Zombies? Check? Nefarious scientists toying with diseases, cures, and genetic manipulation beyond their control? Check. Alice, the gun-toting, monster-killing heroine with a mysterious and layered past? Check. Yes, it's time for another installment of the Resident Evil series - a film franchise based off the wildly successful video game. Starring Milla Jovovich as the aforementioned Alice, Resident Evil: Retribution is once again written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Both have been with the series for all five films: Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and were more than happy to return for the latest, Retribution.
Returning to the world of mutated zombies and government conspiracies is Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo, co-star of the first Resident Evil, somehow resurrected from the dead. Jovovich, Anderson, and Rodriguez all gathered together to share with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier how the franchise has changed, their state-of-the-art 3D technology, and how they keep making Resident Evil bigger, badder, and better than ever.
Emmanuel Itier: One thing that sets the Resident Evil movies apart from other epic action series is how much fun it is. It’s just non-stop, bada** fun. In some of the scenes, it seems like the stunts you’re doing are near impossible. It bust be very draining.
Milla Jovovich: Yeah, of course we were tired. But you know what? It's worth it because every time we make a new one, we just keep going up and up and raising the bar. I mean, why else would people want to go see another one if it just all looked the same and it looked like the last one? So, got to keep chugging; got to keep going.
EI: What was for you the most challenging scene in this one, do you think?
MJ: I think, for me, the suburban Alice sequences were the hardest because, A, I'm just not used to playing Alice as a victim. And to have to go through that much stress to be, like, scared, and running away, and screaming, and everything's like, "Oh my God, they're coming!" "Close the door!" and "I have the child—!" and everything, it was unbelievably difficult. At the end of the day, my head would be pounding from the amount of exertion that I was doing all day. So funnily enough, it was the suburban wife Alice that was the hardest.
And I think for Michelle Rodriguez, suburban Rain was the hardest because she had these stiletto shoes, and she had to run with them and, like, pretend like she can't fight. It was hilarious.
EI: The series has been in 3D for the last few installments. Is the experience different this time around, or has it become easier to deal with that element of filmmaking, with practice?
MJ: Well, definitely as an actor I'm getting more used to 3D. The wonderful thing is because the technology is moving so quickly, and the people that we've been working [with] have been the same crew for the last three films, so with Afterlife, with Three Musketeers, and now with Retribution, we were able to use the same team of people. And they actually created a new 3D camera rig for us— which are much smaller, more compact; you can do more with them, which made it a lot easier because, especially if you're in a contained space, to get that big camera in there, you can't get any lights, you can hardly get any actors in there… So it was really nice to be able to have our very own rigs made especially for this new movie. It's going to look phenomenal.
EI: If you look at all the Resident Evil films, what stands out as your favorite scene and why?
MJ: Oh, gosh. I have to say one of my favorites is in Number 1, definitely, with the scene with the computer when she's telling me to kill Rain. I just love that sequence. I get really excited when I watch that. And then, I have to say Number 3 overall I really loved just because it was so beautifully shot, and the stunts were amazing. But I loved the scenery. I loved the sand dunes.
And then, I have to say this one has, like, sick imagery. There's this big action sequence in a corridor of light that's crazy. And an amazing action sequence with me and Jill Valentine in the snow, with Rain, and Ada Wong— I mean there's this crazy sequence in New York City with me and Ada Wong running from the Axmen… I don't know; it's hard to say. There's a lot of crazy stuff in this movie!
Emmanuel Itier: In deciding to do another Resident Evil sequel, how much pressure did you feel to step up your game?
Michelle Roriguez: I think this movie was just pretty much "outdo all of them" kind of thing, for Paul, I think. You know, bringing Moscow into the mix, bringing New York into the mix, bringing Tokyo into the mix, it was like how could we just make this one magnanimous, and give people a good ride, and nonstop action—keep them out of their seats for as long as possible? And I think he figured it out.
EI: You, Paul and Milla have all mentioned that this Resident Evil is bigger than all the others. Were there any particular challenges with Retribution, specifically?
MR: I loved it. I think the Moscow sequence on top of the iceberg with the submarine in the background was pretty sick—pretty insane. It's a great fighting sequence. It was fun to do. The stunt double had most of the fun on the wirework because they won't let me do any of that stuff. I'm complaining about it every interview, I tell you. I'm going to have to get, like, a Cirque de Soleil certificate so they let me play with the wires next time.
EI: If you look at all of these Resident Evil movies, is there a scene for you that embodies the series? What is your favorite scene from all of them?
MR: Well, I don't know about what embodies Resident Evil so much as how much I love watching—was it a Phantom or a Rolls Royce? I think it was a Rolls Royce—that just gets totally destroyed in Moscow. I thought that was so cool. I thought that was the coolest thing. For me, I just love beating up cool cars.
