Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thirty One Days of Horror: Resident Evil: Retribution

Day Thirty: Resident Evil: Retribution

Oh my Zombie Gods but do I have a lot to say about this movie! I'll get this out of the way real quick: SPOILER ALERT. Spoilers all over the place. Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers. SPOILERS!

You know what the difference is between bad movies thirty years ago and bad movies today? Bad movies today can (and often do) look like damned good movies, and are often still fun to watch, especially if you watch them drunk, or while suffering a mild concussion or something.

Resident Evil: Retribution manages to be a movie that infuriated, annoyed, confused, irritated, excited and thrilled me all at the same time. I was simultaneously flabbergasted at the movie's brazen and highly tenuous train of logic (yes, even after marathoning the first four last September! Even after watching Deep Space!) and still enjoying this movie like the action movie porn it truly is. Resident Evil: Retribution, despite a couple brilliantly horror-like moments, has all but shed its horror roots and embraced a world of high-tech post-apocalyptic zombie action super hero adventures. It is arguably beating the video games in terms of sheer, unadulterated brazenness. And I just finished the Leon Kennedy campaign for Resident Evil 6, too.....

I remember a time when video game inspired films were pathetic in their poor embrace of the admittedly loose source material. Now we have video game inspired films which make the video game designers look like boring, unimaginative people who need to learn to think outside the box.

(That might be a bit harsh...RE 6 has some moments that make the movie logic look downright spotless comparatively, but more on that in the RE 6 review...heh....)

Okay, enough general exposition! Time to talk about this movie and it's...uhhh....plot?

When we left Alice at the end of RE: Afterlife she had liberated a secret Umbrella ship called Arcadia from the tyrranical grip of Evil Wesker, with the help of Chris and Claire Redfield. Then a literal army of VTOL attack craft loaded with umbrella goons led by a mind-controlled Jill Valentine show up to crash the party.

Cut to RE: Retribution! We open with a slow-motion reverse of the first minute of the conflict, followed by a lengthy and rather elaborate narration by Alice which serves little purpose other than to remind the casual viewer of what the hell happened in the last four movies and how it may or may not relate to what the viewing audience, like test rats, are about to be exposed to. Then it opens up on the neighborhood from Dawn of the Dead (the remake) complete with fast zombies and everything. In fact, I have to say that the zombies get faster and faster with every RE movie. Alice is apparently waking from a bad dream in Raccoon City Suburbia, married to the Umbrella agent from Resident Evil: Apocalypse and with a daughter who is deaf. Then zombies attack and Alice does a fairly good job of escaping, aided by her friend who appears to be a civilian version of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain from the first movie. Then Alice wakes up, sort of, in a very large and extravagant Umbrella torture/interrogation chamber.

We're about ten or fifteen minutes in here, just so ya know.

So Jill Valentine, still being controlled by a red gem-thing on her chest (which, for what it's worth, is as inexplicable in the games as it is in this film) interrogates and tortures Alice. Actually, I think she's trying to brainwash her into being an Umbrella agent again. Actually, I am not sure what they want from Alice, but I do know that the real purpose of this scene was to demonstrate yet another semi-nude scene of Alice in a two-piece smock just like she wore in the first two films.

Rule 34 dictates that somewhere someone is selling "Resident Evil Umbrella Medical Gowns" online and people like me are risking dismemberment by asking their wives and/or girlfriends to wear them

So after a bit something odd happens; security goes down, Alice's weapons and black body stocking Death Agent of Umbrella uniform appears, and she finds herself escaping...first from yet another reprisal of the laser grid trap from the first movie. My complaints about how in the hell this trap works in the review of that film seem quaint compared to the Escher painting logic that subsequent movies have taught me to expect. But that's neither here nor there....she escapes and finds herself in Tokyo, right before the imminent zombie apocalypse is about to trip, exactly as it appeared at the start of RE: Afterlife. Then of course the zombie apocalypse hits and Alice gets a'killin.

