Game over for Resident Evil: Retribution
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 00:09
Honesty is important in film. The Words was dishonest about its intentions, and, as a result, was disappointing. But, as soon as the credits flashed “Based on the Video Game” for Resident Evil: Retribution, I was able to calibrate my standards for the latest installment in director/writer Paul W. Anderson’s series based on the video game franchise of the same name.
While the film is based on the mythology of the video games, Anderson constructed a film that looks and supplies the experience of watching someone play a video game. In less skillful hands – such as those of Andrzej Bartkowiak, director of Doom - an emulation of the video game experience would alienate the audience, or worse, make them wish they were playing the game, instead of watching a film adaptation. Anderson succeeds with the film, however, recreating the experience of watching your best friend play a terrific game.
I entered the film vaguely acquainted with the mythology of the series (I was more of an Elder Scrolls and Silent Hill fan) and was rewarded with a prologue that provides the viewer with a summary of the preceding films. An evil corporation, much like the Weyland-Yutani Corporation of the Alien and Predator franchises, unleashes a virus that converts the world’s population into cannibalistic mutants. Enter our hero Alice (played by Anderson’s wife, Milla Jovovich) who, with her band of companions, have been fighting to survive the onslaught from the corporation and aforementioned undead.
The narrative of the film is structured like a video game: the characters journey through chambers in an underground complex that are structured like game levels. They fight their way through waves of enemies and bosses, in adrenaline fueled sequences of over the top gunplay, carnage and choreography. Some of these sequences pay homage to popular video games: the final battle on the surface is choreographed like the battles from Mortal Kombat, while a stage set in Russia derives its action from the Nazi Zombie multiplayer maps from the Call of Duty titles, but instead with communist zombies.
The artistics are not restricted to video games, as the artwork of Frank Frazetta is the dominant influence on the casting and costuming. The men’s military uniforms highlight their musculature (see the Frazetta painting Combat) while the women are in the shape of cross-country runners, but with tightfitting outfits that highlight their bodies. And the last form of inspiration is from James Cameron’s film, Aliens, The Ripley-Newt dynamic is present in the film, along with a few set designs and shot compositions that echo the film. However, I prefer Jovovich’s Alice over Ripley. While the sexual dynamic is questionable, the character has a more agreeable personality, as Weaver’s Ripley is part of the type she has overused: the cynical and sarcastic, chain-smoking scientist. Jovovich brings warmth to a role that by other performers would end up as stock as the set pieces and design.
Resident Evil: Retribution is an honest B-film, which I welcome any day over a dishonest A-list production. If one likes ninety minutes of spectacle, this is the film to view as a matinee.
However, viewers will be surprised to see Baudrillard’s treatise Simulacra and Simulation applied to identity, during one of the later scenes. But, does that mean it is on the same tier as The Matrix Trilogy? No. Yet, sometimes we need a Chimichanga to appreciate the meal from a Parisian café.