You ever stick with something for so long that, even though it’s sucked for years, you feel compelled to continue with it until the bitter end, just to see how it all turns out?
Yeah. Try to ignore that compulsion. You’ll probably be a happier person.
This review will contain SPOILERS for this and all the other RE movies. I’m talking serious SPOILERS, people. No like baby SPOILERS, but real SPOILERS.
Alice (Milla Jovovich) tries to escape a gigantic Umbrella testing facility. Zombies and clones try to stop her. That’s basically it.
1. Despite what I said earlier, by the time this movie came out, I was kind of done with the RE series. I liked the fourth movie more than the second or third, but it wasn’t particularly good either, and I felt sure there was other shlocky goodness out there more worthy of my time.
Unfortunately, my sister — who is the main reason I even bothered continuing after Resident Evil: Apocalypse — hadn’t yet reached that point. She felt like she’d come so far, she might as well see it through. And to her credit, she didn’t force me to watch it. She gave me an out. I could have taken it.
But Mekaela sat through Battlefield Earth with me.
I owed her.
2. And now I feel I’ve paid because while Retribution didn’t suck quite as hard as Battlefield Earth, it was still monumentally sucky. For starters, they brought back the worst character in the whole franchise.
I’m sure she’s perfectly respectable in the games, but in the movies, Jill Valentine is quite possibly my least favorite supposed tough girl of all time. I hate this woman. I hate her so much. If I hadn’t seen Sienna Guillory in a few episodes of Criminal Minds, I’d be convinced she was one of the worst actresses ever, but since I think she does a completely decent job there, I can only conclude that she can’t act outside her natural accent because she is so terrible in these movies. All she has to do is look sexy, hold a gun, and bark a few orders. I mean, I’m not exactly asking for Shakespeare here.
3. Of course, Jill Valentine isn’t the only repeat character. Several people from earlier films make an appearance in this movie, including Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), One (Colin Salmon), and Carlos (Oded Fehr). What’s notable about these particular characters? Well, just the fact that they were all killed off in previous films.
As it turns out, Rain, One, and Carlos are all clones. Umbrella really likes clones, after all; they use them as both soldiers and test subjects for their
holodeck recreation scenarios. Which is fine, I guess, but if you bring multiple characters back from the dead, you think you’d do something with them, right?
Well, Paul W.S. Anderson apparently does not agree because Rodriguez, Salmon, and Fehr are completely wasted in this film. Salmon has maybe one or two lines in the whole film — which, okay, he was a minor character from the first movie, but Fehr was more of a lead man/love interest, and he makes it all the way to Extinction before he bites the big one. (Sure, that’s only two movies, but two movies is longer than a lot of characters in this series make it.) Still, the only thing Fehr gets to do in Retribution is flirt with Milla for about three minutes and, occasionally, shoot at something. The guys are nothing more than exceedingly banal cameos.
And as far as Michelle Rodriguez goes . . .
. . . well, at least she gets screen time and plays two distinctly different characters. Unfortunately, every glimmer of potential for an actual storyline is quickly quashed for those two characters. First, Suburban Housewife Rodriguez is killed off before she can do much of anything — which is particularly unfortunate because this is a side of Michelle Rodriguez we never get to see, and I was all excited there for about four minutes. And then I thought that maybe Badass Soldier Rodriguez would see Suburban Housewife Rodriguez’s dead body and realize that she’s a clone and switch sides or do something . . . but no. All she does is inject herself with some version of the T-Virus and turn into Super Bad Guy for a while before she’s eventually taken down by hordes of swimming zombies.
Oh, and she kills Luther, also known as The Hotness.
Seriously, Why are we bringing all these characters back if all we’re going to do is kill them off again?
4. We also introduce some new characters: Leon, Barry Burton, Ada Wong, and Becky. Leon is so bland, I refuse to spend any more time talking about him. Barry Burton is kind of awesome, mostly because Kevin Durand is kind of awesome.
Ada’s okay, although I find it hilarious that nobody even bothered to try and come up with an explanation for why she’d be in her signature dress.
