I know this review is really late, considering that the movie’s been out for a few weeks now, and this isn’t out of laziness on my part. I honestly didn’t notice when it was first released, and I daresay that I could have spent the rest of my life not knowing what happened and missed out on nothing. But this movie has managed to present me with a valuable question.
It’s no secret that the Resident Evil movies suck. I think we all know that. Even if you like them, which I do, it doesn’t make them good movies. The amount of inconsistencies and badness just keep piling and piling on top of each other, until all you’re left with is a giant, convoluted mess, the plot of which your brain can barely keep up with. It is my personal belief that Paul W. S. Anderson knows this too, but we’re already five movies into the series, and it’s kind of too late to fix stuff now. As a result, I think Anderson just decided to make the movie as over the top as possible, so that at the very least it can be enjoyable.
So here’s my question: can I hate a movie for failing so hard when it clearly isn’t even trying?
Well, okay, yes, I can. I can totally hate it for wasting valuable money to go see it. But do I hate this movie?
That doesn’t mean I won’t be buying it when it comes out, though.
Here’s the thing, for as unrealistic as the movie-verse has gotten, I can say one good thing about it: I like the action sequences. Sure, they are completely unrealistic, and I hesitate to call them wish-fulfillment, but they are. Despite the fact that Alice no longer has any kind of superhuman powers, she can still pull off superhuman feats. This makes her even more unrelatable, but we can at least enjoy the experience of watching zombies get pwned.
So Retribution picks up right where Afterlife leaves off. Not only that, but it does it in slow-motion and backward. Yes, we watch the opening fight scene in reverse, before it goes forward really, really fast. So Umbrella comes, headed by Jill, who’s wearing one of those mind-controlling spider things, and they start massacring everyone on the boat. To me, this just makes that fleeting happy moment of the last movie obsolete. Not only that, but the last movie could have ended the series. If the Umbrella tilt-rotors hadn’t come, we would have been left with the resolution of Wesker being killed and the safe haven of being on a secure boat.
But then a shit-ton of money couldn’t be made on this film, so why do that when we can just keep dragging out the series as long as possible? And yes, this movie ends on a cliffhanger too.
I have a few things I need to address about Jill here.
Jill was absent from the last two movies until the very end, when she shows up being evil. How did that happen? Did Alice know she had been captured by Umbrella? She doesn’t mention it. Ever. Jill’s just there, and evil, because we needed to find a way to shoehorn her back into the series. And it seems like shoehorning is exactly what Anderson has done with a lot of traditional Resident Evil characters and virus types. And when he needs these characters to go away, there’s no given explanation for it.
We don’t know why Jill wasn’t in the third and fourth movies, until now. Chris and Claire who have a coincidental reunion last movie aren’t in this one, with no explanation other than the fact that they may have been on the ship when it exploded, and their possible death is not resolved. And it’s not just these iconic characters, but other characters as well. K-Mart’s gone now too, and I don’t know what happened to the little girl from the second movie, the one the Red Queen was designed after.
Retribution feels like an epic excuse to shove as many minor characters from the previous films back into the series. All these people are now clones. Like, remember that Hispanic chick from the first one? You know, Michelle Rodriguez, the woman who dies in every movie she’s in ever? She’s in this too. Twice. She’s got an evil and a good clone. They both die, and they both could have been replaced by anyone for all the more personality they bring.
Furthermore, the fourth movie lifts a lot of elements from the fifth game—giant axe man and certain mutations—while this movie, the fifth one, lifts elements of the fourth game—Las Plagas. It’s kind of poetic, like being a confusing mindscrew in iambic pentameter. I know that metaphor doesn’t make much sense, but it reflects the sense in the movie. This guy here, from That Guy With the Glasses, said this better than I could in his review of Afterlife. The movies introduced us to the T-Virus, not anything else. Other viruses aren’t even mentioned until this movie, but their products appear, like the axe dude first showing up in Afterlife. And the reason why he’s there makes no sense in the context of the movie. Anderson just threw him in because he’s in the one game, but if you haven’t played the game, you’ll be confused. And if you have played the game, you’ll be scratching your head, wondering why he’s there.
The same concept can be applied to Retribution. Suddenly, the Las Plagas are in the movie. And while I know what the Las Plagas are—Spanish for “the plagues”—because the fourth game is the only one I ever finished, I don’t know why it’s in this movie. It just is. Like, maybe Anderson thought, hey, people who’ve played the game will know what’s going on if I name drop this and have one of the infected wielding a chainsaw!
And other than the chainsaw, there’s nothing else even remotely like the Las Plagas, and the chainsaw doesn’t even exist because of the infection. He might as well have just left it as the T-Virus.
And I’ve yet to get to the plot of this movie.
