1 out of 5
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Wow, I have not seen something so atrocious committed to screen by a seasoned crew in quite a while (though I haven’t been to see a Michael Bay film in the past decade or so). I’ve always stood by Anderson; he pretty much kicked off the video-game-to-movie genre with Mortal Kombat and the original Resident Evil, and those movies – good or bad – seemed to get the idea of boiling a game down to core concepts and then framing them appropriately for a new medium (film) and giving just enough fan-service on-screen to get dem fans to appreciate the transition. When RE became a franchise, fine, you expect it to get more formulaic and dumbed down, but entertainment should still be a factor. Anderson had, in my opinion, been developing as a fun action director; willing to experiment – with shaky cam, with 3D – but he’d get a stupid-but-fun mess out of the way (AVP) and then tweak the formula to perfection for a stupid-but-fun non-mess (Death Race). RE: Afterlife was NOT a great film, but it lurched between long shots where Paul was in love with 3D and action scenes that were just straight taken from the games, so while the flick was boring, I understood the imbalance through the scope of Paul’s career and the genre. But Retribution? It’s like watching a game cinematic for 95 minutes. I know that people had to show up and act and direct this thing, but you’d never know it. Eye-rolling ploys (kid = automatic emotional connection!), action that’s too staged (to match the video game feel, I suppose) to feel exciting, really bland cinematography, an unnotable tomandandy score, and a potentially cool sci-fi plot that’s thrown away via static explanation scenes. Is this what fans want? Maybe, but one fan’s flame has gone out.
Update, years later:
4 out of 5
S’nelly, who knows what kind of non-crack I was on for that original review? I can trace some of it to my disdain for 3D, and since I had no memory, rewatching this now, of the middle of the film, I suspect I was so-so-sleepy and probably was not awake for good chunks of it, and, in general, I think I was burned by the previous entry (which my rewatches have also proven to be pretty fun)… but damn, I was really off the mark.
The part I was awake for, initially, sure: it’s rough. Picking up right after Umbrella’s approach in the last flick’s conclusion, we kinda sorta jump to an Alice with seemingly no memory of zombos, with a daughter, with a husband, in a residential utopia… which gets Dawn of the Dead remaked by zombies in no time, and the whole thing screams dream sequence and so is hard to muster much emotion for. Soon after, Alice wakes up in another (a la Afterlife) green-screened all-white environment, and the flat color just makes the set extending effect look really, really, fake and apparent. The gist is ‘splained from here: that we’re in another Umbrella locale, in which they have all of these model real-size cityscape environments set up for virus testing – a New York model, a Russian model, etc. – and, and if you’re thinking “like video game levels?” yes, they’re very much that, bosses included. Hereabout is where my brain shut off and I probably fell asleep.
But the RE flicks have, mostly, been successful at finding ways to grind in banzai action potential without going too far off map from what they’ve established, and, y’know, this is very much in line with that. Furthermore, once Alice gets going, you appreciate how much it opens things up for Paul to get away from the murky colors of the previous films and play with insane choreographed and shot scenes. He’s much more comfortable with the 3D here; Milla is better than ever with gunplay, hardly flinching, and once again commits to all the various hijinks with the utmost gusto. Tone-wise, the film adjust the camp from the previous entry to something more pleasingly just sorta bonkers (there’s more clone stuff here that’s a lot of fun), and returning characters are used well to give the flick a pleasing familiarity. And I was wrong about the score: tomandandy flesh out their electronic rock guitar normalcy with flourishes that add to every scene – this finally, since the original, has a score that feels unique to its film – and even manages to carry the nigh-exhaustive final fight sequence all the way through.
So, screw the me from 2012 who watched this in the theater and went poo, ’cause he had no clue: Resident Evil: Retribution stands shoulder to shoulder with the original, its tumored with excess, rambunctious, flagrant-in-every-way cousin, and yes, you want them both at your party.