Movie review: Resident Evil: Retribution

Mister Anderson,

I know that you will never read this letter, but I feel compelled to write you anyway as you are the director of 3 out of 5 Resident Evil movies and thus in a large part responsible for the way the series has developed and is going to develop as you are about to release yet another one in the near future, at least that is what is being promised at the end of this movie.

I, being interested in stories in general, have been itching to ask you a question but before doing so I have to first establish a few things to make you understand the question better.
First let me admit that I never made a movie like you have, let alone made three movies and therefore are not aware of all the toil that goes into a movie. To be honest it seems like a daunting task to make one. Yet I am also a consumer of movies and as such I noticed a few disturbing developments about your works that must be brought to your attention, not only for your own sake, but especially for those who still endure in watching your products. Which made me prompt my question below.

A second thing that I might remark upon is that the movies have never been remarkable in any way and that nobody expects a Shakespearean experience here, although it would be nice if it just had a some of it, just a little part, but even a tiny little bit seems a tree too tall to climb for you. Therefore steady mediocrity has been the defining level of quality of the series, at least up till now.

And here we come to the heart of the matter. You see, most surprisingly the quality of you latest movie seems to have taken a downwards turn, a sharp one, we might say: a nosedive. Which is odd for someone who has been doing this for quite some time and should at least know better through experience. It seems as if you are getting a bit tired of it all.

Now having stated this, I need to back up my statements with examples and, given tons of examples to pick from, I will pick three as showcases of mishandling story telling that even a newcomer would have avoided.

The first is too much of everything.

There is unnecessary and mishandled exposition. Exposition is avoided in movies as it is telling something about the story which therefore yanks a viewer out of the story. Sometimes it is needed to establish the background quickly, like at the start of Star Wars for instance. Star Wars is a good example of properly handled exposition as it keeps it to the point and, most of all, it doesn’t let the protagonist do the exposition. But what do you do? Not only do you supply a lengthy exposition that is unnecessary as those who have seen the series already know and those who haven’t have no use for the lengthy speech, but most of all you have the main character Alice do it, which thus means that whatever dangers she is exposed to in this movie will not harm her in anyway. A bad bad mistake.

Then there is the three starts of the movie. It starts with a scene that has no bearing on the rest of the movie, except that it is the end of the previous movie. Then after that start we get another start. And then another before it finally takes off.

And the cast is bloated with too many people, some who have been killed in previous movies and thus reappear as ‘clones’ and in one example even three times over!. In fact there are so many actors that a lot of them get not enough screen time to establish a meaningful personality. Most are killed off shortly after, probably to avoid them becoming more interesting than Alice.

The second example is the lack of emotions displayed by everyone involved. Waves of zombies appear and nobody is shocked. People get killed and nobody bats an eye. A clone of an American woman wakes up inside a Russian underground station and gets shot at and for her it is all in a days work. Nobody cares, nobody screams, nobody curses and nobody gives a shyte. They go through the motions as if drugged. Nobody is even trying anymore.

A third thing is Alex Wesker who behaves like Mr. Smith from the Matrix movies. You have to make up your own anti-heroes and not copy them from other movies.

There are many many more examples of completely mishandling everything, but three is enough for the moment as it is time for the question:
Can you please, please sack your script writer? Because the current one sucks.. big time.*

 

*(for those not aware: Anderson is the script writer for all the Resident Evil movies(,

A state of mind 2: who needs the government anyway?

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The Night of the Living Dead has a kind of dark humor for at the end the hero of the movie gets shot by these vigilantes because they think he is a zombie. In the end titling you see vague pictures in the background that show what they do with the bodies. It is a kind of reminiscent of nazi practices as you see the people using meat-hooks to drag the bodies to stack them high to burn them. The corpse of the hero is among them.

In the previous installment of a state of mind we ended we the guys we see above. We see them hunting down the zombies in the Night of the Living Dead. So how about the government? What are they doing?

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Almost any interpretation of the zombie apocalypse has to deal with this. How do you explain away..
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these guys(and girls for that matter)
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or these..
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or this?

Of course anyone who tells a story of a nation like the United State being overrun by undead has to somehow explain how these undead can gain the upper-hand in face of the violence that the United States can bring to bear. Even considering that a substantial part of the men and women of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies are turned into undead themselves.