Unlike Leon, Barry, and Ada Wong, however, Becky is an original character — she’s the daughter of one of the Alice clones and believes that Alice is her mommy. Alice immediately takes on all responsibilities for the child, in yet another storyline that could have been really interesting and complex but of course isn’t because that’s not the kind of movie this is.
Becky is also hearing impaired because the actress playing her (Aryana Engineer) is hearing impaired, and not for any particular Story Reason. Which is kind of cool, actually, although I couldn’t help but wonder if she had to speak all her lines — as well as sign them — because nobody wanted this movie to have subtitles. I hope not, because that would be dumb. I understand not everyone loves subtitles, but it’s not like Becky has so many lines anyway. Most of them probably wouldn’t even require subtitles, just reaction shots.
5. Also, I love that Alice just somehow instinctively knows sign language, even though she isn’t actually Becky’s mom. Because that makes sense.
6. It’s not said outright, but it’s certainly implied that Alice herself might not be Original Alice after all, but just another clone.
You know, when I was at Clarion West, I wrote a clone story myself. The RE series was a big inspiration — in that I hated virtually everything they did, and I wanted to do something better.
7. Also in lame plot developments
A. There are zombies who ride motorcycles and shoot guns now.
I’m aware that zombies eventually start shooting guns in the games, but I still don’t like it here. For one thing, I don’t think the movies properly build the zombies’ evolution so that you can see how they went from the shambling dead to missile launching speed demons. For another, they look stupid.
B. Jill Valentine is suddenly a brainwashed super minion of Umbrella. To be fair, there was a brief after-the-credits sequence in Resident Evil: Afterlife with her in it, but not everybody watches the bonus scenes. And if you didn’t, it’s pretty funny when Alice starts up with her “Previously on the RE movies” segment, and they throw in Brainwashed Jill like she was some big part of the last film.
C. Wesker is not only alive, but is President of the United States.
For Christ’s sake. Why don’t we just call him President Lex Luthor and get it over with?
D. Wesker is working with the good guys (at least for now) because the Red Queen from the first movie is the Big Bad and wants to destroy all of humanity.
Of course, this makes no sense because in the first movie, the Red Queen killed everyone in the Umbrella facility because she was trying to save the rest of humanity, and Retribution fails to provide any kind of logical reason on why she’d be trying to exterminate the whole species now. But you know. Who needs logic?
E. Wesker goes to all this trouble to break Alice out of the facility, just so he can reinfect her with the T-virus and give her all of her super special powers back.
With this development — as well as the death of Luther — we have quickly destroyed everything I actually liked about Resident Evil: Afterlife.
8. One of the other big problems with Retribution is that it barely feels like a movie, more like a prologue for the next sequel. I’m all for escape the room stories, but there usually has to be a little more going on than that. A good mystery, well-developed characters, interesting dialogue, something. This movie doesn’t have any of that. It’s just a lot of action sequences that are badly stitched together, and the action sequences are both fairly bland and in slow motion. Seriously, the amount of slow motion in this movie will make you think that the slow-mo in Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows wasn’t actually all that bad. And it was.
A movie that’s barely an hour and a half shouldn’t feel bloated. But when everything that needs to happen, plot-wise, can take place in forty-five minutes or less . . . yeah, that’s a problem.
9. Also, some of the CGI is truly terrible.
Even the opening credits sequence doesn’t really work that well. It’s shot backwards, which is cool in theory, but there’s not really any good reason for doing it that way, and the visual effects are lousy enough that the whole effect is kind of lost.
Sorry, Retribution. You will never be as awesome as this trailer.
10. Man, when you can’t even say that at least the movie has good special effects . . . is there anything about this movie I can praise?
. . . no, I don’t think there is. This movie has zombies on motorcycles and slow-mo bullets. That’s about all you need to know, right?
Michelle Rodriguez, I guess? I liked her suburban, smiling, anti-NRA clone. I just wanted her to last more than six minutes.
Mothers are irreplaceable . . . unless they’re clones.