Every once in a while, I’ll catch Event Horizon or Resident Evil on television and think, “You know, Paul W.S. Anderson gets a bad rap; he’s not that awful.” Then I see a movie like Resident Evil: Retribution, and I’m firmly reminded that, yes, he is that awful. Resident Evil: Retribution is another episode in an unending stream of poorly conceived, stream-of-conscious fan fiction fresh from the mind of cinema’s most highly compensated hack.
I consider Anderson’s first Resident Evil to be a fun guilty pleasure. It’s probably the best video game movie to come along so far, and it was the first M-rated video game adaptation to preserve the R-rated tone of its source material. Resident Evil may have been a fine zombie movie in its own right if not for the introduction of Alice (Milla Jovovich), the biggest Mary Sue in a long history of awful fan fiction.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term Mary Sue, the best definition can be found on Wikipedia: “A Mary Sue (sometimes just Sue), in literary criticism and particularly in fan fiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader; it is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional.” Sound familiar?
With source material that includes no shortage of strong female characters, Paul W.S. Anderson came along and decided to inject a gorgeous, blue-eyed femme fatale into the story. Alice can handle any firearm, perform superhuman feats of agility and strength, and on top of all of that, she has special psychic powers. She’s faster, smarter, and stronger than all of the characters from the Resident Evil universe, and surprise, she’s the only hope the human race has in its struggle against the most needlessly evil corporation in the history of the Fortune 500. Alice lacks for nothing except personality.
I vowed to stop watching the Resident Evil movies after Anderson went full-blown-awful-Mary-Sue-fan-fiction with Resident Evil: Apocalypse. After watching the first ten minutes of Resident Evil: Retribution, I realize I should have stuck to my vow and stayed away. With this new entry, Anderson plunges further into the rabbit hole of masturbatory self-indulgence.
Resident Evil: Retribution opens with Alice being thrown into the ocean from an exploding ship. Who owns this ship? I have no idea. Why is the ship exploding? I don’t know. Why is Alice on a ship in the first place? I have absolutely no clue. The movie never bothers to explain what’s going on. I’m sure the previous shitty movie provides the answer to these questions, but as I have no intention watching it, I guess I’ll forever remain in the dark as to why Alice was on an exploding ship in the middle of the ocean.
After a lengthy piece of exposition in which Alice narrates all the events of the previous thirty movies, our Mary Sue wakes up in the middle of empty cylindrical room. We find out that she’s being held in a testing facility belonging to Umbrella, the omnipresent corporation from the games and movies. It turns out that the structure is a virtual maze designed to record the effects of the zombie virus. We discover that Umbrella used results obtained from this facility to sell the weaponized virus to every country in a world, thus kicking off the zombie apocalypse. Equipping all of your clients to kill each other and then allowing them to wipe out the global population doesn’t sound like a sustainable business plan to me, but then again, I never majored in business.
With the help of a milquetoast band of Calvin Klein models, Alice must escape the testing facility and blow it to smithereens. Of course, I’m not sure why it’s absolutely necessary to bomb the facility at this point; the zombie virus has already escaped the facility and wiped out most of Earth’s population. Stopping the virus from escaping seems kinda moot. Whatever.
All you need to know is that there are plenty of zombies, plenty of slimy monsters, and plenty of explosions, all guided by Anderson’s typical contempt for logic, physics, and continuity. The script amounts to nothing more than endless exposition in which one character tells the others bluntly that they need to get from point A to point B…and then they proceed do so. There’s no development here and no humor. The action consists of the same tired, slow-motion bullshit that went out of style half a decade ago. And through it all there’s bland, invincible Alice, striking poses as she mows down hoards of monsters.
Just like with its predecessors (and like any suitably awful piece of amateur fan fiction), Resident Evil: Retribution doesn’t end, but instead teases yet another sequel. Anderson seems awfully sure that he’ll be able to continue making these terrible movies indefinitely. Personally, I think it would be hilarious if 20th Century Fox fired him and rebooted the whole franchise with a real horror director. However, there’s only one way to make that happen. Don’t see Resident Evil: Retribution; don’t even rent it. Only then will we get a proper movie instead of more awful Mary Sue fan fiction.