It’s time for yet another bi-annual Resident Evil flick, and by this point any criticism I level at the film can be met with the riposte, “What were you expecting?” Fans of the RE games know by now that the films’ plotline has ricocheted off into its own direction, following its own characters, long ago and any elements taken from the game series will most likely be brief or mishandled. Still, the Paul W.S. Anderson helmed film franchise has survived for ten years with Milla Jovovich showing off her guns, and her guns, to the interest of 13-year olds worldwide. So, before you ask, no, Resident Evil: Retribution is not any better. But, what were you expecting?
The film’s trailers have been very coy about the nature of Alice’s (Milla Jovovich) predicament this time around, but the set-up isn’t as clever as you think. However, if you would consider this information a spoiler, skip to the next paragraph. Alice finds herself imprisoned and experimented on (yes, again) by the Umbrella Corporation, in an underwater base filled with re-creations of various cities around the world. The Red Queen AI from the first film has somehow returned, and is using the base to test the T-Virus on thousands of clones in different environments. Evil bad guy Wesker (Shawn Roberts) contacts Alice to reveal he isn’t so evil maybe, and sends in a team to rescue her from the Red Queen. From there it’s just a lot of shooting, bullet-time and ‘eh’ 3D effects.
The set-up just raises a lot of questions, but the crux of it is that it allows the return of several characters like Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and Luther (Boris Kudjoe). It does seem like a big excuse for the movie team to party with these actors again, especially since their return basically leads nowhere. Rain does get a cool, Mortal Kombat-inspired fight towards the end, complete with X-ray enhanced bone crunches, but the character is basically unnecessary in the film.
Acting across the board is pretty dire. Milla poses and pouts well, and is able to show some emotion when needed. Other characters lifted from the videogame somehow manage to act worse than the source material. Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine is meant to be playing a possessed zombie, so at least she has an excuse, but Johann Urb as fan-favourite Leon S Kennedy seems to have already been lost to the undead hordes. His dull character is introduced solely to appease fans of the game, as the filmmakers say, “Here, he looks kind of like the guy and we don’t kill him off. That’s good enough, right?” Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) makes sexy boring, and only Barry Burton (Kevin Durand) gets to have a personality, even if it’s a clichéd gung-ho one.
Chances are if you do see this film, it’ll be for the action, with which they have definitely gone for a ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’ approach. I can’t remember many specific action beats from the film, just the fact that there was a lot of action. If swathes of bullets, blood and slow motion is all you need to enjoy a film, then there is plenty here. The special effects are generally well done, and the film looks quite expensive. There’s car chases, big explosions, a heap of acrobatics… There’s effort on display in the production. Just not in the script.
Really, very little makes sense in the world of Resident Evil and giving even a minute’s thought to the plot of Retribution can expose the multitude of plot holes festering within it. But, what did I expect? At their best, the films have been competent action flicks, and I would say Retribution just barely meets that criteria. It looks good, but the story takes 90 minutes to get our heroes from Point A to Point A.1. Very little seems to have been accomplished by the end of the film’s story, and the same can be said for the viewing experience. Whether you see if in 3D or not, the film is a very bland affair, but it provides some decent action for those who know what they’re in for.
(2 S.T.A.R.S. out of 5)