Saturday, 6 October 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution - Movie Review

Screw it.

I was originally going to write this review immediately after seeing the movie, but I ultimately chose to wait a day to gather my thoughts. The main reason was that my thoughts at the time mainly consisted of angry, venomous expletives. This is a bad movie, in so many ways. And you all knew it was going to be bad before it was even released, because that's how it goes with this series. Each movie gets more and more outlandish and offensive, but you go see it anyway because it gives you a shameless thrill and what more did you expect from a movie based on a video game?

But it didn't have to be like this. Did you know that the first Resident Evil movie script was penned by George "of the Living Dead" Romero himself? Way back in 1999, Capcom commissioned him for a script, and he actually did his research and turned in a script that was faithful to the source material. It wasn't great, but the only version available online is of an early draft, so I'm sure they could've ironed out the bugs before shooting. Capcom apparently fired him because his version was too moody and lacked action (I can only assume the people in charge never actually PLAYED the game). Thus, they hired Paul Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Soldier, Event Horizon), who turned in a script that was a radical departure from the source material, featuring none of the characters or events from the games.

The film series focuses on the adventures of Alice (Milla Jovovich), a former Umbrella operative. In the games and films, Umbrella is a multinational corporation specializing in medical research. However, they also make a tidy sum experimenting with biological weapons. One such weapon, the T-Virus, turns infected humans into zombies. As you might expect, the virus is released and eventually sweeps the globe, killing nearly all life on the planet. Alice herself becomes infected, but rather than going zombie, she gets superpowers. No, really. For no sensible reason, the virus gives her enhanced strength, agility, reflexes, healing, and psychic powers. Have I lost you yet?

Every movie plays out pretty much the same. Alice shows up on the scene of some major catastrophe, tells everyone what to do, and gets to be the only one who gets anything done while everyone else either compliments her indisputable awesomeness or dies horribly. If you're a fan of the original game series, you'll actually see several sequences copied shot-for-shot from classic moments in the games. The only difference is that instead of the classic characters performing these stunts, it's Alice in ALL OF THEM. On an related note, Milla Jovovich and Paul Anderson met while making the first movie, and married in 2009. Essentially, each one of these movies are nothing more than an excuse for Anderson to pimp out his wife as an invincible superwoman while stealing plot points from the game series under the guise of "adaptation".

Each movie has sucked in its own special ways, but this one irked me on so many levels I felt it was worth sharing. So let's dive right into this one head first. The film opens with a plot dump from Alice, as they have since Apocalypse. The last film ended with Alice and friends under siege from Umbrella forces. Alice manages to shoot down a gunship at long range with her short-range shotgun, but the gunship's inevitable crash knocks her unconscious. When she wakes up she is unharmed, in a cozy bed, with her husband who looks an awful lot like Carlos (Oded Fehr), who died in Extinction. They have a deaf daughter and live a normal life in the suburbs. Then zombies walk onto the set and eat Carlos while Alice and daughter run away. They fight off the zombies in the house and run out into the yard, in a scene that is almost a total shot-for-shot copy of the initial zombie attack from the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake. A car suddenly pulls up with Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) at the wheel, also interesting since she died in the first movie. Notice a pattern.

The car crashes soon after, forcing Alice and daughter to flee into a nearby house. Alice tells her daughter to hide while she fights the zombies, but lacking any sort of combat ability she is killed by a zombified Carlos. We then cut to the REAL Alice, who is naked (another staple of the film series) in an Umbrella holding cell, being tortured by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who showed up at the end of the last movie brainwashed and evil for some reason after disappearing from the series in Extinction. If you read the movie novelization (and why would you unless you're crazy like me...) then you know Jill became the Queen of Baltimore (yes, really), but whatever.

An indeterminate period of time later, the security system is shut down remotely and Alice escapes, provided with a black latex catsuit for absolutely no reason. She enters a long illuminated hallway and is chased through it by an advancing wall of lasers into Tokyo. Or rather, what appears to be Tokyo, but totally abandoned. She breaks into a nearby cop car and retrieves a very flashy Swiss-made handgun (maybe that only annoys me, but come on!), only to be suddenly surprised when hundreds of Japanese people start walking around her. Where the hell did they come from, you might ask? The writers sure didn't.

