Saturday, September 15, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution [2012]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review

Resident Evil: Retribution (written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson) continues a highly profitable film-series based first person shooter video-game franchise also going by the name of Resident Evil.

Films series based on toys (the Transformers franchise), Disneyland attractions (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) other video games (e.g. Prince of Persia [2010]) or in the reverse, video-games based on successful film franchises like Star Wars are common-place today.  They can irritate purists but they are certainly inevitable and (of course...) when done well the different media can work together to increase the enjoyment of a particular storyline and _perhaps_ even serve an educational purpose.  For instance, I would absolutely love to see Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris [2010] be turned into some kind of "Time tourism" role playing game.

The first person shooter aspect of the Resident Evil franchise is certainly the most troubling aspect of this genre of games / films.  In a first person shooter video game, players are expected to shoot all kinds of assorted bad guys or creatures as they proceed through the game.  Games such as this _always_ provide "good reason" for the players to shoot the bad guys because, well ... they're always "really bad guys."

In the case of the Resident Evil franchise, the "really bad guys" are generally zombified humans (there are also clones as well as assorted "lab created mutants").  The humans were zombified on account of being infected by a "T-virus" produced by an Evil Corporation called "the Umbrella Group." The virus had been designed by the "Umbrella Corporation" to serve a biological weapon. Of course the T-virus "escaped" into the general population turning infected people into human flesh craving zombies.  And if it's "kill or be killed ..."

So teens and other assorted young people from Chicago to Kentucky to California to New York to Alaska to Moscow to Tehran to Saudi to Manchester to Bulgaria to Kinchasa Zaire to Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, Beijing and Manila are happily shooting (and almost certainly splattering) zombified humans _in the video game_ as a result of this "really Evil scenario" presented to them.  And there are dozens of other games with all kinds of other scenarios from the arguably "historical" (Call of Duty) to the completely fanciful (World of Warcraft) out there.

Is this good?  A game like this probably isn't going to make a great many of its players more moral/upstanding people, though it may make them more skeptical of politicians, "really big corporations" and the like.  And that need not be bad.

Is it entertaining?  Given the enormous success of these games, it appears to be.

Is this harmful?  I'll go out on a limb here and say that _probably_ not.  There are voluntary ratings to these games.  Yes, they are probably even less followed than movie ratings, BUT THEY EXIST.  And between parents and _the kids themselves_ I'm positive that they more or less work.  If the intensity of the game is too much, the reaction to the game _even by the kid him/herself_ generally would be "Hey, you know what, I don't like this game.  Let's play something else that won't make me so scared."  So parents PLEASE RESPECT THE RATINGS.  IF A GAME IS MARKED "M" _please_ trust that it REALLY ISN'T FOR YOUR 8-10 year old (but for AN ADULT).  If it's marked T-14 (for Teens over 14) respect that as well.  But please don't treat these games like they're the Apocalypse because they are not.  AND ARGUABLY the most _non-violent_ video game out there -- a simple flight simulator -- produced the inspiration to the 9/11 attacks.  I know that in college in the 1980s after about 1/2 hour of "flying around" in my fake/virtual aircraft and becoming bored with it, I myself began looking for bridges to fly under and yes buildings and mountains to crash into.  And honestly, even a stick or a rock applied in a particular way can become a lethal weapon.

Alright, to the movie itself.  To be honest, it would seem to me that except for being a promotional vehicle for a new add-on or new generation of the video game, the video-game would be more entertaining than the film.

This is because the premise of the whole "Resident Evil" scenario in a few sentences:  The Evil and all but Omnipotent "Umbrella" Corporation has accidentally unleashed a virus that turns infected humans into flesh eating zombies.  The giant artificially intelligent computer responsible for security at the secret underground facility called "the Hive" where this virus was developed (for biological warfare purposes) first tries to cover its tracks by trying to kill all the humans infected by the virus.  Then still trying to cover its tracks, it tries to use the virus to kill-off the human race completely.  (This is one messed up "artificially intelligent" super-computer ;-)

Among the humans infected by the virus only a very few, like the film's chief protagonist Alice (played by Milla Jovovich), proves immune to the virus.  As such Alice becomes a special enemy of this paranoid and arguably psychotic yet "artificially intelligent" computer whose 3D holographic projection that it uses to communicate with humans is called "the Red Queen" (played by a cute little girl named Megan Charpentier and voiced by Ave Merson-O'Brian).

Alice tries to rally the world's remaining humans to fight off the virus infected zombies (and eventually the computer responsible for infecting them) while the childish "Red Queen" super-computer does all in its cibernetically connected power to wreak havoc and infect as many human beings as possible with the virus.

Much of the current film takes place in "a Soviet Era underground complex in Kamchatka" that was bought by "The Umbrella Corporation" to conduct its biological warfare tests.  This complex is so huge (and the Corporation so Evil...) that within it are Truman Show [1998]-like mockups of  downtown New York, Tokyo, Moscow and "Suburbia."  These mockups were built to allow "The Umbrella Corporation" to film the effects of its virus on "residents" living there and to present then these films to the enemies of these places in order to impress them into buying stocks of the virus for themselves.  The pitch presumably was to be: "See what this virus would do to people living in Moscow, New York, Tokyo, etc ..."

How does one perform such simulations realistically?  Being "Evil", the "Umbrella Corporation" decides on using "clones."  Indeed in one of the _really cool scenes_ in the movie (one of its horrors), Alice finds herself in a part of this Evil underground facility where she finds an entire assembly-line of other "Alices" being made presumably to use "for study" / "destruction" in one or another of the modules in the lab.  Is Alice herself therefore a clone?  Hmmm... ;-)

Anyway, Alice along with several others including a cloned child who believes Alice to be her mother seek to fight their way out of the facility and up to the surface to "rejoin the remaining uninfected/immune humans" in fighting off the plague of infected zombified flesh-eating humans and _perhaps_ even finally defeating this strangely childish if really, really powerful and paranoid "Red Queen" super-computer  Will they succeed?  Well see the movie or buy the game ...

Is this a particularly "deep movie" / video game?  No.  But I do think that in describing it here, the reader would appreciate its appeal.

Parents, the film is definitely not for little kids.  But for teens? especially with some supervision?  If you yourselves could stand it, I'd probably say yes. ;-)

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