On Resident Evil: Retribution

Continuing from Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Afterlife is Resident Evil: Retribution. Certainly quite ridiculous (since Extinction the film series has basically been as such), this film actually ties quite a lot to the roots of it’s beginnings not seen in Extinction or Afterlife, without ignoring the ridiculous elements entirely;

  • Much of the film takes place in a single Umbrella facility (Umbrella Prime), just as Resident Evil did;
  • Included in this facility is a recreation of American Suburbia, otherwise known as Raccoon City;
  • Also included in the facility is a recreation of Japan, as Alice and her clone army attacked Umbrella Japan during the opening of Afterlife;
  • The Red Queen returns since Resident Evil;
  • Rain Ocompo returns since Resident Evil as several clones;
  • Alice finds a ton more clones of herself within the Umbrella facility, but does not wake them, and instead destroys them. Alice clones were seen in Extinction and Afterlife; and,
  • A clone of Carlos Olivera appears, seeing his return since Extinction.

The film introduces the character, Ada Wong, and sees the return of James “One” Shade since Resident Evil, and Luther West since Afterlife.


I was quite disappointed with the addition of Becky, largely because it appears to be failed storytelling, since this twist relies on Alice’s ability to reproduce (see Feminist Frequency #5). This doesn’t make it any different than Underworld: Awakening. According to the Deep Focus Review:

Paul W.S. Anderson’s fifth entry in his based-on-a-videogame series, Resident Evil: Retribution finds new ways to convince this critic of the writer-director’s sheer ineptitude as a filmmaker. The helmer of The Three Musketeers and Death Race, his signature is less a style than a way of stitching together almost random images of mayhem and gore and attractive people battling one another. His storytelling makes nonsensical leaps and seems to invent the rules as its goes along. His action consists of choppily assembled slow-mo combat and sour-faced badasses shooting high-tech weaponry at one another. His characters are one-note constructions without purpose except to survive and allow the franchise to continue making ridiculously large sums of money at the box-office. Through it all, Anderson steals liberally from better filmmakers like Carpenter, Romero, and the Wachowskis. It’s insulting in the same way a Big Mac would be to Masaharu Morimoto.

For those familiar, Retribution picks up where Afterlife left off, with franchise hero Alice (Milla Jovovich) aboard an Umbrella Corporation tanker and facing an onslaught of Umbrella baddies. After a brief fight, as well as a much-needed recap of the events in parts 1-4, the action shifts suddenly to a suburban neighborhood. Here, Alice is a housewife with a husband (Oded Fehr) and young hearing-impaired daughter named Becky (Aryana Enginee). All at once, zombies burst through the doors and we’ve been transported to Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead. But this is all a dream. (Or is it?) The action shifts again somewhere under frozen ice in Russia to an Umbrella facility, where Alice is once again insufficiently clad in skimpy examining table sheets. She’s assisted in her escape by Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) and Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the latter being the villain who died at the end of Afterlife. The question of how he appears here, and why he’s a good guy now, remains unanswered.

Anyway, Alice quickly finds a tight black getup and some heavy weaponry, and along with Ada, she must maneuver through this underwater complex, which boasts massive arenas designed to simulate viral outbreaks in various cities (New York, Moscow, Tokyo, and Raccoon City’s suburbia) and uses cloned victims as collateral. Appropriately enough, the characters move from one simulated city to the next like levels in a videogame. Meanwhile, the maniacal digitized program Red Queen pops up occasionally to ensure that Alice and Ada’s trip is littered with zombies, big CGI beasts, and gigantic axe-carrying goons. At least the scenery changes, even if the super-slow-motion action does not. Returning are several actors from throughout the franchise thus far: Michelle Rodriguez is Rain Ocampo, Sienna Guillory is Jill Valentine, and Boris Kodjoe is Luther West. Other actors play memorable characters from the videogames: Kevin Durand is Barry Burton, Johann Urb is Leon Kennedy, and so on. Will any of these names matter to anyone other than die-hard gamers? Probably not.

In the surburban stage, Alice comes across the aforementioned Becky, who serves as this movie’s Newt from Aliens. She creates a faux parent-child bond with Alice, and she always needs rescuing; there’s even an identical sequence from James Cameron’s archetypal sequel where Alice must save Becky from being cocooned by monsters. In usual Anderson fashion, the movie thieveries are abundant and obvious, from bullet-time slow-mo straight out of The Matrix, to Inception’s booming horns in the otherwise techno-laden score by electronic music company Tomandandy. Of course, Anderson’s own mark appears as well: He transitions between action scenes with flashing X-ray views of breaking bones and digital infrastructure diagrams. This, along with intermittent shots of the Red Queen to proclaim “initiate termination protocol,” make us feel as though we’re watching from the perspective of a computer.