One of the random pedestrians, a young woman, instantly and randomly goes zombie and bites a guy, and suddenly there are hundreds of zombies all over the place. Alice flees into a newly revealed corridor and engages in a prolonged martial-arts gunplay battle with over a dozen zombies, performing flips and kicks with the greatest of ease. I'll go ahead and remind the audience that Alice has NO superpowers at this point in the series, having lost them at the start of Afterlife when Wesker injected her with an anti-virus (easily my favorite moment of the series and richly deserved).

Anyway, Alice continues fleeing and enters a control room full of dead Umbrella personnel. While loading up on guns from a nearby rack, she is ambushed by Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), wearing her trademark red dress for no reason. In a scene lifted straight from the games, Alice disarms Ada and draws a blade against her throat to bark questions at her. Ada tells Alice that she was sent into this facility to rescue her. If that's the case, why the hell did Ada pull her gun on Alice at all? A simple greeting would have been easier.

Turns out Ada is working for Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), former bad guy and coolest man alive, who appears on a nearby monitor to speak to Alice. He was supposedly annihilated by a huge energy bomb at the end of Afterlife, but here we see him perfectly fine, so screw it. Wesker tells Alice that she's in a massive underwater Umbrella facility in northern Russia that contains several large-scale recreations of major cities from around the world (New York, Moscow, some random suburb), used to test outbreak scenarios, and populated with thousands of human clones made from hundreds of genetic profiles which include Alice, Carlos, and Rain. The facility is under the control of the Red Queen, an artificial-intelligence that was responsible for managing the facility from the first movie (and was subsequently destroyed, but screw it). Ada was the one who disabled the control room, allowing another strike team to enter the base. The team consists of Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Barry Burton (Kevin Durand), two game characters with absolutely no reason to be here, along with a couple of unnamed goons and Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), a random nobody who somehow managed to survive the events of Afterlife and join this team of total strangers. Again, screw it. Wesker has organized this rescue because Alice is apparently the only hope for the survival of the human race. We get it, Anderson, your wife's awesome. Please stop beating us over the head with it.

We are then told that the strike team has placed explosives near the elevator entrance that will destroy the facility in two hours (a callback to the original film for those who remember). Alice and Ada escape into the New York simulation while the strike team enters the Moscow simulation. However, we are shown this using a digital wire-frame map of the entire complex, where we can see that the Moscow simulation area is a DEAD END, so there's no damned reason to go there. Screw it. The Red Queen retakes control of the facility and sends monsters after everyone. Alice and Ada encounter a pair of Executioners (12ft tall axe-wielding monsters from the games who show up entirely at random), forcing the pair to fight for their lives. As is usual for the series, Ada runs and hides while Alice kills both monsters single-handedly. Meanwhile, the strike team encounters hundreds of machine-gun wielding clones in the Moscow simulation and engages in a massive firefight.

Alice and Ada enter the suburban simulation area and accidentally rescue the deaf daughter of Alice's clone. Ada makes the argument that the clone is just one of thousands and there's no reason to take her along. Alice counters with nothing, but she takes the child along anyway because she now has maternal instincts or something. However, as they go to leave they are cornered by Umbrella soldiers, led by brainwashed Jill and clones of Carlos, Rain, and One--

Wait, ONE? The guy who led the original commando team from the first movie? I'm conflicted now. On the one hand, that was a fantastic character, played amazingly by Colin Salmon. He was cold but not entirely uncaring, and while we didn't get to see him do much other than bark orders and get sliced into chunks, you still could see shades of an interesting character that could have become something amazing if given the chance to develop. He didn't even get a real name, just his designation as team leader. In this movie, he's just another goon. I'm sad now.

So, a firefight breaks out between the soldiers and A&A (as I will now refer to them). Ada draws her grappling hook gun (another of her signature gadgets from the games) and shoots a random soldier with it, then gives it to Alice before drawing her pistol again. Why does she do this? I have no goddamn idea. She says it's because she wants to travel light, but why did she bother shooting someone with the grappling hook if she has a gun already? Screw it, A&A split up and Alice takes her daughter into a nearby subway tunnel (nearby to the suburbs?) where she runs into the neighbor-clone of Rain from earlier in the movie, who survived the car crash. Alice leaves her new daughter in the protection of a woman who outright refuses to handle a gun so she can run off for no reason.

Meanwhile, the strike team led by Leon and Barry is still shooting it out with the Russian clone soldiers. One of the random no-names is carved up by an armored soldier swinging a chainsaw (another stolen artifact from the games), who despite taking dozens of bullets to the chest and face, is only killed with Luther shoots it in the back of the head. Apparently, bullets only kill people if they are fired by named characters. Just as they are about to escape, the second nameless mook is mauled by a Licker, another game monster. Except while the game version of the Licker was roughly human-sized, this one is the size of an SUV. The Licker is knocked aside by Alice, who shows up in a car. How did she know they needed help? Again, screw it.

