Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

*. I’ve said that Resident Evil: Afterlife (the previous entry in this franchise) was one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever seen. Resident Evil: Retribution may be even stupider. I’m not sure. The thing is, I don’t know and I don’t know if it’s worth the effort to find out.
*. At the end of the last movie there was a fight scene strongly suggestive of The Matrix. I figured they were just ripping off that movie for style points, but as Retribution begins we’re clearly inside the Matrix. Much of the action is pure video game shoot-’em-up, set in an assortment of virtual reality environments. Various cast members from earlier movies reappear, in different roles. So what is reality? Who is a clone? Who is a hologram? Does it make a difference?

*. My sense of mystification began with the opening credits, which play against the battle promised at the end of Afterlife running backward. Yes, backward. Which I guess is different. Interesting? Hm. Stupid? On the DVD commentary writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson doesn’t mention having had anything in mind other than the desire to shoot the opening battle in slow motion. So that’s no help.
*. Sticking with mysteries, why is this movie called Retribution? Payback sure, but again I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble figuring out what this is referring to.
*. It’s a testament to the power of video games in our culture that this franchise kept going, and made the kind of money it did, for as long as it did. The previous instalment, Resident Evil: Afterlife, was crap warmed over. By this time even the built-in audience should have been tuning out. But the video game franchise was still humming and the box office for this film was huge.
*. A number of critics mentioned how this entry seems even more like a video game than the other films. I agree. It goes with the VR territory I think. You have to wonder where the game ends and the movie begins.
*. I’ve said before that this franchise has a pastiche aesthetic, just borrowing bits and pieces from other movies and sticking them together. Or maybe that’s Anderson’s default mode. He did the same thing in Event Horizon and Alien vs. Predator. Whatever the reason, he’s doing it again here. Did we really need that character of the little girl just to give us a scene so derivative of Aliens? Or is it that the Red Queen AI has a head stuffed with all these old movies and just wants to recreate them in various VR environments?

*. On the commentary track Anderson says that he wanted to make an “epic” post-apocalyptic movie. What this would mean is that it would be global, a point underlined by the theatrical release poster that boasted “Evil Goes Global.” I’m not sure how this works though. All of the action in the film except for the very beginning and end takes place in the same underwater base. We’re not really in NYC or Moscow or Berlin. But again: Does it make a difference?
*. Because we’re in video game/comic book land it follows that all the women are kitted out in sexy outfits. Even sexier than usual this time around. Milla Jovovich is in some kind of fetish/bondage gear. Jill Valentine sports a plunging neckline. Ada has a dress slit up to wherever and heels. Producer Jeremy Bolt: “The girls have to wear quite challenging costumes.” All of this is fair enough given the territory, but it seems to me Anderson spends a little too much time staring at Alice’s ass. I don’t mind looking, but I don’t want to leer.
*. I have to say this is the first of the Resident Evil movies that I didn’t enjoy at all. In each of the others there was at least something I liked. That died here. Even with this much action and a quick running time I thought Retribution overstayed its welcome by half an hour. The final battle on the ice was tedious and pointless. And why did it take Alice so long to figure out the way to beat Jill was just to grab the mechanical scarab off her chest? She already knew how those worked because she’d removed Claire’s.
*. Oh well. I’ve waded into this series so far that I might as well keep going. Things couldn’t get any worse, could they?

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