But an explanation is actually seldom given simply because when one starts to explain, one has then to fight fire with fire, because once one starts to reason one will find that most of what is happening in zombie tales is quite unreasonable. The best solution to this problem is thus to say nothing about it at all and merely mention that the government was unable to deal with the crisis.

And thus one gets pictures like these:

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An abandoned tank in the street. The mighty power of the army culled. A block of useless steel. There is a corpse of a soldier on the tank to underscore it even more.. it will be shown in close up with birds picking at it.. Just in cast you do not get it.
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and there is one inside… but this soldier is not quite dead though.
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Rick is actually a police officer himself.. and when he enters the city a burned out police car and a downed helicopter symbolize the inability of the government to maintain control of the situation. The movie makers love to scatter helicopters about.
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Another picture to show that the government was unable to deal with the crisis. It is curious that the building seems to be blackened as if it has been shot at. One wonders who would have the temerity to shoot at the United States army in the United States? Did you notice the helicopters?
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The law in State of Decay is represented by these guys. Sheriff Carl and judge Lawson. The sheriff seems a bit out of his depth, but then.. it is the zombie apocalypse!
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The courthouse  in Marshall is where the last remains of the local government is holding out. Which is about the only representation of the law enforcement agencies in the game. Incidentally it gets attacked during the game by zombies and the two leading figures, sheriff Carl and judge Lawson, die during the attack. The powerlessness is illustrated by the fact that the two guard towers never seem to be manned throughout the game and you can get attacked even right in front of entrance of the building and nobody comes to your aid even though there are two heavily armored guards  inside the building right behind the entrance.
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The US army is in most movies and stories often just ineffective..but in State of Decay its role is even nefarious.  In addition to throwing refugees out on the street without offering protection, the game almost suggest that the US army was actually the cause of much of the nastiness in Trumbull Valley.
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While it is not exactly told, it is laid on thick that the army was actually aware and probably let this happen. I can not recall the US army being depicted this black(but see below: the stand). A new trend maybe?
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Erik Tan, disillusioned soldier, tells us that the US army blocked off the pass leading out of the valley. Not only are we told about this, we are also told that they left many of their men behind unattended and uncared for. Something which is quite strange for an army that got drawn into a extended battle in Mogadishu because it did not want to leave behind men who were in a helicopter that got downed. In fact there seems to be a point with the US army to not leave (their) people behind. Might just be politics though.. as nay-sayers would say.
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In zafehouse diaries, a text based zombie apocalypse game, the military makes one appearance and is defined as a threat. “New dilemma — Outpost. Players of No Survivors have a new threat to watch out for. A group of ex-military troops may set themselves up inside a location in town, along with a nice cache of weapons and equipment. “
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In the stand the military is responsible for the extermination of humanity by failing to contain a tweaked version of the flu. During the story the army gets to be a symbol of oppression as it goes to extremes to contain the disease and citizen unrest. Eventually the government disappears because they are no longer needed for the story and we are left to watch a rag-tag band of religious fanatics fighting it out with another band of religious fanatics. One is ‘good’ and the other is ‘bad’. The good guys are the ones we see the most, oh and they have the pretty women. Just so you know. Personally I like the bad guy better when he was this black bird.
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In the crazies it is actually cops versus army as a plane-crash turns everyone in a village into crazies, except for the handful of survivors of course. The army tries to contain and remove any evidence of the disaster by any means, including using Apache Longbow choppers. This one fails to spot the police car in full daylight.

Basically the governments  sucks. If they do not cause the disaster, their might is usually ineffective against it  and often more directed against the rest of the population and survivors in particular. Cops seem to be a bit in between, but regardless of their attitude, they are simply ineffective as a force. Instead they become often survivors, if they do not turn into zombies. This climate, this state of mind pervades almost all movies, books and games. It even contaminates political thinking.  But if you think companies are any better….

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The mighty Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil can not control the outbreak of the T virus despite using soldiers, poison gas en a nuclear bomb. Well, the bomb is actually dropped by the government in the game, but in the movie it is the corporation itself that deploys the weapon.

But do not fear! We are about to reveal a secret.

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Irony is that the biggest adversary of the zombies and other rotting undead is never mentioned. It is mother nature.. and in particular this little critter. Producing itself in the millions it will have a field day with all the rotting flesh around.
In a warm sunny climate a rotting body will be gone in a month. The best way to survive the zombie apocalypse is just to sit it out and have the flies do their work. provided the zombies stick to the rules! Of course they don’t.