EI: What about the 3D? How difficult is it to work with the new technology?
MR: I think that's not really so much a problem for the actors as much as it is for the Art Department and the stunt guys because, you know, the depth of perception thing is an issue, where doing a 3D set is a lot closer to having to satisfy your two eyes, as opposed to a two-dimensional set where you can't read the distance between things. So you could get away with throwing a regular blue sky in the background with a couple rocks or boulders hanging out in an ocean. You could make yourself a New York City very easily. With 3D, you have to double up those images and it's a lot more complicated because you can actually see how far apart the objects are. And because of the digital side of it, the detail in the Art Department has to be really, really good. It better look like a rock.
EI: Obviously the Resident Evil series is, at its heart, a fun action thriller – but it does raise questions about humanity, morality, and scientific advancement. What do you think is the underlying message of the movie?
MR: Don't mess with God, or it might come back to bite you in the a**, especially if you don't know truly what you're doing, or what the repercussions of what you're doing can be on the planet and its people.
It's pretty much that idea, and I love it because it's a really deep message if you're thinking about people patenting genes right now, and talking about stem cell research, and realizing that there aren't only 23,000 genes from the genome that we have to worry about. In our gut, we have all sorts of other types of genes that we need to worry about—3 million from other animals. There's DNA in us that, like… it's big. Our organism is very, very complex; almost as complex as our solar system. And to think that some scientist, because he's got a really awesome computer and he thinks he's smart, can blend things in and not have any repercussions I think is dumb on our part to believe.
Paul W.S. Anderson
Emmanuel Itier: When working with such a high-octane action franchise, there has to be a lot of pressure involved. What sort of pressure do you feel moving forward with another sequel?
Paul W.S. Anderson: Well, these movies are great fun to make. To work with Milla and Michelle every day, this is a director's dream. But there is pressure to deliver for the fans, and to deliver a bigger and better Resident Evil. I mean the pressure was on us to kind of follow up the last movie. We really had to make this movie epic. As far as I was concerned, it had to have the biggest and the best action scenes from any movie in the franchise, and it had to have the biggest and the best scares. So, you know, the pressure was on us to deliver that. And I think we did.
EI: Was there a particular scene that was challenging for you to shoot?
PA: Lots of challenges in this movie. For Milla, especially lots of challenges. The end fight that she has on the pack ice had the most fight moves I think any of us have ever worked on. My stunt choreographer, Nick Powell—he did Gladiator, he did the Last Samurai, he did the first Bourne movie, great action films—he said Milla had more fight moves in this than he's ever done with Tom Cruise, with Matt Damon… So, you know, big, big action scenes that were physically very hard to shoot.
The car chase in Moscow was very, very complicated. And we also had to do a car chase with the Rolls Royces. It was fun, but it was kind of difficult.
EI: We’ve also heard that the 3D is kicked up a notch in Retribution. What’s different this time around?
PA: This is my third 3D movie. Resident Evil: Afterlife was my first. And I've worked with the same director of photography on all three. This time, he came to me when we were in pre-production and he said, "Paul, I’m tired of hearing you complain that you can't do things you want with these 3D rigs." So he went and he built a 3D system specifically for me and for the way I shoot, which allowed me a lot more freedom to move the camera, to use wide-angle lenses, to strap the camera on the side of cars… so the action in this movie is much more visceral—much more exciting, I think—than we ever managed to put onscreen before, specifically because these rigs were built specially for the way I shoot.
EI: One of the major themes of this Resident Evil film is the idea that this is the “beginning of the end.” Is it really the beginning of the end? Will we be seeing more of these characters, and this story?
PA: You know, when I came back to the director's chair for Afterlife, the last movie, I said I hoped it will be the start of a new trilogy. And I wish it would be. This movie, a lot of people died, but there are a few survivors at the end. I feel like the world of Resident Evil could come to a climactic ending if we made another movie.
But everything's about this movie for me. We always concentrate on trying to make the best possible movie—with Retribution—because guess what? If this movie doesn't work, there won't be another movie. So I tried to really kind of deliver as much epic scope for this film as possible.
EI: Lastly, what is your favorite scene from all the Resident Evil films – the scene that really embodies the spirit of these movies?
PA: Wow. For me, I think it has to be from the first film, and it was Milla with the dogs, where she flies through the air wearing a little red cocktail dress and she kicks a zombie dog in the head. It wasn't the most complicated action scene in the world, but just the idea of a beautiful woman in a little cocktail dress being in the middle of an action movie, I just felt that was very fresh.
That's what we've always tried to do with the Resident Evil movies. I've always felt like they have a particular style to them that you don't see in other films. Part of that is having really glamorous, sexy women at the heart of these big action scenes. I think that scene in particular kind of set the mold for the rest of the films.
Relativity Media's 'Resident Evil: Retribution' is now playing in theaters nationwide.