Middle Row, Centre: Evil is Back in Residence

Summer may be over, but it seems the sequels and remakes are not.

Quickly ascending to the Number 1 box office position in its first week of release with $21-million in sales was Resident Evil: Retribution.

It’s the fifth film in the repetitious but highly successful series first unleashed in 2004. The franchise first saw the light of day as a video game, and from this humble beginning a career has been launched for the Ukrainian-born former supermodel Milla Jovovich.

She plays Alice, a former security specialist with the malevolent Umbrella Corporation, which inadvertently released a deadly virus in the first film, turning much of humanity into murderous, mindless zombies raging through destroyed cities worldwide.

Alice has become a fugitive from her former employers, and is constantly on the run, one step ahead of her would-be captors.

She has somehow been rendered with amazing strength, agility and speed after her own contact with the virus, and this aids her immeasurably in her battle against Umbrella and its ghastly minions.

But the constant carnage leaves us little opportunity to get any idea of her personhood, beyond her amazing prowess as a fighting machine.

Similarly, there’s nobody in the supporting cast who really comes across as a character with any development, with the possible exception of 11-year-old B.C. resident Aryana Engineer (last seen in the 2009 horror film Orphan).

She plays Alice’s hearing-impaired daughter Becky, who faces the perils thrown at her mother with an amazing trust and bravery.

Alice’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Red Queen, a computer-generated being that has taken over control of Umbrella’s central headquarters, since most of its staff have succumbed to zombie-hood.

Alice is aided in her efforts by supposedly disaffected ex-corporate types like herself, uncertain of whom to trust among them.

My personal test that I apply to sequels is whether they can stand alone, rather than have their plot-lines only decipherable by fans who’ve seen all the films in a series.

In fairness to Resident Evil: Retribution, it does a decent job of catching us up on the preceding action in a voice-over narration at its beginning, but sadly, it’s mostly downhill all the way from there.

I couldn’t help but feel attacked and brutalized by the film. It’s a seemingly endless panorama of Alice and her associates warding off one threatening monstrous presence after another, with guns constantly blazing for 95 minutes.

After awhile, it just kind of leaves you totally numb, but maybe that’s what the film’s creators are after.

The 3D employed in Resident Evil: Retribution is flat and murky, looking as if it was added in post-production, and does little to improve the film.

Shot at Toronto’s Cinespace Film Studios like the three films preceding it in the series, it’s a German-Canadian co-production that seems designed to capitalize on the success of its predecessors.

Together, they have managed to generate a total of $770 million in box-office for the franchise so far, while offering viewers little in the way of originality or creativity.

This is the third installment that Jovovich’s husband, director Paul W.S. Anderson, has cranked out, and he must be tired of the whole game by now. Nevertheless, the film’s ending is so inconclusive that you just know there’s yet another sequel in the works.

Resident Evil: Retribution plays at 6:45 and 9:00 p.m. at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated 14-A.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

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