Studio:Sony Pictures Year: 2012 Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Bingbing Li, Boris Kodjoe, Aryana Engineer, Oded Fehr, Kevin Durand, Colin Salmon, Megan Charpentier, Johann Urb, Shawn Roberts, Robin Kasyanov, Ofilio Portillo, Mika Nakashima Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Release Date: December 21, 2012 Rating: R for sequences of strong violence throughout Run Time: 01h:35m:37s Genre(s): action, sci-fi
The Red Queen: Project Alice, you're all going to die down here. Alice: I've heard that before.
- (Megan Charpentier, Milla Jovovich)
I had very low expectations for this and the experience ended up falling just about where I figured it would. But the image transfer? Flawless.
Movie Grade: C-
DVD Grade: A+
You may have noticed that this is the 3D/Blu-Ray release of Resident Evil: Retribution, but for the purposes of this review (specifically the image writeup) I will using the Blu-Ray version. The reason is that I have yet to jump onboard with the "3D at home" movement, and considering I find the glut of 3D offerings in theaters to reek of unnecessary overkill I don't see myself making that jump anytime soon. And while I'm sure that sounds like "he's too cheap to upgrade" let me say that's not the case; I am just extremely content with the glory of 1080p in my living room and I don't feel I'm missing anything.
I'm sure that a time will come when I might be singing a different tune, but that time isn't now, my friends. Plus, even if Resident Evil: Retribution represents the finest example of 3D available for home viewing that does nothing to change the fact that the film is hollow, dull and lifeless. I'm supposed to upgrade for that?
With that said, let's move on to the review, shall we?
There are very few film franchises that can creatively survive more than three installments without imploding and/or collapsing. While Star Wars, Harry Potter and James Bond may come to mind almost without thinking as examples of those that did grandly endure, the Resident Evil films certainly have not. Retribution is the fifth (!) film in the series based on the video game, and once again features Milla Jovovich unleashing stylishly choreographed slo-mo carnage against virus-infected humans, giant axe-swinging freaks and humongous lumbering something-or-others.
The plot this time around picks up immediately after the events of the fourth film - Afterlife - but there's no need to worry if you're a newbie because there's an expository prologue that does a fine job encapsulating the previous quadrilogy enough to prepare you for the minimalist storytelling that is to follow. Resident Evil: Retribution is essentially a collection of progressively elaborate fight scenes loosely tethered to the adventures of Alice (Jovovich) attempting to bring down the Umbrella Corporation, the massive global corporation responsible for the outbreak of the bring-the-dead-back-to-life-and-mutate-them-into-creepy-monsters T-virus that has been the foundation of the series.
Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Afterlife) wrote and directed this lather-rinse-repeat entry, and I suppose that gives this one a bit more legitimacy. I know he often gets the lazy eye from film geeks for some of his catalog but I will always defend the man because he brought us Event Horizon, just an absolute gem of a deep space horror flick. Unfortunately Resident Evil: Retribution is no Event Horizon. Not by a long shot. This, sadly, is all sugar, no protein, a film buffed and waxed to a high gloss but completely bereft of any matter of substance. I have no beef with Anderson's over the top visual style - it seems to fit the skimpy script here just fine - but all the fancy CG fight scenes cannot hide the fact there just isn't much here. Then, after slogging through 85 minutes of pointless action (the credits run a whopping additional 10 minutes) the film concludes with yet another cliffhanger to be resolved theoretically in Resident Evil 6.
I get that it's based on a video game, and the plot is certainly structured like one. In Retribution Alice and her revolving gang of compatriots have to make their way through a series of artificial environments (New York, Moscow, suburbia, etc) while being stalked by creatures and Umbrella henchmen, led by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). For all of the lackluster-ness of the plot the action sequences are extremely well-done, albeit silly, but there is really no emotional investment in any of the characters so it quickly becomes simply an exercise in watching mindlessly cool-looking set pieces. The opening action is probably the best moment of the entire film, and Anderson unspools it in slo-mo reverse, giving the explosive shootout variant a whole new twist. It's a really fun bit, one that gave me promise that the rest of Retribution would be held to the same degree. But it was not to be. Instead there are seen-it-before-backflips-while-shooting, Matrix-style-leanings-to-avoid-giant-axes, leaping-kicks-to-opponents-faces aplenty. It sure looks nice, but it's soulless.
CG fight scenes - even for a video game film - are not nearly enough to keep this baby afloat, even for a slim 85 minutes.
For all of the shortcomings Resident Evil: Retribution may have as a movie none are evident when it comes to the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer. It's time to dig out the adjectives because this sucker is reference quality on every level; there is just not one negative thing I could possibly say about this. All hail the Red EPIC digital camera! The degree of clarity - facial features, clothing textures - is remarkable, and the color palette is brilliantly rendered, even under varying lighting conditions. Imagine every good thing you have ever heard about a Blu-Ray image transfer and multiply by a 1000 for this. While I think the film is terrible I think we have found the "show off my system" disc of 2013.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is appropriately big, loud and splashy, an ideal compliment to the high caliber image transfer. The surround mix is extremely aggressive, augmented by a large .LFE presence throughout. The shootouts and battles - which are 99% of the story - are wall-rattlers, the sort of bold presentation a film like this needs. Audio options are also available in French DTS-HD 5.1, Spanish 5.1 and English Descriptive.
This two-disc set is packaged with a lenticular slipcover, and inside includes a redemption code for an Ultraviolet download. Disc one carries the film - both the 3D and Blu-Ray versions - as well as two commentary tracks, a set of deleted scenes (12m:35s), a brief outtakes reel (04m:35s) and a few trailers. The commentaries both feature Paul W.S. Anderson, the first pairing him with actors Milla Jovovich and Boris Kodjoe and the second with producer Jeremy Bolt. The Jovovich/Kodjoe track is the more relaxed of the two, with discussions decidedly more fan-centric than technical, while the commentary with producer Bolt is where Anderson delves more deeply into the production elements of the film (and series) and the visual effects.
Disc two (also Blu-Ray) carries Project Alice: The Interactive Database, where viewers can choose to examine profiles of the good and/or bad characters, which include bios, descriptions and film clips. A big set of behind-the-scenes featurettes (viewable either individually or via play-all) consist of Maestro of Evil: Directing Resident Evil: Retribution (08m:06s), Evolving Alice (06m:50s), Resident Evil: Reunion (09m:42s), Design and Build: The World of Resident Evil: Retribution (09m:11s), Drop (Un)Dead: The Creatures of Retribution (06m:57s), Resident Stuntman (06m:17s) and Code: Mika (05m:34s). Also included is Resident Evil: Retribution - Face of the Fan (03m:17s), which shows a fan who won an extra role in the film. Supplements on disc two conclude with some Capcom game trailers.