Resident Milla: Again

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An Active 3D Review: Resident Evil: Retribution

Rating: ** (out of 5)

It’s hard to believe, but it appears that there’s still a call for writer/director Paul WS Anderson’s ‘Resident Evil’ movies, starring Milla Jovovich as Alice.

Normally Hollywood’s A-listers desert a franchise after the first or second movie, but dear Ms J,  forever teetering in that limbo twixt A and B list, is hanging in there for dear life: It was Resident Evil in 2002, Resident Evil: Apocalypse in 2004, Resident Evil: Extinction in 2007, Resident Evil: Afterlife in 2010, and now, Resident Evil: Retribution in 2012. Star Wars is one of the few sci-fi franchises to have had more sequels tucked under its belt – and, let’s be frank, it deserves to.  If the ‘Resident Evil’ movies persist for much longer, the Russkie ex-model will be fighting the baddies off with her Zimmer frame…

This latest chapter in the canon was better than I expected, however – bearing in mind that I’d set the bar rather low. Perhaps because I’ve missed most of the sequels in-between, my tolerance levels were kinder going in. The storyline is some mumbo-jumbo about a virus that’s turning the human race into a brand of super-zombie, and a mega-corporate – headed up by a super-computer with the soul of a vindictive little girl – that wants to pretty much decimate everyone.

Early on in the movie, I enjoyed an exciting scene in which these rather unkind zombies lay siege on quiet suburbia. It was, I thought, one of the film’s strongest moments; largely because it takes place in a setting to which most of us can relate – as opposed to some computer-generated spacecraft or planet. The contrast of these blood-hungry savages against the sedentary pastel lifestyle of the nine-to-fivers is potent and exciting.

But, almost as if to punish me for this early pleasure, most of the rest of the film takes place in the usual drab settings we’ve come to expect of the genre. (Of course, there is that combat sequence that takes place in an antiseptically-white corridor…) The seemingly unending slo-mo martial arts fight sequences soon lose their ability to impress – much as I’m sure the post-production team sat there oo-ing and aaah-ing at their craftsmanship late into the night, in their darkened edit suites.

The problem with watching these based-upon-video-games movies is that:

a) they tend to be peopled with humourless, one-dimensional characters – as this movie is, and

b) it reminds one of visiting one’s older cousin Ed; the one who’d graciously allow you to watch him playing video games, but would never let you touch the game controller. By this I mean that the movie looks, moves and sounds like a video game, but ultimately doesn’t deliver the satisfaction of allowing one to steer or propel the characters. Which can only be alienating and frustrating.

In fairness, it has to be said that the 3-D is pretty damn impressive – with a few gratuitous show-off moments (though no one’s ducking any more!) – and the overall visual appeal is equally striking. Sadly, it takes more than an impressive aesthetic to sustain an audience’s interest – well, certainly this audience member.

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