Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is Resident Evil 5 an "Anti-Film"?

Film -1. (Performing Arts)
          a.  a sequence of images of moving objects photographed by a camera and providing optical illusion of continuous movement when projected onto a screen
          b.  a form of entertainment, information, etc., composed of such a sequence of images and        shown in a cinema, etc. (Source)

I have had a long hard think about this definition in relation to the film I saw last night, Resident Evil 5: Retribution. I do not think what I saw last night could be classified as a film. I don't know if anyone would want to. It seems to have created some kind of Donnie Darko-esque portal of multi-level, multi-media influenced genre tropes presented side by side but bearing no relation to each other. RE 5 is purporting to be a film but may be the furthest thing from it. Even though it uses the same technology as every other film out there to ensure its creation it is unable to deliver on the most basic principle of film (to me anyway), story telling. This is not a review of RE 5, this is a discussion whether or not this can be considered a film and whether or not its classification as a "genre film" makes allowances for its discrepancies. I am not saying RE 5 is good or bad, I honestly couldn't tell you that because I am still trying to figure out what I just watched. (though if you'd like some reviews you can find them here)

Reisdent Evil: Retribution picks up where the 4th one left off with Alice (Milla "Leeloo" Jovovich) being captured by the Umbrella Corporation and held in their super big evil building of evil. (they mention something about it being their official headquarters but even that I'm unclear about) She is semi-interrogated by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory whom we haven't seen since RE 2) who has been brainwashed and is now working for Umbrella.  And by "semi-interrogated" I mean, asked random questions which Umbrella should really know about by now. She is then freed by Albert Wesker who she tried to kill in RE 4 and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing, which is the best name ever). Ada, wearing a cocktail dress, informs Alice they are to rendez-vous with a team sent in to help them get out of the compound but they have to make it through several "environments" which Umbrella uses to test the effects of the bio-hazard. Ada, still wearing a cocktail dress, reveals that the zombie-outbreak virus was actually bought and sold to various countries which is how it spread. It was the Cold War without nuclear weapons. RE 5 then splits into two stories as it follows Alice and Ada as they try to make it to the exit and the group of men who are sent in to help them. The audience encounters several actors who have made previous appearances in the RE films which is explained as the effects of cloning (a topic touched on in RE 3). Oh, and there is a kid in it that thinks Alice is her mom because her mom in a simulation environment was Alice. They eventually make it out of the facility and are taken to Wesker who is kind of sort of a good guy and now occupies the White House. He restores Alice's powers that he took from her in RE 4 and then tells her this is humanities' last stand and they will fight ... or something. The camera zooms out of the compound to reveal a dystopian world that would Mad Max shit his pants and the screen fades to black.

I may have actually read too much into the film based on the above description because as you watch the film it doesn't make that much sense. Practically every element from the previous films in the series are brought back for at least a line of dialogue or a glimpse of something familiar which takes up a surprising amount of time. They also add in new elements like (I think, I never really got a good look at them) Nazi zombies who are capable of driving cars and shooting guns. The women teetering around in heels and all the men seem to have clip in bangs.  There is no recognizable human trait in any of these people. 

So, if film is presenting a stream of images that when projected correctly produce a continuous narrative (and I mean narrative in a very, very, VERY general sense of the word) is RE 5 a film? I can't say that it is. The way characters enter and exit scenes makes no sense. The film tropes (such as mapping, computer displays and x-rays) are random and haphazard. The narrative thrust is non-existent. If I were to break down RE 5 into playable objectives it would be to get out of the compound but getting out of the compound yields nothing. We are essentially back where we were at the end of RE 4. 

I can't in good conscious say that Resident Evil: Retribution is a film. Nothing is truly lost and nothing is gained. I do not honestly believe that any scenes made sense next to each other. Even within scenes there are vast differences in logic and sense.The most telling example is this; Alice is in many fights and in one scene she is walking down a hallway by herself, feels pain, touches her side to reveal that she is bleeding. I do not know how she got injured. It is not explained nor is it of consequence. Twenty minutes later, the same thing happens. She feels pain, touches blood that is apparently coming from her body and keeps going. Oh, and then someone get punched so hard their heart stops.

You could always argue that RE 5 is a film. Many, many, many short films. Such as previously mentioned scene would be the story of a woman walking down a hall. But that's a stupid movie, therefore a stupid argument. For a film with a reasonable budget it should be able to produce reasonable results. 

And just as RE 5 isn't a film, this is not a review. I could not tell you whether I enjoyed it or not. It was like a bizarre fever dream of fast moving images with limited consequence that simply happened to me.


  1. The more I think about this "movie" the more I like it. It's a psychedelic trip, man!

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  3. Is it weird that your review makes me MORE excited to see it? I had already lowered the bar to about six feet under.

  4. It's oddly worth seeing. If only to comprehend how truly weird it is.