A great horror film contains elements that shock and scare viewers. Great action films have memorable fights mixed with good stories. “Resident Evil: Retribution” fails in both regards. The fifth film adapted from the survival-horror videogame franchise is unable to distinguish itself as a film belonging to either genre. The film hardly gives the viewer a chance to catch their breath before another fight begins. Zombies and other monsters lack any menace as the protagonists dispatch them quickly and easily.
The plot of the film is that series protagonist Alice (Mila Jovovich, “The Three Musketeers”) has been captured by the Umbrella organization, and must work with a team she does not trust to escape. It is a very basic story and never attempts to be anything more. The protagonists fight through representations of several cities, but spend so little time in each that the viewer could easily forget where they are supposed to be. It is nearly impossible to care about the characters as well. Most are never developed past shooting at monsters. The few that do survive are so boring that viewers will find themselves apathetic to their plight. What makes the characters harder to keep track of is a plot point about cloning. Due to this, several characters played by the same actors have different motivations and viewers can become confused as to who is good or bad, and why.
Though this film is based upon a videogame it resembles the source material very little. Terminology and devices used in game installments appear, but are briefly mentioned or shown. Viewers who have not played the games will be left unaware of the purpose; effects and origin of these devices though some serve as critical plot points. Several characters from the games appear in name only as they have been rewritten to serve the needs of the film.
It is evident that director Paul W.S. Anderson makes an attempt to keep the viewer interested in what is happening, but these attempts fall flat. For instance, the spontaneous inclusion of a cloned daughter for Alice fails to make the audience care about the relationship between them. This is because it is explained that the child has been given false memories that could be programmed into any other clone. Her inclusion in the party and Alice leaving the group to save her directly leads to the death of other group members as well.
Mila Jovovich seems like she is sleepwalking through her performance as Alice. She barely changes facial expressions or adjusts her voice for the different scenes. Sienna Giullory (“Inkheart”) plays the part of Jill perfectly only due to the fact that her character is supposed to emotionless and boring. Johann Urb (“2012”), Kevin Durand (“Real Steel”) and Boris Kodjoe (“Surrogates”) are forgettable as members of the team assisting Alice and mostly serve as cannon fodder. The best performance is given by Bingbing Li (“The Forbidden Kingdom”) as Ada Wong. She is the only one who seems like she cares about her role in the film. It is disappointing she is not used for more than a couple scenes.
The inclusion of characters killed in previous installments is bittersweet. It takes away from their deaths to reimagine them with new personalities as either friend or foe to Alice. The end kills each of the clones of off by members of her group while Alice attempts to rescue her daughter.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” is a film intended only for people who have experience in the franchise. Though there is a quick recap of the previous movies, people will be lost if they have not seen them, or played the games. The ending serves as nothing but bait for another installment in the series. I can only recommend this to newcomers if they want to see an enjoyably bad film.