A car chase ensues, as Alice drives while Leon and Barry shoot at the pursuing soldiers and Licker, who can now move at breakneck speed. Alice drives into a subway tunnel to lose the pursuit and meets up with Good Rain and her new daughter. Leon asks if Ada is alright, and Alice remarks that she lost track of her. Leon states that as long as nobody saw her die, she's probably alive and up to something. Granted, that's good logic for a movie, but for a real person to say something like that it makes them sound crazy and/or stupid. Ada can die whether or not you're looking at her, dumbass. It's not like she needs an audience.

They all make it back to the entrance elevator and attempt to leave, but the Red Queen shuts it down. The Licker shows up again, injuring Barry and killing Good Rain before kidnapping Alice's new daughter and running away. I'd ask why, but you know the answer. Alice wants to rescue the child, but Leon points out that Alice's survival is more important. Alice denies the claim, but Leon also points out that several men gave their lives on this mission, and we are supposed to believe that Alice is the savior of humanity. So in fact, YES, she is more important. Alice has no response other than a threat, and because she's a Mary Sue of the highest order, she gets everything she wants. Screw it.

While Alice hunts down the Licker, the rest of the team engages in another firefight with the Umbrella soldiers. Luther and Leon fall back to the elevator while Barry holds the soldiers back. After all of the faceless mooks go down, Jill orders a ceasefire to bring out a hostage... Ada. How's that logic working out for you now, Leon? Dumbass... Jill demands that Barry throw down his gun and step out into the open, which he does. He is then promptly shot by One and his gun flies up into the air. However, as his gun falls back to the ground, he sits up, catches the gun, blows away One, and is shot dead by Carlos. This is just all kinds of stupid, for so many reasons, but the movie's almost over, so let's just say Screw It again and move on.

Alice finds her daughter encased in some sort of cocoon by the Licker (for what purpose, I could not tell you), and manages to retrieve her using Ada's grappling hook in a scene that pretty much makes Milla Jovovich look like Superman without the cape. Subtle, no? Along with her daughter, she also finds a very convenient bandolier of grenades in another cocoon and brings them along. Stumbling upon a warehouse full of blank clone bodies, Alice's new daughter finally realizes that this strange woman in a catsuit shooting everything in sight isn't actually her mother. I guess the change in hair, clothes, speech and behavior wasn't enough of an indicator. As the Licker bears down on them, Alice fiercely tells her new daughter "I am now!" as she sets off the grenades and zips away on the grappling hook, leaving the Licker to go boom.

As the two hour mark passes...Wait, I have to stop for a second to point out another problem with this movie. Would you believe all of what I've described has taken place over the course of about an hour? In actual fact, this movie has a total runtime of 95 minutes. The end credits are ten minutes, and the intro replays the same action sequence twice, running forwards and backwards (in slow motion). Not counting credits, this movie clocks in at just under 85 minutes. And this movie uses so much slow motion that I bet we would lose another 10-15 minutes if every slow-mo sequence was played in real time. For a movie that is supposedly operating under a two hour time limit, it is rather hilarious that the movie itself couldn't even make it that far. Of course, neither did the first one. And I can understand the need to cut extraneous bits in editing to keep the pace of the movie going. It would take a really good screenplay and a really good director to keep up the tension and atmosphere through a two hour movie, and maintain audience attention. Then again, THAT IS YOUR JOB.

Anyway, the timer hits zero and the bombs go off, flooding the facility. I'm not exactly sure how a bomb placed at the entrance manages to destroy everything and somehow doesn't harm the people standing right next to it, but you know the motto of this movie by now. Alice, daughter (she has a name, but it's almost never used and you don't even care, do you?), Leon, and Luther all make it back to the surface and escape in a snowcrawler, but are intercepted by an Umbrella submarine. Out comes Jill and Rain, dragging a handcuffed Ada. The Red Queen (how is she still online, anyway?) orders them to kill the survivors, which they elect to do with hand-to-hand combat instead of using something as simple as a gun. Jill has enhanced powers because of a spider-looking device implanted on her chest between her boobs (another stolen game device with no explanation in the movie), and Rain injects herself with a Las Plagas parasite (ANOTHER stolen game device with no explanation in the movie) which makes her superhuman.

