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Review: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson

Premise: The fifth film in the Resident Evil series. Alice (Milla Jovovich) must fight her way out of a testing facility for biological weapons.

What Works: Resident Evil: Retribution is consistent with the other films in this series, so viewers who have enjoyed the previous movies may like this one as well. It is an improvement over the previous installment, Afterlife, as this new film includes an interesting music score, has better special effects, and gives Alice a plausibly interesting relationship with a young girl played by Aryana Engineer.

What Doesn’t: Although Retribution is a step up from its processor, this is still more of the same from the Resident Evil series, a franchise that has suffered at the hands of filmmakers who have proven bereft of imagination. One of the trademarks of this series has been its blatant rip off of scenes from other movies; Resident Evil: Apocalypse adapted scenes from Jurassic Park and Dawn of the Dead; Extinction lifted imagery from The Birds and The Road Warrior; Afterlife took from The Matrix Reloaded. Resident Evil: Retribution has some of the most obvious steals of the entire series with scenes that are quite literally plagiarized from Aliens and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. This kind of borrowing might be excusable if the film was otherwise competent but Retribution is not a good movie even by the standards of a film like this. Because Retribution is the fifth picture in the Resident Evil series it is redundant to complain about the plot holes and bad dialogue, of which there is much in this film. Audiences of the Resident Evil series and similar pictures aren’t looking for complex characters or even logical plotting and the people behind this film make no effort to give it to them; the pleasure of a film like this is found in its first-person-shooter video game origins: it is all about carnage, scares, and thrills. But even judging Retribution on those meager terms, the movie fails to live up to expectations. Given that it has zombies and other monsters around every corner, Retribution is ostensibly a horror film but it isn’t scary at all; director Paul W.S. Anderson has not managed to create an even marginally scary film since the original Resident Evil and as this series has gone on it has gradually moved from a horror series and into an action franchise. But even as an action film whose sole purpose is to thrill the viewer, Retribution comes up short. The picture is clearly designed around a video game layout; Alice and her allies must fight through various levels, overcoming obstacles to advance while acquiring munitions and other assets along the way. But despite all the fighting, Retribution does not ever really thrill the audience. Some of this is a byproduct of the plastic look of movie; everything in it looks like a video game and there is no sense of reality. But even the creators of video games manage to make exciting visuals that are dynamic and inspire awe. Resident Evil: Retribution is a victim of its own lack of ambition. Action films are by their nature about spectacle but the filmmakers of Retribution clearly have no interest in making anything spectacular. The whole enterprise has a by-the-numbers approach to it and the laziness of the filmmakers ought to be apparent to anyone watching it. 

Bottom Line: Video game adaptations have a sordid history and there are critics who deny that video games can be art at all. The Resident Evil pictures do their genre no favors and Retribution is just another effort to bleed the franchise for box office revenues.  

Episode: #406 (September 23, 2012)