film and when compared to the bigger monsters and standard mass shootings of various zombie hordes in this film, I’m left unimpressed. Hopefully the viewer isn’t turned off by slow motion as the visual effects company, Mr. X abused “slo-mo” in every, single, action sequence. It was too much of the same old, same old. As for 3D; DO NOT PAY TO SEE THIS FILM IN 3D! The 3-4 instances of “things flying at the screen” do not justify the inflated ticket price to see a movie like this. No other film franchise has taken advantage of the 3D scam more so than Resident Evil. It is a major contributing factor for explaining how this saga could be described as “the most successful series of films based on video games.”
Resident Evil: Retribution inspires little confidence in the franchise and even less in a software company as significant as Capcom. Eastern developers have recently been falling behind the west, but when you couple questionable business moves like handing the Hollywood adaptation of your most prominent IP to some dude who happens to be married to Milla Jovovich must reflect disintegrating stock value. As ridiculous and contrived as many of the moments in the Resident Evil game history are, none of them come close to the absurdity of Paul W. S. Anderson’s take on zombies. If he plugged Star Wars characters into an Indiana Jones story, he’d genuinely believe he invented Episode VII! This film is a pass. Go see Expendables 2 if you need action, but you’re simply better off waiting to buy Resident Evil 6 for your Xbox or Ps3. That is, of course, if this film doesn’t make you want to march to Capcom’s corporate headquarters and set semtex to the whole building.