Jill takes on Alice while Leon and Luther fight Rain, who has knocked Ada unconscious instead of just killing her, which she is clearly capable of doing because she soon kills Luther in one punch by shattering his ribcage and stopping his heart (illustrated to us with an x-ray camera shot lifted from either Mortal Kombat or Romeo Must Die, take your pick). In a rare display of common sense, Alice is actually losing her fight against Jill, unable to match speed or strength against her enhanced opponent. Jill lifts Alice by the throat and attempts to push her head into the moving tracks of the overturned snowcrawler vehicle (which she somehow activated WITH HER GODDAMNED MIND), but Alice finally clues in and yanks the spider device off of Jill's chest, breaking her mind control. Alice throws it away, but the spider device actually gets up and starts running towards Alice under its own power, which is six kinds of crazy, but SCREW IT. Alice picks up a gun and shoots it.

Leon's getting his ass kicked, so Alice has to save him too. Rain hits her with the same chest-breaking punch that killed Luther (complete with another x-ray camera shot), but Alice survives because Paul Anderson is a terrible writer. She shoots Rain a bunch, but her Las Plagas infection renders her immune to bullets, pain, and happiness. Alice then shoots out the ice under Rain's feet, sending her into the water where dozens of zombies await to drag her to a watery grave. Even as she is pulled down, Rain vows to come back. So you just know she's coming back for the sequel.

A helicopter arrives to rescue the surviving team. Wait, so why did the strike team arrive by snowcrawler if they had a helicopter waiting to bring them back? Movie's nearly over, skip it. Alice, daughter, Leon, and Ada are all flown to the White House in Washington DC, where Wesker is waiting in the Oval Office. Nice promotion, dude! He greets Alice, then uses his super speed to inject her with T-Virus again to give her back her superpowers. Apparently the Red Queen now plans to kill all life on the planet, so they must work together to ensure the survival of humanity. The camera then pans out to see the White House and the last remnants of the US Military defending itself against an onslaught of millions of zombies and monsters. Every movie has ended with a pan-out shot, but this one is the largest yet, and surprisingly effective. Doesn't save the movie by any means, but I'll give credit where it's due.

So, that's the movie. Screw it, you know you're going to pay to see it anyway. I did the same thing when the Saw movies were still coming out. Each one was getting worse and worse, but I had to know how the story ends. Apparently Paul Anderson is going to make the next movie the final chapter in his series, and I can tell you exactly why: He has nothing left to steal. When he started making these movies he had a half dozen games to lift concepts and creature designs from, but now that he's five movies deep, he's actually managed to catch up to the main series by the numbers. He's been writing himself deeper and deeper by raising the stakes, and now there's nowhere to go. The threat can't be any bigger, Alice can't be any more powerful, and there can't be any more people to tell her how awesome she is (because she's gotten almost all of them killed already).

You don't even need to go see the next movie. I can give you a checklist of what you can expect when it comes out in a couple years. I guarantee the movie will feature all of the following:
  • Intro summary by "My name is Alice" where she recounts the plot of the last five movies, in case you somehow decided to start watching the series at movie six.
  • Alice is naked at some point, with the potential for side boob because Paul Anderson has no self control.
  • Alice engages in no less than two sequences lifted straight from the games where she takes the place of another protagonist.
  • A new monster will appear, also taken from the games. Possibly RE6, if Anderson sees fit to play the game (or more likely read the Wikipedia entry).
  • Characters native to the games will follow Alice along on her adventure, follow her order unquestioningly and compliment her once or twice.
  • At least one character from previous movies will disappear with no explanation (ala Jill, Angela, Claire, Chris, K-Mart)
  • Alice will enter an underground Umbrella base, because Umbrella loves building things underground.
  • 10% of the film's running time will occur in slow-motion.
  • The film's primary antagonists will be the Red Queen and Rain, who everyone will act surprised to see for about five seconds.
  • Alice will be the one to defeat Rain, single-handedly, after someone else is killed in the attempt.
  • The Red Queen, despite being an AI without a body, will be destroyed because the base houses her primary brain, even though logically she would have several backups all over the world.
  • Wesker will go evil again, and Alice will kill him too.
  • Humanity will effortlessly repopulate the planet under Alice's leadership...
  • the camera pans out to a wide shot.
That's 14 different points. You would think the odds of me getting all of them right are very low, right? WE'LL SEE.

Final "Screw It" Count: 10+