THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION"
The Resident Evil sequels have had random-sounding subtitles: Apocalypse, Extinction, Afterlife. The fifth and latest installment is subtitled Retribution, although that could just as easily be replaced with Repetition. I've seen all five Resident Evil movies, remember almost nothing about any of them, and yet still walk away from each one with a sensation of familiarity. How is this possible? Fans of the videogames on which the series is based seem to have an unquenchable thirst for the world portrayed within. Those of us who primarily play videogames with the word “Lego” in the title are left out in the cold.
Retribution is somewhat unusual in that it has multiple false beginnings. There's a credit sequence in which we see heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) doing battle. This is followed by a recap, in which Alice looks into the camera and summarizes the events of the four previous movies. We then move on to some sort of flashback or hallucination with Alice living a domestic life. Finally, Alice finds herself in what seems to be Japan, fighting the kinds of icky, disgusting creatures that seem drawn to her like flies to a bug zapper. Only after all these things have happened do we get the actual beginning of a story.
Of course, the beginning is all we get. Many people will be annoyed to discover that Resident Evil: Retribution is really just a prolonged set-up for Resident Evil: How Long Can This Franchise Be Stretched Out? or whatever the next chapter will be titled. Alice awakens inside the evil Umbrella Corporation's operations facility and has to fight her way out, traversing a series of hologram levels designed to resemble various world cities. The whole thing is her being chased through the levels, until the last five minutes, at which time the next movie – which seems far, far more interesting than the one we've just watched – is set up. Cut to end credits.
A lot of familiar faces pop up in this fifth chapter. Michelle Rodriguez, Boris Kodjoe, and Sienna Guillory all reprise roles from the prior films. Their appearances can be confusing because sometimes they appear as the actual characters, and other times they appear as clones of the characters. There are even a few times when they appear as department store mannequins. Or maybe it just felt that way because of the wooden performances. The characters shift allegiances depending on their incarnation from scene to scene. Keeping track of it all is a chore. It's just not worth it, given the scant payoff to be found.
Resident Evil: Retribution does have one thing going for it: more than any of the other R.E. flicks, it totally feels like a videogame. Director Paul W.S. Anderson really nails the feeling of a character walking into a room and opening fire upon a horde of nondescript bad guys, then walking into another room and doing the exact same thing, ad nauseum.
If ever a movie series was esoteric, it's this one. People who have played the “Resident Evil” videogames have a grasp on the universe that others simply won't. The films have never made much effort to initiate the outsiders. About five minutes into Retribution, everyone in my theater gasped Whoa! in unison when a particular individual appeared on screen. I have no idea why. If, for some reason, you care about the Umbrella Corporation and the virus it unleashed, then perhaps all of the mumbo-jumbo will be of interest to you. I was bored.
As always, the visual style of the movie is cool to look at, and the gross special effects are fun. They can't compensate for a rambling, all-over-the-map (literally) plot, though. Resident Evil: Retribution feels like the four previous films were thrown into a blender and then spliced back together at random. Alice can feel free to give up the ghost any time now.
( 1/2 out of four)
Resident Evil: Retribution is rated R for sequences of strong violence throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.
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