Resident Evil: Retribution (R)

Review Date: September 14th, 2012

''Sorry if my snoring bothered you.''

Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie, but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D), but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope, he was asleep.

I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey, they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.

Try as he might, there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons, and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom, you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series, but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies, there's not enough plot to make it work.

We don't go to video game movies for plot, of course, but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise, why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention, like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities, but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However, it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals, in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.

It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise, and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another, everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point, it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old ''And then she woke up!'' trick, which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world, but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas, like Alice and Anderson himself, we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole. rated this film 1 star.