When I sit down to watch a film that is an addition to a long running franchise I have this habit that I’m certain I’m not alone in of thinking back to the other times I’ve watched the previous films. It’s hard to believe they started ten years ago and even harder to believe they’re still going.
The criticisms of the film franchise usually come from fans who wish they were more similar to the videogames that the series is based off of. Especially considering actual characters from the video games play second-fiddle to a character created for the films and while I originally shared that criticism ten years ago I found myself warming up to the series with each sequel.
Others tend to criticize the lack of plot and in that sense it’s hard to argue. That being said I don’t go to see a Resident Evil movie to see anything but kung-fu zombie killing handed out by badass chicks. So I’m usually not disappointed.
Resident Evil: Retribution is number five in the series which sees much of the cast and crew returning from previous films. It’s directed and written by Paul W.S. Anderson who is no stranger to the series considering he’s written and directed all of them so far. Of course Milla Jovovich returns as the series main character Alice but curiously so do a lot of other characters that were killed off in the series like Michelle Rodriquez.
The trailers for this film are pretty misleading in terms of what the story is actually about and which characters are on what side. I normally try to avoid too much press surrounding movies that I know I’m going to go and see. It’s not really that I like to be surprised but rather after so many years; I do myself a favour and try not obsessing about such things. Otherwise, you can find yourself spending every waking moment perusing trailers with one or two seconds of slightly different footage.
The film picks up right where the last one left off with Alice facing off against a whole slew of the evil genetic corporation Umbrella’s…helicopter things. After a brief fight she wakes up in a world where nothing has gone wrong. There are no undead and she is a wife and mother – or is she?
No she’s not. What really happens is she is taken to the secret head of Umbrella Corporation under the arctic Russian waters. There within the facility are a series of rooms that are made to represent sections of major cities. Tokyo, Moscow, New York – etc. She meets up with Ada Wong (LI Bingbing) who is the number two Lady of the series main antagonist from previous films Albert Wesker. This time they are on the same side and with Wesker and Ada’s help – Alice goes through a series of video game-like challenges before she can leave the facility. There are tonnes of nods to the videogames not even including the addition of Ada Wong and Leon Kennedy who fans of the game series will remember very well.
Plot and dialogue are shot out faster than a bullet in this movie. Nobody really has time for pain or emotion. Even the relationship between Alice and a young girl who believes (thanks to genetic programming) that she is her daughter is brushed aside in favour of my dynamic fight scenes. I’m kind of glad they didn’t go in to the two characters relationship seeing as it’s a hollow imitation of Ripley and Newt from James Cameron’s Aliens. How much of an imitation? Well this girl gets kidnapped by a monster and Ripley…I mean Alice leaves certain freedom to go after her. It even ends with the poor child being in some sort of organic Cocoon while Jovovich shoots a giant monster in the face.
The pacing of this movie is also fairly disorienting. Even though a few minutes of the film are dedicated to a recap of the four predecessors I still felt as though I was being dropped midway through a series. It certainly isn’t a stand alone movie and requires you to be fairly familiar with the series up until that point. Certain scenes and dialogue are direct references to the franchise and anyone who isn’t familiar will be left in the dark.
My biggest complaint with this series as a whole that was particularly glaring in the fourth movie (Resident Evil: Afterlife) is no better now. Characters that are brought in to die are completely disposable. It’s not really surprising considering these movies aren’t very long and the casts are pretty big but it gets downright ridiculous how you can miss the death of a character if you blink.
I will say to the films credit that the action scenes are incredible. The fights are downright brutal at times and a lot of the zombies and more significant characters are dispatched in some satisfying ways. The action scenes (and there are plenty of them) are enhances by some fantastic special effects and slick editing. Overall, I liked it but then again I wasn’t expecting much more than the aforementioned ass-kicking.
If you’re a fan of the Resident Evil movies then you really have no reason not to see this. This one is as action packed as they’ve ever been and goes farther to acknowledge their source material. That being said, the uninitiated will probably be lost in a slew one liners and flippy-tricks. The thing to remember is that the fifth installment is really part of a greater overall narrative. That being said I hate that sort of excuse for these kinds of movies. I miss the days when a movie had beginning middle and end. The only thing I have left to wonder is what the sub-title for Resident Evil part six will be.