A while back someone wrote about their favorite “guilty pleasures” and it got me thinking about what mine were/are. This proved to be both an easy and rather hard thing to do. The first thing that sprung to my mind was the Resident Evil movies. Hard because, other than that series of films, I found it difficult to think of anything else that fell into a genuine “guilty pleasure” category…for me.
“Guilty pleasures,” I feel, are things you know in your heart are not all that good (you may even be willing to describe them as “bad”) yet you can’t help but enjoy the product, be it a book, a movie, or an album. To my mind, the Resident Evil movies are far from (a) original or (b) terribly coherent. But what they are…or at least have been…are reasonably enjoyable time killers and, yes, the definition of a “guilty pleasure”.
Resident Evil: Retribution, the fifth installment in the franchise, starts with the finale of the previous film, 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife. But immediately after this, the film goes off into its own direction and for the most part ignores pretty much everything that happened after that previous movie’s cliffhanger. It’s telling that the film’s makers could have cut that recap sequence out completely and simply started the movie with our imprisoned heroine, Alice (Milla Jovovich), and move on from there.
So what does this latest movie in the series offer?
Well, we do have the return of some old characters, from Michelle Rodriguez’s Rain to Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine to Oded Fehr’s Carlos Olivera. If you’re familiar with the series, you immediately realize that two of the characters mentioned above were killed in previous Resident Evil films, and part of what got me interested in seeing this newest film was to see how they went about returning these characters to the series.
Alas, it turned out the returning characters were both good and evil clones. Period end of story.
Speaking of story, the story here is beyond simple. Alice wakes up after the events of the previous film’s cliffhanger, finds she is trapped in some kind of Umbrella Corp. base, and works to break out while a group of ally soldiers are heading toward her to meet in the middle of the base and then, together, get out. Much mayhem follows.
Sadly, the characters this time around are incredibly, ineptly defined. It almost seemed like the film’s makers decided to focus entirely on the action set pieces and move everything forward to the end so that they could set up the cliffhanger to the next film (which, by the way, they most certainly do). The problem lies in the fact that because the characters are so badly defined this time around we simply don’t care about any of them. When one after the other mercenary/soldier sent to help Alice dies, we’re not bothered in the least. There’s also the insertion of a child into the story that I couldn’t help but feel was a too blatant attempt to tap into the whole Aliens story dynamic (one of the more obvious “inspirations” to this series as a whole) of Ripley trying to save the last survivor of LV-426. But while Aliens built up the tension and relationship between the characters extremely effectively, the relationship between Alice and her child was, like all else in this film, presented in a too rushed manner.
So, overall, my guilty pleasure really let me down this time around. This movie, like the other Resident Evil films, made a ton of money and I suspect the sixth film in the series is already in the works. Whatever they decide to do, I hope they focus on giving us more of a story and character next time around.
Who am I kidding? It’s Resident Evil. I suspect the next film will offer much more of the same.