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REPOST: Return of the living (brain) dead franchise: Resident Evil: Retribution”

January 31, 2017

[In preparation for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter I thought I’d repost some of my reviews of earlier installments…you know, so you’re all caught up on the labyrinthine mythology of this series.]

Well, it’s September, and every couple of Septembers the horks up a cinematic hairball in the form of yet another Resident Evil movie. It’s sort of Hollywood’s way of closing the summer by reminding us that it really doesn’t like us. It’s saying, in effect, “Hey, remember all those great mega-blockbusters we pummeled you with this summer? Yeah, those were great. Now, here’s Resident Evil: Retribution. Don’t feel too compelled to rush out and see it.” Of course, that’s not what they tell writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson. No, they tell him, “Oh yeah…your movies rock. That’s why we release them in September: we don’t want to totally bury stuff like The Dark Knight Rises and wreck the economy. Now, um, can you make your wife’s outfit any tighter and still have her breathe? Cool, thanks.”

However it happened we got another Resident Evil movie, so just strap in and let’s get through this, okay? So, yeah. Another one. And it picks up right where the last one ended—with Milla Jovavich’s heroine Alice atop a tanker ship facing a descending hoard of gunships filled with stormtroopers  commanded by some chick with a cleavage-mounted spider-thingee. Anyway, it turns out…

Nope. No. Not doing it. No. This is just silly. Every one of these movies manages to have a plot that’s simultaneously paper-thin and hopelessly convoluted. How do you even do that? But do it they do. And on top of that, they expect us to remember the mythology built up to this point. That is ten years—a freaking decade—of mythology they expect us to keep straight. I mean, really, is there any effort more pointless than mapping the byzantine machinations of the Resident Evil movies? Maybe slamming your hand in a car door repeatedly. Maybe.

So, once again Alice squares off against zombie-monsters and mutants, only this time she’s aided by some other dudes who may or may not have shown up in previous movies (is it me or does everyone look more or less the same in these movies? The men are all ‘roided-up, out-of-work American Gladiator contestants, while the women are all impossibly lithe supermodels in skin-tight outfits). So, this movie brings back old friends and old enemies and some friends who are now enemies and enemies who are now friends.

Alice is stuck in an underwater Umbrella Corporation testing ground mocked up to look like various different locations—suburbia, Moscow, Tokyo, New York—like Vegas with less gambling and more tongue-monsters. And Alice has to fight her way out so she can…I dunno, whatever. This time, the big bad is the central computer—the Red Queen—who wants to kill Alice because, well why not? And she’s assisted by Albert Wesker, who, you may recall from the last movie, is the evil genius in charge of Umbrella. Only now he’s a good guy, because…well, why not? He also somehow survived being blown up in the beginning of the last film and being monster-ized and having his head blown off at the end of the last film. Realism is not exactly this franchise’s watchword.

Let’s talk a minute about the Umbrella Corporation. See, basically, in the past their whole business model was: 1) Create zombies, 2) ??? 3) $$$. That morphed into 1) Wipe out humanity, 2) ???, 3) $$$. Now we’re at 1) Create clones of the principle cast members of the previous movies, 2) Use them to dick with Milla Jovavich, 3) $$$. It’s nice to see they’ve fleshed-out their business plan this time around, but I still have some doubts about its feasibility. Is it even accurate to call them a corporation anymore? Did the shareholders hack off on this idea at the annual meeting?

Okay, so what else do we have?

* Once again, Milla is clad in an elaborate dominatrix outfit (if nothing else, these movies present us with possibly a view into Jovavich and Anderson’s marriage, and it is a weird, weird thing). This time, however, the wardrobe folks apparently forgot to make it even barely functional, since Milla can’t even run in it without looking like a mannequin someone threw down a flight of stairs.

* Umbrella’s lackey keeps questioning Milla with, “Why did you turn against the Umbrella Corporation?” Uh, wiping out humanity’s up there on the list.

* Milla is assisted by Ada Wong, played by Li Bingbing, who is either the worst actress in these movies (no small feat) or terribly dubbed.

* In one scene Ada escapes because a grenade fired at her travels in super slo-mo and she moves in real time. Look movie, if you’re gonna be this big a dick why not just mug me for my ten bucks and save us all a lot of time?

* The beginning of this movie rips off Dawn of the Dead. Uh, is it a good idea to remind us of better movies?

* I like that the commandos who storm the frozen, Siberian station all wear sleeveless tank-tops to show off their biceps.

* The movie makes protracted use of Soviet Typhoon-class ballistic missile subs. Which, according to this movie’s effects budget, are about twelve feet long (hint: they’re bigger than that).

* Why is Milla’s love-interest the weird-looking dude with the eyes too close together? Is this really the dude that would land Milla Jovavich?

* Milla bonds with a young girl, and, at the end, breaks off from the rest of the group to rescue her from the monsters. Again, is it a good idea to remind us that Aliens was a way better movie?

* In the end, the group escapes in a helicopter that flies from Siberia to Washington DC. I didn’t know those two places were so close. No wonder everyone was so paranoid during the Cold War.

* Is it a good idea to blow up a massive complex located beneath the ice of Bearing Sea, when your escape route is over that same ice? I’m not trying to sharpshoot the Mensa members with the big guns, but that seems a wee bit unsafe to me.

* Do the laws of physics even make a cameo appearance in this world?

* And we’re set up for a sequel. That’s just swell.

Resident Evil: Retribution. Well, every summer movie season has to end, and this movie is one that smothers it with a pillow.

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