Henry and Kristl survived Resident Evil: Apocalypse

“You might say bigger, but can we say better? What do you think?”  Henry turned to Kristl.

 

Kristl was  hanging slack jawed in the corner of the couch. She was wearing grungy  jeans, tank top, sleeveless jacket everything in dark grey, black and white colors. Her Jacket was adorned with button pins of music bands from the eighties:The Cure , Violent Femmes, New wave, London Calling,Beastie Boys. He felt awkward because under the angle she was lying he noticed the shape of a breast. .

“Hey, wake up!” He shook Kristl’s arm.

“Hmmm?”

“So?”

“What?”

“Resident Evil. Apocalypse? You know the movie we have been watching?”

“Oh yes”,  Kristl veered up, “I bet a lot of people will make funny jokes with that.. Like Apocalypse for the senses. Or Apocalypse for the brain.”

“So you didn’t like it?”

“It tries very hard to be unliked. As much as it tries to be liked.”

“I thought the more bangs and babes worked well. That female cop was a cool and hot chick. Also I liked the supporting cast more. That soldier Carlos with his russian sidekick. They seemed to have a little bit more personality. Albeit that black american was too much cast as the comic relief. ”

“But the whole movie is ramshackle in it’s consistency. The plot is a major problem.  They know about the t-virus, but they open the hive with a few armed guards. The SUV gets hit by a truck without any explanation, so the kid is stuck in the city. It was just a weird accident. The dead in the graveyard animate. How? And why exactly at that moment they are there? The whole church scene. The zombie dogs in the school. The wall around the city.

The worst is the epilogue. Umbrella detonates a nuclear missile above the city and passes that off as a nuclear meltdown. You can’t pass one off for the other because the explosion pattern is completely different.  And if they want people to believe it was a nuclear meltdown of a power plant, there had to be one there, so why did they not blow that one up?”

“Basically. the movie is sequence of action scenes. Personally I liked those and that is why people should watch them,but it simply lacks everything that makes the matrix good: a well developed plot and characters you care about. Even underworld has more likeable characters and a better plot.”

“Yeah, the plot and the acting was just put in as an afterthought. A shame really as the games actually seemed to have much more consistency. At least from what I read.” Kristl said, “Maybe they should just stick to those plot lines instead of making their own.”

“You know. That Jill Valentine. I liked her better than Alice. Not because she is prettier but because she is a human that can be hurt unlike Alice. The thing is I liked everyone more: Carlos L. J. the news person.  They are all humans and all lose people and all can be hurt. Unlike Alice.”

“Personally I have had it with all the cool chicks that have hardly any personality. This includes Jill Valentine. What person walks into a police station and starts blowing away people like that.. People might have thought that was cool. I thought it was cringeworthy.

And I am tired of the same old tricks: like whenever someone approaches a person from behind that person is ALWAYS a monster that turns around suddenly and lunges at you. And always when they kill one monster after a desperate struggle and you think it is over, the next one or two appear.” Kristl said.

“So you didn’t  like Alice?”

“Nope. I didn’t care for her one bit and I was baffled those people, Carlos, Jill and L. J. came to save her. I could not believe why they would do so. And even more: how come that umbrella organisation that is so highly effective in covering up the zombie outbreak, is unable to stop three people that are wanted from taking Alice away. And don’t say Umbrella wanted that, because this is only shown when they leave. And why? No explanation given.”

“Curiously.  I somehow feel you are right. If she had a little bit more personality and was less the super being that is cool. Then maybe, yeah.“

“That is probably the best way to describe the movie.”

“Huh?”

“Maybe, yeah.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318627/

Henry and Kristl sat through Resident Evil(2002)

“More zombies.” Kristl said in a tried voice. She put down the empty cup that had held her raspberry slush puppy. It had not really helped with the exhaustion she felt, which had been brought on by watching a marathon of Resident Evil movies..

“I like zombies.” said Henry.

“Love at first bite?”

“Gosh. That is so lame and that from you..”

“Just tired.” Kristl whispered.

“Overall an adequate movie. Zombies, shooting, people dying, weird monsters and Milla Jovovich. The tension is built up slowly as it takes a long time for the movie to show the monsters. I think they appear past the thirty minutes mark. It is a good thing. Don’t lay down all the cards at once.
While I don’t get attached to most of the characters they aren’t too disturbing. Personally I find it a pity that the Hispanic girl Rain at the end turned zombie, but i didn’t feel sorry either as she might as well die, because she just kept having the same facial expression. Overall it was is pretty predictable with forgettable characters. Even to Milla seems a bit tame.”