Before long, the game...er, the movie throws its first major twist in: it may not seem like a huge twist to people who have not played the game, but trust me, if you're a fan of the games this is HUGE: Ada Wong shows up! That's not the twist, though. Nope, the twist is: Ada Wong explain everything. Well, almost everything....but she effectively outlines exactly what's going on and why; she provides more plot dialogue, exposition and explanation in a few minutes on film than she has ever done in in 15 years of video games. In fact, Ada's main job in the game universe has been to show up and confound the plot. Here she serves primarily to help make sense of things. Holy crap!

Macho Women With Guns

Ada explains she's here to bust Alice out of Umbrella's aquatic kingdom of evil ruled by the evil computer the Red Queen herself (or maybe a copy of her, since she did blow up in a nuclear firestorm in RE: Apocalypse). It seems Alice is once again very important....and Ada's external ally is ...get ready for it!.....Evil Wesker!!!!! Except maybe he's not evil now. I miss evil Wesker (fear not, he's just feigning not-evilness, luckily). Instead, the Red Queen is the evil one, engaged in endless experiments on clones with monsters to find increasingly more devious ways of destroying all humanity.

So Ada, directed by Wesker (who's video-phoning in his part of the plot) explain that an ancient aquatic North Pole Soviet Military station that was purchased and repurposed by Umbrella Corp. as a distributor of biowarfare weapons as well as a place to demonstrate them by....wow, I can't believe I'm not making this up....by cloning armies of civilians, populating entire replica domes of major cities across the world with said clones, and then breeding and releasing various monsters that are then used to test their overall effectiveness on these vast numbers of clones (that are embedded with flash memories) in the simulated cities. You know- to help establish product placement for out-of-control biogenic weapons that do everything from create zombies to spontaneously mutate said zombies into tyrant super soldiers and more. That's hard to demonstrate without a super-secret James Bondian underwater super lab, apparently. Hoo yah.

I apologize to the mad scientist from RE: Extinction at this point; clearly he was more in tune with the Red Queen's goals than the rest of Umbrella.

Anyway, Ada has allies. It turns out one is Barry (lifted from Resident Evil 1....I still can't say for sure if he is canonically alive in the video games or not), another Luther West, one of the survivors from RE: Afterlife (but in keeping with tradition all characters not directly taken from the movie except for Alice die in the second film they appear in), and then there's Leon Kennedy (not that I figured this out until late in the movie when I heard him called Leon). So Leon's Mirror-Alice-Universe twin finally gets some screen time. At least he's in a film with both Jill (who he doesn't seem to know here) and Ada (whom he's got a thing for).

Take note that at no point do we find out where Chris and Claire Redfield went at the end of the last film. So Luther West somehow survived and made buddies with Leon, Barry and "unnamed destined to die" guys, but Chris and Claire? Who knows.

Alice explains to Leon who the real protagonist is in Aliceverse

The movie proceeds to burn along at a fearsome pace as Ada and Alice try to escape one simulated city full of clone victims and monsters after another, while the guys (some of whom are unfortunate enough to be there only to die, of course) do the same, including having an encounter with the Las Plagas. The tentacle-faced monstrosities, you say? No! The Las Plagas, as if their existence wasn't already muddied by RE: Afterlife's inexplicable introduction of the tentacle-claw face-sprouting zombies (as well as the Really Big Dude with an Axe) wasn't confusing enough, these Las Plagas are actually an army of zombie-soviet-Nazi-soldiers complete with suits, armor and gear that looks like more Soviet-purchased surplus. Or something.

Luckily I have very, very little hair or it would be easier to pull out. Oh my god. Seriously. Here they had a chance to explain or at least rationalize the existence of the Los Plagas and the unmentioned G Virus in the RE-Mirror Aliceverse and instead somebody says, "We need something that can have a cool shoot-out with Leon, Barry and Luther. How about umbrella goons? Naw, we've been shooting a hell of a lot of them, and they're the ones duking it out with Ada and Alice over here...I know! Zombie soldiers with guns!"

