Resident Evil: Retribution
I’ll say this about the Resident Evil series: it’s consistent. I’ve consistently said about each movie that it’s more obstacle course than a movie, but that each film has a few small things about it than save it from being a complete waste.
And I’m saying it again for this one.
Despite the advertising tagline for the film, “Evil goes global,” Resident Evil: Retribution doesn’t feel big and epic. Instead, it feels a bit like one of those TV episodes where the producers were running low on money. They tell the writers to craft a thin plot that relies on flashbacks so they can re-use clips from old episodes so they don’t have the cost of filming an entirely new episode. Early on, the film revisits several settings and some of the monsters from some of the earlier movies. And it feels gimmicky and stale, like those clip episodes.
Still, Milla Jovovich is always adding little touches to her performance that make me wonder what we would feel if the script actually cared about her Alice as a character instead of a force that must jump hurdles. Honestly, this film comes a little closer than others to making Alice a character. They give Alice someone else to look after, a girl (engagingly and ably played by Aryana Engineer).
But it’s hard to invest emotionally in a film with Ada Wong (Bingbing Li). As far as I am able to tell, Ada is in the film for one purpose:
To flash a lot of thigh.
Look, the costumes in the Resident Evil series have often drifted towards teenage boy fan service. Alice’s costume gets a remark that pretty much confirms this. Resident Evil started as a video game, and there is a long - though not noble - tradition of this in video games. But Ada’s lack of characterization and Li’s flat performance makes it annoyingly obvious that this is pure, gratuitous titillation. I don’t mind eye candy, but don’t treat me like I’m stupid.
That costume treats me like I’m stupid.
But there’s a good monster in this one. And a good monster always makes up for a lot.