Retribution went unscreened for critics, no doubt because Anderson and Sony are well aware of how this franchise’s curiously loyal fanbase keeps coming back regardless of how bad each sequel proves to be. And based on the remarks in the finale where one character moodily suggests “this is the beginning of the end”—not to mention the movie’s $20 million-plus opening weekend—there’s at least one more yawn-inducing sequel planned. Fortunately, the degree to which this fast-food movie and its predecessors are completely forgettable is counteracted by Anderson’s usual clip-show recaps at the beginning of each new sequel. In every respect, the series is engineered exclusively for mind-numbed audiences who soon forget everything they’ve just seen because there’s no need to remember. But I should be clear: there’s nothing worth remembering here.

According to the ScreenRant review:

Milla Jovovich’s zombie slayer Alice is back, along with several familiar faces, in Resident Evil: Retribution 3D, the fifth installment in the most successful video game movie franchise ever. This sequel, once again directed by Jovovich’s husband Paul W.S. Anderson, picks up at the end of the previous film, Resident Evil: Afterlife.

Alice is a captive inside a massive, subterranean Umbrella Corporation compound. Umbrella mind-controls Alice’s friend Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), turning this former ally into her archenemy here. Umbrella itself is now fully controlled by the Red Queen program, which is determined to bring Alice back into the fold and destroy what’s left of humanity. The story follows Alice’s attempt to escape from the Umbrella compound with assistance from fresh faces Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), and Barry Burton (a cigar-chomping, underutilized Kevin Durand), who are also joined by Afterlife’s Luther West (Boris Kodjoe).

Their escape from sees the team move through different levels used for training purposes that recreate New York, Tokyo and Moscow. Along the way, Alice encounters a deaf orphan named Becky (Aryana Engineer), and also learns more about her own past before the T-virus outbreak. She also sees the return of colleagues she’d thought long dead — Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), and James “One” Shade (Colin Salmon) – all of whom are sent after her by Umbrella.

While it’s pretty much business as usual in this latest Resident Evil film, Retribution at least feels more like a video game than the last few sequels have. There are different levels the characters have to fight their way through, with different boss battles along the way. Fans who have long wanted to see characters such as Ada Wong or Leon S. Kennedy finally appear in the film series will be momentarily happy to see them; momentarily, because Barry and Leon don’t have much to do except shoot at things. Even Ada is a cipher, but haven’t we come to expect thin characterizations from this franchise by now?

Alice is the only character given anything close to resembling an emotional journey. Jovovich plays the character far more human and vulnerable than we’re used to seeing; being stripped of her powers and meeting a young girl awakens not only Alice’s emotional side, but her maternal one as well. Alice’s “origin” allows Jovovich to play a version of Alice who is ordinary, fearful and unaccustomed to violence. Everyone else is just along for the ride, although the Red Queen makes for a much better baddie this time than Wesker (whose agenda here contradicts much of what he did in the past).

Of the resurrected characters, only Rain really has much to do (Carlos’ best stuff is as Alice’s husband in the “origin” sequence, while One just glares and shoots). Rodriguez seems to be having fun playing against type as one version of Rain who hates guns, drives a hybrid and is a girly girl in high heels. Newcomer Aryana Engineer (who, like her character, is partially deaf) acquits herself fine in a small, but important role as the orphan Alice looks after, but, alas, they’re no Ripley and Newt.

You don’t actually need to see the first four films in order to watch and understand Resident Evil: Retribution. There’s a lengthy recap of the events of the past films in the prologue that allows newbies to just dive in. The opening is a bit tiresome in its replay of the ending of the previous film, but all you really need to know to follow this story is summed up in the prologue.

Resident Evil: Retribution, of course, has its fair share of action, from some rather pedestrian shootouts to some brutal hand-to-hand combat between Alice and Jill Valentine (including some blows that really should have left one of them crippled, or at the very least with broken bones). The highlight set-piece is a car chase in Moscow’s Red Square (Russian military zombies look pretty cool on motorcycles and tanks). While there are still some silly “crap coming at you” shots, overall the 3D in this film is used more for environmental effect than it was in Afterlife.

Even with all of its dopey dialogue, wooden characters and “been there, done that” elements, Resident Evil: Retribution is pretty decent as far as entries in this series go. It’s certainly feels more like a video game and has a bit more emotion to it than some of the past Resident Evil sequels, but if you don’t like this series then there’s not much here to make you suddenly warm up to it. And if you do like the Resident Evil films, then you’ll likely leave the cinema content with how you’ve spent your time.


2 thoughts on “On Resident Evil: Retribution

  1. Pingback: On X-Men Origins: Wolverine | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 7 | The Progressive Democrat

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