Despite my liking of the Resident Evil franchise I missed seeing this fifth film, Resident Evil: Retribution in cinemas when it was released in September 2012, but when the opportunity came up to review the Blu-Ray it didn't take much convincing for me to eagerly check out the release, despite the fact a few others I had spoken to were less than impressed with this latest film. Could they be right?
Resident Evil: Retribution starts off where the fourth film, Resident Evil: Afterlife, ended - that being on a ship with a swarm of Umbrella operatives, including Jill Valentine, on helicopters about to take back control. After the ship is attacked Alice wakes up as a different person, in a different time. She has a daughter named Becky, a husband named Todd, and lives in suburbia. All is not as it seems and it's not long before the zombies attack, and Alice needs to discover a way out of a new Umbrella facility that takes her around the globe trying to find answers to the reappearance of several old friends - for better or worse.
After the intro sequence where Umbrella attacks the survivors on the ship is played in reverse, the film goes into a fantastic summary of events of previous films which provides a great catch up if you've forgotten the events of the previous films, or if you're new to the franchise. With that in mind it's recommended you watch the earlier films for more background to the characters, especially the returning ones here, but if you're a newcomer this will get you up to speed nicely.
New to this film franchise are fan favourites from the games including Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), with the latter being particularly entertaining during the film. Without providing spoilers this film sees the return of Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna, Guillory, Oded Fehr and Colin Salmon and we enjoyed their return - to tell you why and how would only spoil much of the film. What disappointed was the fact that despite their major roles in the previous film, neither Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) or Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) make a return for this new film.
Finally, there are several aspects of Resident Evil: Retribution which just feel "ripped" out of other films not least of which being the little girl Becky which Alice "adopts", then (minor spoilers here) gets kidnapped and cocooned just like the little girl Newt in James Cameron's Aliens (end spoilers). Having said that we have to praise the young actress Aryana Engineer who does a great job as the hearing impaired Becky - and she is actually hearing impaired in real life.
Dare I say it, but many of these issues could have been resolved with a longer film. The official runtime from start to finish is 95 minutes, but when you take off time of the (admittedly very cool) opening credits (in which the opening battle is rewound to the point where the previous film ends), the overview of previous events and the 10-minutes of end credits you are left with only 78 minutes of film - that's way too lean.
While still watchable for fans of the franchise Resident Evil: Retribution is a disappointment. Sure the action is ramped up nicely, but it's the lack of story and character development that hurts this release.
Resident Evil: Retribution really is a gorgeous looking film with some gorgeous visual effects, and interesting cinematography. Colours are bold, while darker scenes retain plenty of fine detail. On a technical level this film is presented in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec.
We're only reviewed the 2D disc of Retribution for this site, but if you have a 3DTV it may be worth spending a couple more dollars to pick up that version as the 3D transfer is, reportedly, quite impressive (and the previous film certainly hit the mark with the 3D transfer). Even in the discs 2D guise has plenty of examples where you can see the 3D effect would be pretty jaw-dropping and we hope to check this out one day.
Other audio tracks include an English Audio Descriptive Service which is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, while Hindi, Tamil and Telugu Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps tracks are also included and will provide adequate listening experiences.
Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian and Swedish while Commentary subtitles are also available in English and Dutch. We sampled the English subtitles in both the feature film and commentary and while the subtitles were occasionally shortened in the commentary, in the feature film they were accurate to the on-screen dialogue.
The Resident Evil: Retribution Blu-Ray contains quite a few extras from commentaries to deleted scenes and decent "Making Of" documentaries. Let's get to it..
Project Alice: The Interactive Database (HD): As the title suggests this is an interactive database where you can see video clips and bios on the main characters, and enemies, in the series.
Commentary with Writer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich and Boris Kodjoe: This is the more entertaining commentary with the two actors having plenty of fun throughout the film although discussions revolve more around the story and characters then technical information which is in the second technical commentary which as Milla states "no one is going to listen to". We suggest though, that if filmmaking is of interest to you, it's worth a listen too. As for this commentary, yes, it's continuous and quite an easy listen with plenty of amusing moments.
Commentary with Writer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt: Having a second audio commentary on this disc seems a little excessive, especially given the director is in both. Still, this is a more technical discussion which looks at the various production issues, including set design and working in 3D, in creating a major motion picture, and indeed the fifth one in a series. As with the first commentary this is worth a listen despite some periods of silence.
Outtakes (4:36/HD): The obligatory featurette with outtakes and goofs are included on the Blu-Ray. Some amusing moments.
Featurette (49:18/HD): With a total runtime of almost an hour this featurette is pretty decent besides occasionally lapsing into EPK-ish territory. Still it's worth a look due to the amount of on-set footage and interviews and is split up into several parts. The first "Maestro of Evil: Directing Resident Evil: Retribution" (8:06) which looks at the director, his relationship with Milla and filming in 3D, "Evolving Alice" (6:50) which focuses on Alice's journey from previous films to this one, "Resident Evil: Reunion" (9:42) which focuses on the returning characters from earlier films, "Design & Build: The world of Resident Evil: Retribution" (9:11) which looks at the visual effects from the pre-viz work to the final effects, "Drop (un) Dead: The Creatures of Retribution" (6:58) which looks at makeup effects required to turn actors into zombies, and the CG creatures, "Resident Stuntman" (6:17) which looks at the amount of stunt work and training required for the film, and "Code: Mika" (5:34) which is an interview with returning Japanese actress Mika Nakashima as the J-Pop Girl zombie.
Review By: Dave Warner