Here are three more rules for enjoying the movies:
One, don’t pay to see older films re-released in “digital 3D.” Two, try to avoid showings in our local twelve-plex’s audially-challenged Auditorium 8. Three, if somebody named “Anderson” directed the movie, buy a ticket.
There may not be many first-rate directors of “serious” movies still alive and working these days. But the two unrelated Andersons—Wes the Texan and Paul W.S. from Northumberland—have each made one watchable movie after another, entertaining millions and doing quite a lot to establish what films can actually do.
Wes Anderson directed “Moonrise Kingdom,” which is still the best movie I’ve seen this year. Earlier he directed “Rushmore,” “Bottle Rocket,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Life Aquatic,” “The Darjeeling Limited,” and the film version of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. His movies are quirky. But large audiences enjoy them.
And even bigger audiences go in for the movies of Paul W.S. Anderson, whose new film “Resident Evil: Retribution” was released last weekend. Anderson likes video games and has made movies based on and like popular video games, specifically “Mortal Kombat” and his Resident Evil movies. Most of his other films— “Alien vs. Predator,” “Soldier,” “Death Race,” and “Event Horizon” in some ways resemble video games. His 2011 “Three Musketeers” is the only movie I’ve ever seen that actually uses digital 3D from start to finish.
As it happens, “Resident Evil: Retribution” (which is, I believe, the sixth movie in the series and Anderson’s third) is very, very much like a video game. The heroine, Alice (Anderson’s wife Mila Jovovich) is a “first person shooter” who has to pass through several maze-like sets, attacked frequently and re-arming when she can along the way, to reach a goal.
In this case, Alice has to shoot and fight and chase her way through a series of studio sets—of New York, of “Suburbia,” and of Moscow—which were build in a huge underwater submarine station once belonging to the Soviets. This is a place where the evil Umbrella Corporation has been testing its biological weapon, the one that turns humans into running, swimming, and split tongue displaying zombies.
As Alice goes along, we learn where Umbrella has been getting its supply of test subjects. And that also explains how several of the most popular characters from the earlier movies, long dead, can be revived to participate in this sequel. The subject-generation process also makes Alice a sort of identical step-mother. There’s a concept for you.
This video-game portion of the story is surrounded by substantial additional material fore and aft, in the same way those tea towels fore and aft make up Alice’s most “Fifth Element” costume in an early sequence. The film begins with Alice’s escape from a tanker under attack by helicopters, with most of the action being shown (in reverse slow-motion) underneath the opening titles.
The closing sequence shows Alice and her dependable buds standing atop the combination White House and Capitol building as an orc-like sea of zombies presses at the gates to the Mall. This looks like the introduction of the game board for the seventh movie.
Personally, I’ll be happy when “RE7” comes around. Assuming Anderson directs it, the action and settings and costumes will be imaginative and well-photographed. The story will be complicated enough, given that Anderson will be careful not to slow down the action just to explain something.
In short, Paul W.S. is making a kind of action movie that works well on film. If you like movies, you’ll like his. And you’ll despise re-releases of animated films in reprocessed digital 3D.