“I’ve heard that before…” (Resident Evil Retribution Review)

Resident_evil_retribution_posterAfter the flashy but disappointing Afterlife, the Resident Evil franchise seems to be getting back on track with the fifth instalment, Retribution. With Alice’s Saga having already gone through so many phases, it’s understandable that Paul W.S. Anderson found it difficult to keep the audience’s interest for the fifth movie in a row. As a result, Anderson has been honest about his intents with this film, to surprise at every turn and to work as a bridge between Afterlife and Resident Evil 6 (currently slated to be the series finale or the final movie Alice will appear in).

Therefore the fact that the movie doesn’t reach any kind of conclusion wasn’t that surprising. In fact, I’d say the story-writing has actually improved a lot from the previous movie by finally explaining some of the origins of T-virus and by giving context to the events of the film. The actual plot of this instalment in and of itself is nothing special. It’s another escape scenario, though sadly nowhere on par with the first movie.

Like all the movies since Apocalypse, Retribution goes the “high action” route which was definitely not a bad choice. The movie is at least moderately less ridiculous and over-the-top than the prior Apocalypse and Afterlife, with the action-scenes having more of a graceful elegance to them.

On the front of old characters, we have Shawn Roberts returning as Albert Wesker, whose role has been far expanded from being just the villain and which is actually one of the film’s biggest improvements over its predecessor. We also have Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon and Michelle Rodriguez returning in clone-form, which while interesting and sort of nostalgic, was also a little disappointing given that their characters play a very marginal role in the film’s events. Sienna Guillory’s return as a brain-washed Jill Valentine and a lackey of the Umbrella corporation was extremely disappointing. She spends the whole movie running after Alice.

The return of the Red Queen was also a nice surprise though I’m a little confused as to her being portrayed by a real actress as opposed to her being CGI as in the first movie (technically, we saw something similar in Extinction, but the contrast is a little jarring). Also, she came off as rather ineffective against the heroes which was also disappointing.

Of the new cast, the best character by far was Ada Wong, who becomes Alice’s companion for much of the first half of the film. Barry Burton and Leon Kennedy (played by Kevin Durand and Johan Urb) round up this new addition of game-characters, but sadly both are uneventfully held at bay by zombies and Las Plagas enhanced Rain, until it’s way too late for any of them to do anything interesting. This is a shame, particularly since Barry looks almost exactly like his game counterpart.

The movie’s best parts are definitely during its first two acts. The opening is a massive trip with Anderson showing off his visual artistry and dropping one surprising cut after another. It comes off as slightly intentional, but it managed to keep me interested until the plot really got going. The film also brings back a few of the classic monsters from the prior movies, but sadly the film lacks any new beasties (unless you count the Las Plagas zombies, which really just resemble the Super Zombies from Extinction). The final act is a bit of a drag with a very anti-climactic confrontation between the heroes and the villains, but thankfully the final scene actually got me interested about the next movie.

Resident Evil: Retribution does it job well as a transitional piece with lots of entertainment factor, but it’s story is unfortunately hollow. For better or for worse, it got me excited about the series finale. The pressure is now definitely on the next film to live up to the build up provided by this one.

Score: 3 out f 5

  • +1 It’s nice to see some actual story-telling from the franchise. Last time this happened was in Extinction.
  • +1 Trippy opening scenes
  • +½ The score by Tomandandy finally gets to shine in this instalments, where as it was constantly drowned out in Afterlife.
  • +½ It was nice seeing old faces from the franchise’s past …
  • -½ … but at times it felt like actors were brought back just because of their looks (Colin Salmon was tragically under-utilised in this film).
  • -½ Uninteresting supporting cast: Leon, Barry, the Nerd and the random guy who got chainsawed. Even Luther West (back from Afterlife) didn’t really get to do anything.
  • -1 No new monsters!! This needs to be fixed for the next instalment
  • ~ There seems to be some incongruity and even slightly sloppy elements to Wesker’s character. Okay, so he’s been in and out of each of the past three movies so it’s hard to get a grasp on the guy, but he seems to have completely turned his boat around from the last movie (SPOILERS!: Fighting Umbrella [as in the games] rather than running it, giving Alice her powers back). I just didn’t know how to feel about it.

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