Indeed, not only has Alice found the simulated Raccoon City zone (because on the list of major locales to simulate for purposes of bioweapon sales I'd put Raccoon City right next to New York, Moscow and Tokyo) but she's found yet another victim clone of herself, and a daughter she never had but now decides to fiercely protect. Actually this is a pretty good plot twist, second only to dropping Ada in as a center of plot exposition.

Cloned versions of the entire Umbrella crew from the first movie then show up, led by Evil Jill, and a lengthy shoot-out ensues. At this point I am loathe to spoil too much more, if only because the majority of the film at this point is one long scene-changing gunfight, mixed with a few bizarre moments (which I will happily point out!). In order:

A major Resident Evil monster reappears, this time in a deluxe super-size edition: the licker is back, and he's damned big.

Kevin Durand Resident Evil: Retribution
Barry is Schrodinger's STARS agent in both the RE-verse and Aliceverse, apparently. 
Barry dies toward the end, so in the Aliceverse we know he's dead. That makes Barry the first official "named" character to be extracted messily from the games who is actually dead in Aliceverse.

Alice finds yet another clone processing plant, and this time it's not just mass-generating clones of her, but of her brand new deaf foster daughter and 48 other flash-cloned souls that I guess the Red Queen took a liking to. Luckily the super-licker chases Alice here and she is forced to blow it and all the clones up with official Umbrella grenades. Not so luckily I kept wondering why the goal of the movie was the assisted escape of Alice when siezing the facility and freeing a vast number of clones who, while still clones, could in theory do a fine job of rebooting the decimated world popuation....but as I've learned from the other movies one does not overthink how the Aliceverse works.

Next time Jill should avoid shopping at Jared's of Umbrella Corp. for jewelry

We do finally get A showdown between Jill and Alice. Alice almost loses this one, sort of. Jill is finally released from the control of the Red Queen, which is a good thing I guess, although I have to admit, Jill's relevance to the plot outside of just sorta "being there" is a bit difficult to fathom.

We also get a showdown between Leon and Luther vs. whatever clone edition of Rain this is....this is a clone of Rain from the first movie who's much more effective at being an Umbrella goon. She pulls out an injector with a Las Plagas parasite (bwuh?!?!?!?!) and injects it (an impressive feat since the needle looked kinda small to inject the bug in the syringe.) As is traditional in both the game universe and the Aliceverse the virus works near-instantaneously, except here it just makes Rain really, really badass.


Michelle looked and acted like she was here for the money throughout this movie

Okay, so everyone fights a lot and in the end Alice and crew escape, to live happily ever after, right? Hah!

 The real surprise at the end is just how they close it out with whatever new, spanky insane ending will set the stage for the next film. If you still want some semblance of surprise, stop reading, because I have absolutely got to spoil it:

They fly to Washington D.C. to a White House under siege (looks like the one in Modern Warfare 2...or was it 3?) and Alice is allowed to enter the Oval Office. At this moment I was expecting them to rip off Resident Evil 6 with an appearance by Zombie President, but No! They did one better! It's EVIL Wesker!!!! He's the president now....or something....and he injects Alice with the T-virus, again, explaining that he needs her hopped up on T-Virus mojo so she can help deal with the last stand of humanity. Cut to the scene outside, as Wesker, Jill, Leon, Luther, little girl and Alice all gather to look out on an insane scene of full military action as the US Army barricades the White House in against a vast, unending army of darkness, led by the Red Queen to exterminate all humanity. RE: Extinction apparently exaggerated how far long the extinction process was, I guess.

The forty-one year old Me was simultaneously apoplectic at how nonsensical this movie was while the thirteen year old Me was ready to drop golden bricks in sheer excitement at how Freakin' Awesome this movie was.

I don't even know what the hell to make of this series anymore, and I can't even think about the plot or the point of it all without feeling like I bruised my brain. I do know that I will see the next one, and I do plan to be mildly inebriated when I do so I can enjoy it a bit more without wanting to wave my fists like a lunatic madman at the screen!

B+ for the sheer spectacle and over-the-top action porn. Giant freaking F for coherence, but who cares anymore? This movie's Alice is well and truly down the zombie rabbit hole!

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