Posted September 16, 2012 by D. K. Holm
What if Paul Thomas Anderson directed Resident Evil: Retribution?
In that alternate universe, Alice (Mila Jovovich) would find herself in a new environment, one in which a powerful leader charismatically controlled some followers. Battle-scarred and tormented by the past, she would temporarily find solace under the guidance of the guru, until finally turning against him or her and his followers in order to finally define or re-define her own personality. And the film could still bear the visual signatures of P T Anderson: things could “rain down” on Alice; she could trudge like a loner through a hostile environment; fate and chance would be embodied by such things as escape hatches and handy weapons. Alice’s guru would be much like Sydney inHard Eight, Tom Cruise in Magnolia, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.
But as it happens, Resident Evil: Retribution is directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, who has helmed most of its predecesors, as well as Soldier. His reputation amonst cinephiles is one of …. less esteem than his similarly monikered competitor, though he can handle an action scene like few others. He just has occasional problems with the connecting tissue.
Resident Evil 5 is the first of the series that feels like a video game, whence the series was born in the first place – not a bad thing since most films derived from video games lose that source tone or narrative drive in the transition or adaptation. Shot (or at least presented) in 3-D, RE: R begins with the last sequence of its predecessor unspooled backwards. Then Alice presents what is in essence a slide show summarizing the previous four films, though without adding much clarity.1 As the film begins proper, Alice is in some kind of rendition facility, being tortured with sound and light like a high tech Guantanamo. The place turns out to be a training center for the Umbrella Corp., and Alice is put through a series of dream-fight sequences featuing zombies, the victims of the virus four films ago who have the added advantage of serpents that come out of their mouths.
With its grid style hallways, the training center evokes Tron, and with its multiple locations, holographic though they may be, the film also reinvents Inception (locations from ice to ocean). Throw in The Truman Show and you have an anthology of recent sci-fi with the anthology of past Evil entries, like one of those sit-com filler episodes that consist of clips from past earlier shows.
1 Immersion in the Wikipedia articles brings some light. Yet the plot isn’t as incoherent as it sounds. The trek that Alice must take through the various “environments” is laid out clearly, thus she has a series of goals on a journey, and there are various time deadlines announced to create urgency, as in most classic American action films. And Ms. Jovovich is as sexy as she always is in these films. Were it not for the 3-D it’s possible that the theatrical release would have been pro-forma as a prelude to DVD circulation to the sci-fi kids, but the revived technology gives the show a new lease on life.2
2 It’s interesting that the two dominant “styles” of the time are the high tech CGI-heavy 3-D versus the shaky cam of “found footage” horror stories.