Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (The Schumacher Era)


When I spent my fifteen bucks—one for me, one for my girlfriend—I knew I was getting my money’s worth in one way or another; most likely it would be a laugh riot and hence I’d consider the film the best comedy of the year . . . or I could be pleasantly impressed that Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Alien Vs. Predator) got some things right. Well, it’s the former; no surprise there. But it’s also the funniest movie of the year by far.

It’s safe to say, however, that the Resident Evil franchise has stepped into the Schumacher era of its overlong lifespan. Alice may not be sporting rubber nipples on her suit, but the entire film had its own metaphysical rubber nipples popping out left and right. The first rubber nipple is during the intro in which Milla Jovovich speaks to the camera and explains all the events from the previous films (at least in Apocalypse that made sense, because toward the end of the film we saw that she talked to a camcorder); then the film essentially starts  straight to the Dawn of the Dead rip-off, which Alice wakes up in a suburban house with a mute daughter (that speaks just fine) and husband Carlos Olivera (what?!) and then Carlos gets bit, oh no, and it’s so blatantly obvious that the film is copying Dawn that I expected to see Ving Rhames dressed as a cop and say the same exact lines he said to Sarah Polley; then, what these not-quite-literal rubber nipples made me giggle the most was all the copy and pasted elements from the video game franchise that has no rhyme or reason to even be in the film. For instance, the zombies now have mouths like the majini from Resident Evil 5—you know, the mouths which CAPCOM clearly took from Guillermo del Toro’s Blade 2 and made them not as scary; yeah, those mouths—and in Retribution, I finally thought that Anderson actually was about to make sense of something every fan of the video game franchise was confused about. The Red Queen told us—yes, literally, she talks to the camera too (Alice isn’t the only one)—that she was initiating the Las Plagas Undead. In my mind, I thought, Yes, finally he’s explaining why the zombies have become fast with majini-mouths. But, really . . . it was his excuse to have zombies with guns and chainsaws (but why wield a chainsaw if you can use a gun?), that could ride motorcycles and shoot guns at the same time—if that’s a spoiler, it’s a spoiler best known upfront. This isn’t scary; this is outrageously funny. What also doesn’t make sense is the fact that the Umbrella Corporation currently manufactures the Executioners from Resident Evil 5 and meticulously hammers in each nail in their heads and shoulders just for theatrics—if it didn’t make sense in RE5, it’s definitely going to be a laugh riot in Retribution. Which it was. But even funnier yet, while Alice was fighting Jill, and Luther (didn’t he die in Afterlife? I swear he did) and Leon were fighting the evil Las Plagas-infected Rain (I was expecting her to become a giant sea monster like Irving in RE5), I thought to myself, Paul might make terrible Resident Evil films, but he might make a good Mortal Kombat film . . . then I realized he already did . . . and it was terrible.

What Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t seem to understand is that copying moments and characters from the games and pasting them into the films isn’t working. Fan boys are going to pick out the illogical inclusion of the characters, like I am right now; and people who aren’t fans of the games aren’t going to care if Leon is in the film or not. At this point, however, I think Paul W.S. Anderson knows how terrible the films are, and he’s taking advantage of it—bringing characters back to life just for giggles, having hilariously cheesy dialogue every chance available, and not really giving a crap how terrible the actors are acting (the actor who plays Leon, for instance, just talks louder when he is supposed to be angry)—also, Sienna Guillory—who plays Jill—was by far the weakest in the film even though she did fairly well as Jill Valentine in Apocalypse.

I will say, however, that Resident Evil: Retribution had some interesting science fiction themes. That’s where Paul W.S. Anderson excels the most at: abstract, absurd ideas—like an underground laboratory—that somehow just works. In fact, it’s a great idea. I will go even further to say that Resident Evil: Retribution is a great science fiction zombie thriller, but it’s the Resident Evil game elements which makes it a funny, funny farce and—as stated earlier—the best comedy of the year. It’s too late now. The franchise is now five down . . . but how many more can Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich go on?

Which brings me to the Schumacher effect; there gets to a point in every franchise that starts becoming a joke—whether films or video games (even music; Linkin Park, for instance—although they deliberately rebooted their sound to survive the Nu Metal extinction)—in which a reboot is necessary. Pierce Brosnan’s 007 became too absurdly science fiction, enter Daniel Craig as the realistic bond (and then there was Quantum of Solace, which was going back into bad habits); Kilmer’s and Clooney’s Batman films became gaudy and flamboyantly gothic with ridiculous set pieces and actors casted based on their popularity (Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger), enter the Christopher Nolan reboot; and in video games, Fallout 3 and Turok to name a couple (although, when you reboot a dying franchise that has previously made good money, you must make it fantastic—like Fallout 3, as opposed to Turok, which was average and therefore the franchise isn’t really being considered for another reboot or sequel). And now we’re getting to a point in the Resident Evil film franchise in which the rubber nipples are exposed—the fan boys only watch the films to laugh; the unbiased viewers might come out thinking it was entertaining, but over the top, and none of the monsters made any sense (and they wouldn’t be alone—the B.O.W.’s didn’t make any sense to me either); the actors are lazy; the plot is confusing when it’s vague and absurd when it’s clear; and worse of all, the director doesn’t care about the source material anymore.

I think that Hollywood might pull out the Nolan card pretty soon, because Resident Evil does have very important contemporary themes. Biological warfare seems more realistic than nuclear in this day and age, but Paul and friends seem to be stuck on the zombies and the theatrics of the game franchise, rather than the scientific aspects, the concepts, the survival horror, and the atmospheric tension. What makes the Resident Evil video game franchise so endearing are the story and the characters (which is why Resident Evil 5 was the worst—the lack of survival horror put aside—because that’s when the game franchise stopped caring about story and characters; but I blame the directors and producer of RE5 rather than CAPCOM as a whole), but Paul W.S. Anderson focuses on plot (which isn’t the same as story) and dresses up actors like characters from the game franchise and names them that character from the game franchise and prays that the fans don’t realize they’re nothing like the character from the franchise. I give credit to the Harry Potter film series for at least attempting to stay true to the story of the books; while still they’re nowhere near as good as the books because filmmakers tend to care more about plot than they do story—which is a wide spreading disease in the illiterate world of Hollywood—it’s still an honorable attempt, unlike with the Resident Evil franchise. Seriously, the Resident Evil from games 1-4 have as good of a story as Harry Potter, so why did Paul W.S. Anderson butcher it?

Oh yeah, I know why: after the first film Milla Jovovich had his baby, so that meant that Alice had to reoccur in RE2, 3, 4, and 5, and hence altering the good storyline from games, and keeping his wife happy and making money. But, that’s fine. I’m glad Anderson burned the franchise to the ground, because I’d really like to see Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) or Neill Blomkamp (District 9) try to helm a reboot. Because, let’s face it, Resident Evil will always be a money maker . . . but they need to know when to quit, otherwise a reboot will be impossible. I initially didn’t want to watch Batman Begins because I was left with the sour taste of Batman & Robin in my mouth (YUCK!), but finally someone said, “It’s a crime thriller ninja movie,” and I was like “Heck yeah, I’ll watch it”—and it was great. But if Schumacher made one more Batman film, I don’t know if Nolan could have salvaged the series. Which leaves me at the end of my review . . . will Anderson know when to quit for the greater good of mankind?
I give this film a 2/5.