Resident Evil: Retribution opens with a weird rewind sequence that attempts to be epic through the use of extremely melodramatic music. It’s confusing and offensive and explains exactly why this movie doesn’t work—it never knows exactly what it is or how best to achieve what it wants.
The plotline of Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth movie in the franchise, is complicated enough that director Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t expect his audiences to catch on, or else isn’t a good enough director to have determined a better way to update audiences. Thus, he introduces a narrative device that uses multiple connected screens and a storytelling session with our heroine, Alice (Milla Jovovich), to get us up to date. Basically, the Umbrella Corporation is still up to its usually hijinks and this time Alice must find her way out of the corporations underground base, where they are putting together a variety of obnoxious and cruel experiments on clones.
This leads to April running around in an underground facility populated by different sorts of monsters and clones that have been created by the Umbrella Corporation and manipulated with viruses. Apparently, April is important enough that she is helped by Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) and a whole crew of not-so-gentle men, including Luther (Boris Kodjoe), Leon (Johann Urb), and Barry (Kevin Durand), who show up to help Alice escape.
To be clear, the underground facility features miniature cities meant to look like carbon copies of places as instrumental to humanity as Moscow and New York. Each of the settings is unique and populating those settings with creepy biohazards makes for visually appealing backdrops and action sequence—although the ideas behind the visuals are sometimes better than the actual graphics (blame the budget). Ultimately, however, the story is the big loser, telling a tale etched together to simulate a video game.
The biggest problem with Retribution is that it doesn’t expect its audience to think its way through anything. The film’s main cast runs around all willy-nilly, behaving like chickens with their heads cut off, and audiences simply have to follow Alice and her friends as they make decisions that seem to be based on emotion or potentially knowledge we aren’t privy to. Additionally, despite having no reason to root for our main characters, it becomes clear that most of them will prevail and most of the big bad Umbrella Corporation crew will have to settle for a not-so-nice demise. This likely is what happens when you beat one of the Resident Evil games—the good guy prevails and life for the bad guys goes to shit. Regardless, Retribution is a movie, and without the ability to play the game or strategize to get to the ultimate outcome, the endeavor is not only nonsensical, but sometimes dull.
I’m not sure how Retribution could have been any better. It’s a movie that wants to almost be an interactive experience, but then it would no longer be a movie. The occasional cute quip from a cast member or super cool action sequence with a chain doesn’t really change that. I can see how die hard franchise fans might want to jump in and see their favorite game characters act out familiar fighting styles, but for the rest of us, Resident Evil: Retribution is probably a film better avoided.
I may have complained about the film lacking interactive components that would be necessary to make the storyline work, but the disc is extremely interactive, and focuses on the “Project Alice” portion of the film. My one qualm was that this section took a little while to load, but once it loads, fans will have access to a database of the characters in the movie. These include “case files” on the characters, which offer video footage from the other Resident Evil films. There is also sensitive Umbrella Corporation information available, as well.
Next, deleted and extended scenes can be viewed. There is a lot of repeat in these, and some of the sequences are pretty lengthy. Still, there are a few segments that offer some behind-the-scenes information and that are worth a watch. Outtakes follow, which mostly include flubs with weapons and stunts, although it’s nice to see all of the super serious characters in the film having a bit of fun. The outtakes reel is one of the more enjoyable that I’ve seen, but it does go on and on and on.
Several lengthy featurettes are available, as well, including one on Alice’s character, one on the creatures in the flick, one on the design of the film and its settings, and one on the stunt work in the film. Finally “Code Mika” discusses a return character that “adds a Japanese element” to this film and ties it with the last film in the franchise, as well. A fan competition segment with a Resident Evil superfan and a game trailer also shows up in the special features.
Anderson pops up all over these featurettes, and you can tell he is really invested in the universe and the action sequences. He gets his own featurette, “Maestro of Evil,” that discusses the ideas and intentions behind the fifth flick in the franchise. He wanted things to be “bigger and better,” and the intensity has certainly been amped up this time around. Additionally, if you want to get more of Anderson’s ideas and enthusiasm, you can watch either of the two commentaries available with the set, which both feature the director and a few other people—the first offering actors' perspectives and the second offering a producer's perspective.
Overall, the disc is easy to navigate and it features a really pretty menu. If you like Retribution, I would highly recommend you purchase the Blu-ray for this film.