It’s been 10 years since the dastardly Umbrella Corporation began experiments with the genetically engineered T-virus that turned sentient beings into armies of the undead. So in terms of sheer staying power, you do owe a round of applause to the virus, the main zombie fighter Alice (Milla Jovovich), the director-writer Paul WS Anderson and the doggedly loyal audience.
The fifth in the Resident Evil franchise, titled Resident Evil: Retribution, has a bit of everything — Alice; Alice alive and Alice dead; Alice cloned and Alice as Alice; Alice undressed in a couple of white tray-cloths and Alice dressed in S&M-inspired slinky black unitard; Alice without her superpowers and Alice with her powers regained — and Alice not knowing whether she is dreaming or awake.
For my part, how I wished the entire viewing experience was a dream — just a senseless nightmare from which I would soon awake. For then I could get a glass of water, read a soothing thriller about serial killers or the like, and drift back to sleep.
But no, there I was, wide awake and trapped in a movie theatre with a bunch of tired-looking — onscreen — zombies; watching a movie where the sound was not in sync with the actors’ moving mouths; with 3D glasses perched on my nose, which guaranteed that pointy e-things would be thrown at me from the screen. Well at least, I had popcorn as comfort food.
Mind you, I like Jovovich, who has the kind of screen charisma that makes for a kickass action heroine; what she might lack in terms of an emoting repertoire is made up for by physical presence. But even she looked rather bored by the fifth iteration of fast bang-bang and slo-mo flips and kicks in zombieland.
This time around, Alice is trapped beneath the ice in a training facility controlled by the Umbrella Corporation. Old friends arrive to rescue her and the escape route is through chambers programmed for detailed simulations. I felt I had signed up with Zombie Tours for a video game situated in quick-changing locations such as Moscow and New York.
But there’s no point getting het up about that, considering that the franchise is based on a computer game. In fact even the chief villain here is a computer programme, the infamous Red Queen reprising her virtual presence from the original Resident Evil.
Supporting cast provides uniformly good eye candy with slinky women — Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) — and hunky men (Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon). Shamelessly copying Aliens, Jovovich is even provided with a cute, hearing-impaired daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer) so her maternal side can be revealed.
The film opens with a lengthy exposition designed to bring the Resident Evil franchise virgin up to date, but both backstory and this film’s story are so incoherent they might as well not have bothered. Be warned though: it isn’t a plot spoiler to say the ending promises there will be many more resident evils to come.
Resident Evil: Retribution
Genre: Zombie Action Thriller
Director: Paul WS Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Salmon, Sienna Guillory
Storyline: Alice reunites with old friends to battle zombies and break out of evil Umbrella Corporation’s top-secret facility
Bottomline: The dead and undead are equally lifeless