Resident Evil: Retribution (2012 – Paul W. S. Anderson)

Retribution sees a return to the puzzle logic that defined the initial entry in the series.  Much has been written about the influence of pop videos on the movie making aesthetic, but little is discussed when we talk about the role of videogames.  For the first time, children are being brought up in households where their parents play computer games.  In fact, working with children, it is quite disturbing to note how many children identifying watching their dads play computer games (and very occasionally joining in with them) counts as ‘quality time’.  But the clear narrative of these games – defined central protagonists, a ‘levelled’ approach to story, faceless antagonists – proved to be a big influence on this cinema series.  Paul W. S. Anderson is one of the few directors to appreciate just how influential these games will have been on the mind of his audience; they are, after all, the only other thing we sit in front of TV screens for.

Computer gaming is pushing new territory as it incorporates motion sensors and VR headsets into its hardware.  It remains to be seen if cinema can become as immersive, or if there is something essential about the experience of facing forwards in a large (or at home, small) room and watching something we have no influence over on a screen.  Emotionally, we may be over that experience; I know that on several occasions in the cinema I have reached for an invisible remote control so keen was the instinct to rewind the film to catch a detail I have missed.

Retribution is a beautiful and disturbing machine.  It has little desire to promote story, setting or characters.  Actors are as interchangeable as the multiple roles they played.  Environments flicker and alter and inevitably become hostile.  The narrative is irrelevant; nothing matters more than the immediacy of the individual in front of us surviving for a few more minutes.  At times, the film feels like a Pixar short film designed to destroy you.  But within this, there is something quite beautiful.  As if everything that we supposedly adore about cinema has been reduced to the heavenly grace of a single image.  Characters are suspended in mid-air, defying logic and gravity, destroying the incoming storms of adversaries.  It appeals to our basest nature – the nature that suspends all action and imagination as we slump in front of a monitor, feeding our addiction to the latest world we have absorbed.

  • If I seem dismissive of the experience of playing computer games, it stems firstly from my own ignorance (not having played many), but secondly from my complete belief that if I did so, I would get obsessed. There are moments in my life where I have been addicted to Solitaire…
  • By this stage, the zombies within the movies have developed a distinct visual presence, quite distinct from any other iteration in cinema. Instead of lumbering hordes, they are quick-witted, vicious, and seem to be adaptive.  In that sense they recall the eponymous monster of The Thing (1982 – John Carpenter), rather than the zombies of the George A. Romero oeuvre.

Resident Evil rankings:


  1. Resident Evil: Afterlife
  2. Resident Evil: Extinction
  3. Resident Evil: Retribution
  4. Resident Evil
  5. Resident Evil: Apocalypse

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