movies: resident evil: retribution

resident evil: retribution - evil goes global
I will preface all of this by saying that the Resident Evil movies are my "guilty pleasure" movies. They're generally not great, although I do think that some of them have been great action movies (especially the first and third ones), but I do enjoy the hell out of them.

It's been ten years since Milla Jovovich first woke up naked on the floor with no memory, so at this point Paul W.S. Anderson has a very large toybox full of all manner of strange and interesting toys and four movies worth of characters to draw on from the Resident Evil universe (not to mention all of the video games). So you could forgive him if he perhaps went a little crazy with it all.

Resident Evil: Retribution is pretty much that kind of crazy, but in a good way.

After the previous lackluster offering I was hoping for a vast improvement with this new movie. And Retribution was definitely more of an old school return to form for the series.

As I mentioned, it was something of a grab-bag of elements, situations, characters and actors from the last four movies. And given that the Resident Evil universe is full of genetic experiments, clones, mutations and a vast catalogue of monsters, there's a lot to draw on, and it's easy to bring back characters who may or may not have survived from previous movies and not necessarily have to worry about whether they were killed already. While that sounds like it could have made the movie a total mess, it was actually more like revisiting all the things from the previous movies that were great.

It also introducing a number of ideas that you just know that Anderson has had on a list in his office and figured that he needed a way to introduce as many of them as possible in a single movie. And he seems to have found a way that really worked well.

That may also have been something of a weak point to the movie, insomuch that some of the things that are introduced are almost throw-aways, and it doesn't feel like you spend all that much time with some of them or even set up who they are for people not familiar with the video games (the undead army for example). So even though the first Resident Evil movie was only four minutes longer than this one, I have a memory of it feeling like a much longer story.

And speaking of previous movies, it was great to see some of the actors from previous movies, especially Michelle Rodriguez and a somewhat underused Oded Fehr. Rodriguez especially gets a chance to play two quite different characters... one who is the all-butt-kicking Rain Ocampo from the first movie and the other who is completely different from any character I've seen her play (ie a non-butt-kicking character).

As always Jovovich is the strongest thing in all of these movies... because she's done so many of them she has the character of Alice down to a tee... plus she always looks good in whatever slightly outlandish costume they put her in.

The opening sequence is really beautiful, picking up right from the second that the previous movie stopped, and playing in reverse before a "previous on Resident Evil" intro and the sequence plays again forwards. There's then what feels like another opening sequence (which doesn't actually make a lot of sense until later in the movie)... which really, really reminded me of the opening of the Dawn of the Dead remake... so much so that I think they used the same neighbourhood/backlot.

I will admit to being somewhat "confused" by the first quarter of the movie, there was a lot of chopping and changing of location and tone and the seeming direction the movie was going to take... first it was one thing, then it was something else, then it was a third thing which may or may not have been directly related to one or both of the previous two things. And it took a while before it all made sense.

But I think that was intentional... to get the audience feeling the same confusion as Alice.

I'm not sure that the action scenes are as strong in this movie as they have been in previous ones... there were some great moments, but everything almost felt like it was really easily defeated and the stakes didn’t seem especially high, although the fights right at the end are pretty cool (the Mortal Kombat style x-rays notwithstanding).

The CGI effects are probably the strongest I've seen them in any of the movies so far... especially when you look at something like the Licker which returns from the first movie... I'm not saying that it looks photoreal, however it looks so much more detailed this time around... much wetter and more textured.

Unfortunately they did bring a couple of the really weak elements over from the last movie... namely Shawn Roberts as the "Second Rate Wooden Matrix Knockoff" character Albert Wesker (there has to be a reason for his character acting like that beyond, you know, a crap actor playing a crappily written character)... and Sienna Guillory as the equally wooden "Controlled By A Giant Red Spider On Her Chest" Jill Valentine.

Guillory wasn't as bad when she appeared in the second movie (or am I remembering with my zombie coloured glasses again), although none of the acting in that movie was particularly great, but she feels a little m'eh as the lieutenant to the "Big Bad" here.

Having said that, the Big Bad is an improvement on Roberts from the last movie, and a nice call back to the original movie.

I saw the 3D version, but to be honest, with the exception of one scene it didn't really make any difference one way or the other.

yani's rating: 3 suburban simulations out of 5

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