The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Resident Evil film series is that each one is more visually attractive than the previous. Conversely, its characters grow more dimensionless and irritating with each story. The editing and the briskness of Resident Evil: Retribution’s plot is sharp enough and the film is entertaining to an extent; though still, it’s a movie that would work far better as background noise at parties, not as a 3D film that costs fifteen dollars to see in a movie theater. To put it plainly, Resident Evil: Retribution is glossy garbage, which deserves about as much attention from audiences as it was given by its filmmakers.
The problem with the Resident Evil franchise has never been its basic concept: the story of a virus that infects the human population, thus birthing billions of zombies and the destruction of most of the world. The potential for fantastic adventures is boundless. The problem’s been the way in which writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson has handled its stories and characters. Granted, unlike most film series, this one has largely maintained continuity with its core actors and their respective characters. Unfortunately, there is little to no discernible evolvement of any of them.
Even our heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich), who after five films now, still does not have a last name, seems to have grown very little since the first entry. She was a confused, mostly amnesiac woman in the first film, first learning her physical capabilities and by the second film she’d magically transformed into a Linda Hamilton-like, zombie-slaying machine. She’s been that way ever since. Resident Evil: Retribution adds no layers to her character; in fact, Jovovich’s role is stunningly more mechanical than it’s ever been in the previous films, which is a shame considering after four films, her intense, undead history should make her character more compelling to watch, not less.
To be fair, there is a plot point featured in the film’s trailer involving Alice waking up into a seemingly normal, suburbia life as the wife to Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), and a mother to little girl, Becky (Aryana Engineer), only to soon have zombies break into their home and attack. It’s a small part of Retribution, but it’s also the most exciting aspect of the film and the storytelling potential it has that might’ve taken our heroine into newer directions is quickly flushed out when we discover it to be only a neighborhood simulation used by the Umbrella Corporation to test the T-virus. Turning Resident Evil’s expected routine upside down by actually placing a mom Alice into suburbia might’ve surely derailed the thread of story already established, but if there’s one thing this series yearns for, it’s something fresh.
Of course, Retribution ends with a cliffhanger, suggesting a sixth installment. While it’s likely far too late in the series to ask for smarter writing, more vivid characterizations, better performances and a stronger sense of fun, hopefully our wish that the next movie be the absolute last of the series, fingers crossed, will be glowingly granted.
This review does pertain to the 3D version of the film, which considering its high quality, demonstrates just how little the technology matters when the film its applied to has a plot and characters which are about as lifeless as the zombies they’re constantly killing.