Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul WS Anderson, 2016)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
                               —William Butler Yeats “The Second Coming”


The long-awaited sixth film in Paul WS Anderson’s survival horror saga has finally arrived, and it’s everything his believers could have hoped for. When the last film in the series came out, Anderson attracted a lot of attention in certain quarters as a symbol of so-called “Vulgar Auteurism” sparked by comparison of Resident Evil: Retribution with The Other Paul Anderson’s The Master, released the same week in September of 2012. The White Elephant/Termite art comparisons were irresistible to the wags of film twitter, and thus a movement was born, or at least a trend piece. The next six months or so were abuzz with discussions pro- and contra- Auteurism such as the film world hasn’t seen since the heady days of the Paulettes and the Sarrisites, a veritable Algonquin Roundtable of blog posts and tweet threads. Not above drifting with the winds myself, and binging on contemporary action cinema in a desperate attempt to keep conscious while caring for a newborn, I wrote a multipart essay on the Resident Evil films, Anderson and Auteurism in general, using the director and his films as raw material for an application of the critical method as Andrew Sarris initially described it back in the 1960s. I concluded that Anderson hadn’t quite reached the highest echelons of Sarris’s scheme, because he hadn’t yet established the kind of tension between himself and his material that marks the nebulous “interior meaning” that is the hallmark of personal filmmaking. I therefore placed him in the “Lightly Likable” category and wrote:

Anderson’s films can more rightly be described as competent treading of well-worn terrain. His last few movies, however, show potential, and so I’m unwilling to write Anderson off as an impersonal filmmaker. Perhaps he has it in him to perform the auteurial jujitsu necessary to turn the generic qualities of his movies into virtues, into a truly compelling and original statement about the world and/or the cinema itself, merging the blankness and fungibility of his characters with the schematic structures of their worlds and the interchangeability of their dialogue to say something truly meaningful. But I don’t think he’s made that complete a filmic statement yet.

Well, it’s four years later, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is that statement.

Continue reading Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul WS Anderson, 2016)”

The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)


This week the Central Cinema, home of Seattle’s most adventurous double features, revives one of the key oddities of the late 1990s, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, as unstable a collection of genres, tones and actors as you’re likely to find in the mainstream cinema. 300 years from now, Bruce Willis, bleached but otherwise comfortably within his Die Hard star persona, is an ex-military agent who has the key to saving the universe fall into his lap (almost literally). That key is the by definition perfect form of Milla Jovovich, a genetically supreme being that is the fifth part of a machine some aliens have installed in the Egyptian desert as a device to defeat the periodically occurring onslaught of Evil, which takes the form of a planet sized black hole that devours everything like Orson Welles in Transformers the Movie. Because of Luke Perry, we’re not as prepared for Evil’s arrival as we should be and a bumbling priest (played by Ian Holm at the peak of the bumbling priest phase of his career) is the only one who knows what’s really going on: Evil has allied itself with Gary Oldman (playing Ross Perot with Hitler’s hair) to steal the magic rocks that make up the rest of the Milla-machine from an alien opera singer. And Chris Tucker is there playing Prince if Prince was really, really loud.

Continue reading The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)”