So Alice gets captured by Umbrella again, and due to a convenient power outage in this high-tech facility crawling with zombies, there isn’t any kind of backup power keeping Alice’s cell locked. Or maybe the people there to break her out hacked it. Also, Alice’s fighting clothes are kept in a special drawer in Alice’s cell, a drawer that seems designed to hold those clothes and nothing else. I think this is because Anderson needed an excuse to make Alice as naked as possible for one scene, though we don’t see her breasts this installment, unless I missed it. If that’s the case, he probably should have just had her wake up in the cell naked, because regardless of that flimsy hospital gown that covers nothing, he still has her get dressed, and I don’t think the computer system running the damn facility gives a shit if she has clothes or not.
I also don’t know why the computer system even cares to capture Alice alive. It has Jill do a shitty attempt at an interrogation, and then it has Jill hunt Alice down to kill her. Why didn’t it just have Jill kill her before? Jill could have easily captured her again, but now the orders are to kill her.
Oh, and the Red Queen gives us this line again:
“You’re all going to die down here.”
Remember, poetry. My metaphor still stands.
So this facility that they’re in, which is underwater, has the worst possible architecture I’ve ever seen. I’m not even sure I can explain it in words, but let’s try. So we find out that the different nations of the world all bought the T-Virus/Las Plagas/Whatever Convenient Zombie-Making Gimmick and infected their own countries, and that the outbreak wasn’t an accident, I guess.
You following this so far? Good. Because I had trouble following it during the movie.
But in order to sell the viruses, Umbrella setup realistic fake versions of famous cities that are only—only, they say—a couple blocks big to run simulations with clones implanted with fake memories getting eaten alive. They used these as advertisements. And all the nations thought it was a good idea to unleash the horrors on the world. So these fake cities are all connected to each other, and Alice and Ada—who’s now shoved into this movie too—have to travel through them one at a time to escape. They’re also going to be meeting up with Leon somewhere along the way—Leon’s useless too—and Leon’s now all buddy-buddy with Luther from the last movie, our token black guy.
It’s about this point in the movie that I realized the whole film would take place in this facility.
So let me get this straight. Alice’s cell is connected to a laser-filled hallway that leads to Shibuya, Tokyo. Shibuya leads to another hallway that goes to the control room. The control room connects to infected New York, which connects to an infected suburban neighborhood, which connects to infected Moscow, which then leads to the exit. That’s a really dangerous commute to work. And it’s not like there are other passages to bypass all this. We see Jill and her clone army walking through infected Shibuya to get to the control room from the interrogation room.
And so, this facility keeps a bunch of clones to use as human sacrifice for the zombies, right? Well, that’s some pretty badass accuracy they got with these clones. The Shibuya scene we see is the exact same scene at the beginning of Extinction. Shot for shot. The same people. That’s some dedication on Umbrella’s part. But, and I know this is nitpicking, the clones don’t know they’re clones. They think they’re going about normal lives. Alice is standing in the middle of Shibuya with a gun. That’s going to raise some eyebrows. Also, she stole the gun from a Japanese police car. Japanese policemen don’t often carry guns. In fact, when I asked my host mother in Japan about it, she told me they never carry guns. If these clones actually thought they were Japanese, the policeman in question might have some issues about his sudden weapon.
Also, there are only about fifty clone models… for all those different settings and ethnicities, making up a least a few blocks of populated cities for these murder scenarios. Yeah, fifty’s not enough. Just saying.
Anyway, Alice adopts a young orphaned clone child who’s deaf. Her deafness amounts to nothing, but it’s a good thing that Alice conveniently knows sign language now. Then, they escape with Leon and Luther.
During all this, Jill and Michelle take control of a submarine with a captive Ada. I don’t know how only two of them could operate it, but even with three of them it would be impossible. They have a showdown. Michelle kills Luther—what a surprise—and Alice saves Jill and beats Michelle. Then they all go to the White House, where Wesker’s now president. So I guess he didn’t die in the last film, even though we saw him die. Then, Wesker infects Alice with the T-Virus again, giving her back her special powers. Because why not?
And then we have a cliffhanger ending on the same level as the last cliffhanger ending. The military is fighting off a bunch of zombies, some of which can fly and attack their tilt-rotors. Even though Alice and them got to the White House by flying, they didn’t see this epic warzone right outside the window.
Also, while I don’t know how much time has passed between the boat blowing up and Alice finding herself captive, I’m assuming not long. It couldn’t have been more than a few days, if even that. So Wesker, in a few days time, becomes President, sends in a special ops team to rescue Alice, and contacts Ada to do it. They also figure out how to hack into the Red Queen during all this. Furthermore, Luther meets up with Leon and gets enlisted to be on this team.
Yeah, I think that about covers it.