“I find it hard to rank a movie like this. How can you compare this movie to something like the Godfather series or to stick to the same genre, movies like those from the Dead series or Aliens. Just very hard to do.” Kristl said.

“Personally I think the movie marred by the start. The whole movie hinges on the fact that this super secret high tech laboratory controlled by a computer is incapable of stopping a virus from spreading through air-vents. Also a bit strange that people and dogs turn into flesh craving monsters by an airborne virus but when a few hours later the soldiers appear, they only get infected by being bitten. You have to accept that this one virus behaves in different ways depending on how it infects living beings. It might be conceivable ,but it all is a bit stretching it.” Henry said.

“So..what it comes down too is an adequate zombie flick that might entertain people. Mostly people who are interested in zombie films that aren’t too scary. Anyone else will probably find better movies to watch.” Kristl said

“There is one thing that puzzles me and it is the reaction of Alice to the death of Rain. Although Alice reacts to the death of the others with suitable shock, she burst in tears when that guy shoots Rain in the head when she turns zombie. I mean she cried like she just lost her lover. I wonder.”

“Maybe she just collapsed from exhaustion?” Kristl said.

“Maybe they were in love?” Henry suggested.

“You thinks so?”

“Hot steamy lesbian love.” Henry said, “You know it.”

Not again, Kristl thought.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120804/

Henry and Kristl chat about Resident Evil: Afterlife.

“I like that plane sequence where Alice flies with her companion over a desolate zombie infested country side. I can imagine doing that. It feels safe but eerie at the same time. A bit like when in The Mist they are in the car driving through that mist. On the one hand you feel safe in that car, but on the other you know you are not.” Kristl said, “And I like small propeller planes.”

 “And Milla Jovovich looks great..” Henry added.

 “Like Kate Beckinsale does in underworld, huh? Ladies with guns that kick ass. At the start those Alice clones are even wearing some kind of suit that reminds me of Selene. Is that a reference to Underworld perhaps?”

 “There is a lot of ‘referencing’ being done in this movie. That monster with the big axe walked right out of Silent Hill. And Wesker looks and behaves like Mr Smith from the Matrix. And the dogs and zombies with tentacles somehow remind me off the thing.”

 “I didn’t quite understand where that axe guy came from and why it attacked those people in that prison. Did someone send it? And why?” Kristl tapped her underlip with a finger.

 “I guess the Umbrella people sent them. Maybe to try them out or to chase those people out of the prison. “

 “I also don’t quite understand why Umbrella keeps on experimenting. What for? There is nobody alive to kill anymore, except for a handful of survivors, who hardly pose a threat or have the will and means to buy whatever Umbrella makes. “

 “I think that there isn’t much reason in the movie, just spiffy combat sequences. That is all that matters for this kind of movie. It needs to deliver some hectic fighting scenes with Milla in the middle whacking zombies and other creeps, and in the end she kills the head baddie in a spectacular way. Although in this movie he finally kills himself, which is actually funny, but the effect is a bit lost as it seems too far fetched to rely on him to escape in a plane containing the bomb he sets off himself. Spectacular, but unbelievable.”

 “ The prison sequence reminds me of dawn of the dead, where they are cornered in a mall or the walking dead where they are isolated in a prison.The writer of the script was mostly borrowing from other movies. Seems like lazy writing. Lazy as when Alice and that other girl go somewhere  with a third person, you know that third person is going to get killed.”

 “And wham it happens.” Henry grins..

 “All the time! I wonder how long they can keep on making Resident Evil in this fashion. Dish up some action scenes with barely a story to stitch them together or have some kind of character development.  An Umbrella stronghold gets blown to bits with every movie, even two at times, how many are there left?”

 “ No worries, I think the next Resident Evil installment will play on Mars. Perhaps Alice even discovers they have been on Mars all the time.” Henry laughed, “No doubt it will be referencing Aliens, Doom and Ghosts of Mars.”

 “But you know what I think is the best reference of all?”  Kristl said.

 “Do tell”

 “That Hollywood sign they fly over and is shown as partly damaged and partly burning. It s captures exactly what Hollywood is and delivers with Resident Evil: Afterlife: a smoking pile of junk that looks cool.”

“Amen to that.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1220634/?ref_=sr_3