Resident Evil films in the zombie genre are kind of like Twilight is for vampires; they don’t really exist in the upper ethos of the genre but they make enough money to justify their continued existence. They’re cheap and disposable films with an audience big enough to continue making films because they’re not overly expensive and have a generally cost effective cast to go with it. Most of the budget is going towards effects and Resident Evil films work on a margin that even Roger Corman could be proud of. Resident Evil: Retribution, another sequel in the franchise about Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her wild adventures in a zombie apocalypse opposite the vile Umbrella Corporation, comes into existence and leaves as fairly disposable entertainment.
This time around she’s been captured and held underwater in a secret prison for unknown purposes. Former foe Wesker (Shawn Roberts) wants her out for his own purposes and thus the film begins as Alice is on the run inside the compound, trying to rendezvous with Wesker’s rescue squad while avoiding zombies and Umbrella’s own evil forces. Throw in a child (Aryana Engineer) that thinks Alice is her mother and you have nearly the same kind of film that Paul W.S Anderson has been making under the Resident Evil banner for some time.
Throw in some violence, plenty of blood (but not a lot of gore and/or viscera) and get a little creative in how you shoot it is the name of the game and Anderson doesn’t give us anything new or exciting in his production style. He has a certain vision of how a film in this franchise is supposed to look and feel, never varying or adapting the visual style, and this is nearly exactly the same film as the rest in the series. It’s glossy and looks impressive at times but we’ve seen it before. Even the 3D has been done by the franchise before and it’s nearly the same style of shots as the other 3D entries of the franchise.
Everything else is exactly as fans of the franchise would expect. The acting is universally mediocre at best but this isn’t a film about story-telling or acting; it’s about action sequences. The film does those fairly competently and tells a cohesive story, at least. It may not be the most impressive but it’s simple and effective. Alice is still a character with a rich cinematic history but little depth and Jovovich doesn’t add much to her as usual.
This is a franchise that is about a film away from ending as a whole, especially considering the way Retribution ends, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is a franchise that has been about going from the beginning of a zombie outbreak to worldwide domination, culminating in humanity’s last stand against overwhelming odds, and it’s almost poetic in how it’ll end. Anderson’s final shot is reminiscent of The Two Towers as it moves away in a wide tracking shot and the finale should be breath-taking in its violence even if it doesn’t have much emotional resonance.
Resident Evil: Retribution is about on par with what you’d expect from the series; it’s maintained a level of quality best summed up as “disposable but enjoyable for its running time” and doesn’t veer from that level.
Writer / Director: Paul W.S Anderson based on the video game series “Resident Evil”
Notable Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer