Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Film: Resident Evil - Retribution (2012)
Cert 15, 95 Minutes
The slightly naff yet strangely enjoyable zombie franchise reaches a fifth episode with the gorgeously flexible Milla Jovovich back in skintight clothes as Alice, the genetically augmented slayer of undead everywhere and thorn in the side of the insidious Umbrella Corporation. Paul W.S. Anderson's movie is visually striking and inventive but also rather hollow and uninvolving. There are a couple of neat new twists to the ongoing story here but the packaging is more appealing than the actual product.
The opening is great, with Anderson resolving the cliffhanger from Afterlife (Umbrella forces attack the ship Alice and Co are on) in reverse, with Alice, Jason Bourne style, floating in the water and then falling upwards onto the deck. It's a bravura five minutes. Then we find Alice in seemingly sleepy suburbia and married to Todd, who looks just like old friend Carlos (Oded Fehr) - but he was killed in the third film. Alice also now has a daughter, Becky. Suddenly zombies attack the house and Alice is killed. We shift from this to Alice again, this time in confinement and dressed in a hankie. Totured by old friend Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), herself brainwashed by Umbrella, Alice is suddenly allowed to escape and finds herself in Tokyo, reliving the start of the plague years ago. What is going on?
It turns out that Alice is in an underground complex under of the snowy wastes of a former Soviet submarine base. This base is where Umbrella test the effects of their bioweapons. A bit like a savage Disneyland, the complex has various zones which recreate real world environments such as New York, Moscow, Tokyo and Suburbia and is populated by clones which are then murdered off by the various nasties Umbrella have created. Alice finds herself surrounded by versions of people she knew, such as Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Carlos: some friendly, some murderous. With various Alices running around too, was our Alice actually ever a real person at all, or just another creation of Umbrella? If that wasn't enough to process, Alice finds that former Umbrella boss Wesker (Shawn Roberts) is aiding her escape and has sent in a team to extract her including badass Ada Wong (the wonderfully named Li Bingbing), Leon (Johann Urb), Barry (Kevin Durand) and old friend Luther Cross (Boris Kodjoe).
As you can see from the above, there are a lot of big concepts stomping around, even if Anderson has basically stolen the Cylon's backstory from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica TV show for the clones and the complex itself from Westworld. The trouble is, these concepts are never really explored fully but just used so we can have the same old fights and runarounds in new locations and to give Anderson the chance to bring back some old faces to the franchise. Alice as a character has some big moments here - she finds she may just be one of a legion of created clones, made as fodder for the complex, and she also gains a daughter as she finds Becky hiding in Suburbia (the Alice we saw die earlier being one of the clones, not our Alice). But apart from a sequence where Alice risks all to save Becky from a giant CGI beastie, little is made of these major developments.
In the end, Anderson is not that interested in plot or character development. First and foremost he is a stylist, and in this department, Resident Evil 5 is very successful. From the stark white corridors of the Umbrella complex to the streets of Tokyo, Anderson is great at framing an arresting image and Jovovich has never looked better, as she leaps and spins in glorious slow motion, shooting, bashing and slicing various foes in a violent yet strangely beautiful manner. For followers of the franchise it is quite nice to see so many previous faces, including Colin Salmon in a brief cameo and Guillory makes a suitably implacable adversary for the majority of the film. The new faces are pretty anonomous though, with Urb's Leon being particularly forgettable. Durand does better, playing the same type of cocky git he normally does. Kodjoe's Luther is criminally underused.
In the end, despite all the great visuals and occasional nod to the film's 3D, Retribution has just too many repetitive firefights and punch ups. You can have all the varying locations and greenscreens as you like, but if all you have happening in them are the same old machine gun massacres then it gets boring pretty quickly. The finale especially, with an interminably drawn out double fight, really tries one's patience. Still, the series never aspired to be anything other than B-movie schlock and the inevitable cliffhanger does set things up nicely for the likely sixth episode.
GK Rating: ***