Resident Evil: Retribution progresses the story of the franchise, but not by much. The movie basically spend an hour and a half spinning the franchise’s wheels, showing audiences things they’ve seen in previous installments, and bringing characters back to status quo. At best, this movie is just a bunch of stepping-stones. It’s the series of steps that lead up to the promise of something. If we were being less kind, it would be fair to say that Resident Evil: Retribution is kind of a waste of time.
When we last left Alice (Milla Jovovich), she was on board a giant ship in the middle of the ocean, getting ready to fend off yet another assault from the Umbrella Corporation. That fight ends with her falling into the ocean. She wakes up in another Umbrella facility, being interrogated and tortured by her former ally Jill Valentine. Fortunately for Alice, a team is sent out to rescue her. Free from her cell, she ventures through what turns out to be an underground testing facility, where Umbrella runs simulations of viral outbreaks on an endless series of clones. Alice and the rescue team face wave after wave of biohazard threats on their way to the surface.
This movie is really mostly about setting up stuff for the next movie. That, and systematically undoing everything that happened in the last movie. By the end, it almost feels like the last movie didn’t happen at all, with many of the characters reverting to status quo. Once it gets past all the exposition, which explains everything that’s happened so far, the movie pushes its characters towards a series of meaningless action sequences.
It would be fine if these sequences were actually good, but they aren’t. A lot of it feels rote and lazy, an inert camera shooting characters wielding their automatic weapons. Aside from the more impactful final fight scene, the movie seems to lack imagination, rehashing sequences from the previous films, and rarely pushing for a sense of the ridiculous. The 3D filmmaking adds some novelty to the picture, but it isn’t nearly enough to justify the lackluster action.
The franchise has never been for its acting, though one must give credit to Milla Jovovich for the pure presence that she brings to the role. Jovovich just looks genuinely tough, and though she can’t quite salvage the film’s stilted dialogue, she manages to make it feel better all the same. The rest of the cast can’t claim that much. Johann Urb and Bingbing Li fail to bring any personality to their roles, making it difficult to care about their plight.
Resident Evil: Retribution ends by promising something bigger happening in the next movie. It’s really frustrating. The movie already had ninety minutes to provided audiences with something they’d remember. But all it can provide is preamble, filling the entire runtime with inconsequential events that only really serve to undo what had previously established. The movie seems to know where it wants to go, but it didn’t really try to make that journey interesting. Even in the age of blockbusters, action has never felt this meaningless and empty. They can do better.