Friday, November 23, 2012

President Evil: Redistribution

How could I pass up that title? And you gotta admit, it's a lot scarier than anything to come out of the Resident Evil franchise, on which we are viewing number five in the series. And I have the dubious distinction of seeing all the films in the theaters, I think.

In a way, I'm responsible for the never-ending slow-mo car accident that these movies are.

I'm sorry.


The thing is, with Resident Evil: Retribution, the series has kind of lapped itself. The first movie heavily ripped off The Matrix, but with #5, the movie is now ripping off itself.

It's an accomplishment of sorts. And it's achieved by introducing clones. Clones first appeared at the end of the third movie, and were all killed at the beginning of the fourth, or so it seemed. Those were all clones of Alice, letting me overuse my favorite MST3K joke.

How much Jovovich is in this movie? A Milla Jovovich!

But the clones are back in number five, which allows director PWS Anderson to bring back characters long killed or missing, like Michelle Rodriguez (from #1), Oded Fehr (#2 and #3), Sienna Guillory (#2, #4), Boris Kodjoe (#4), Colin Salmon (#1) and even Mika Nakashima, who is in #4 as patient zero in Tokyo, and in this as a clone perpetually regenerated to simulate the infestation of Tokyo.

They couldn't bring back Michaela Dicker to play the Red Queen, since that role is a perpetual child, and Ms. Dicker I think is currently married and expecting her first grandchildren. (See, that's how long this series has been going. It's a joke, get it?) The did bring back Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker, super-powered evil CEO dude whom I'm pretty sure got hisself Jovoviched-with-extreme-prejudice in the last picture. But I guess he got better.

They did get the lovely young Aryana Engineer (the little sister in Orphan) to play Newt. I forget what her character name was, but she was Newt to Jovovich's Ripley. I don't mean, "Oh, here's a similar plot point as seen in Aliens." I mean, "Remember how Ripley risks her life to go among the alien pods to free Newt from her gooey fate? Yeah, they did that exactly, with no explanation as to what the zombie creature would be doing encasing people in goo."

I swear Anderson makes movies by addressing the audience directly: "You remember that scene in The Thing? With the walking spider head? Wasn't that great? Here, watch it again, bullet-time style!"

There's a group of wise-cracking mercenaries whose sole purpose seems to be to let you know that Anderson saw The Expendables, and to make sure that Milla gets a break between fight scenes. Anderson has also seen The Day After Tomorrow, Reservoir Dogs and The Shining. Oh, and Westworld.

I'm not complaining. The Boy and I go into these with knowledge and awareness of what we're about to see. This is the least coherent series since Friday The Thirteenth. And it's kind of interesting how it's all morphed over the past decade.

It started as a zombie-based Matrix rip-off. The second one, the only one not directed by Anderson seemed to try to base itself a little more on the actual game. The third one went back to the well that is the Matrix, giving Alice near-omnipotence.

That could have been as good an end to the series as one could hope for. But there's still money to be made, so #4 took all those powers away, although to not much effect. The fourth went heavily into ripping off the Matrix: Revolutions, which was a dry well to begin with. In a movie series that's never been what you might call "smart", the fourth was offensively stupid.

The fifth takes all of this bundled up dumb and then—and I'm not sure how they managed this—removed all semblance of acting from the film. I felt especially bad for Guillory. I know most of the other actors' work. So, when they're bad—and they are—you know the blame falls on writing, directing and editing.

But Guillory is wrestling with all that, plus she's mind controlled, walking around like she escaped Plan 9 from Outer Space.


And the hilarity is compounded by the arbitrary physics of the Resident Evil universe. I'm not talking subtle or nerdy stuff either. In one scene, rockets are fired into a house and the target sees them coming, runs to the side and fires bullets into the floor enough to fall through the floor and be saved from the resultant blast.

It's as if the slow-mo from the film translates to the physics.

We were giggling through the whole thing. (Of course, we paid $3 for tickets.)

When he's not doing scenes from other movies, Anderson moves from set piece to set piece, with the sole logic seeming to be "I wanna flood New York." or "I want Commie (Nazi?) zombies on motorcycles!" or "Have the tough guy say something funny."

Or, by far the #1 thought: "Let's do this in slow-mo!"

This was the weakest of the movies in the series at the box office, doing worse than the original, if you adjust for inflation, but you can bet your ass it set up a sequel, as all previous four movies did. Much like the movies themselves, the series won't ever reach a conclusion, they'll just stop when they run out of money.

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