Life, it seems, has dealt Paul W.S Anderson a bad hand. What must it like to be a talentless hack, the Ed Wood of your generation, defecating bad movie after bad, and not just having a reputation as a man who’s never enjoyed an original thought, but being cursed with a derivative name? Not just any name, you understand, but the same moniker as one of your fellow filmmakers, and not just any filmmaker, but one of America’s finest.
It can’t be easy being named Paul Anderson, when Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood, a Noughties’ highlight, is alive in the world. Meanwhile you crank out one middling genre film after another, like a gormless rich teenager given a film studio by his Daddy for Christmas.
Yes, imagine being Steven L. Spielberg, director of The Sentient Polyps of Pippa Chase; imagine the attention you must get when you tell people your name, and the collapsed faces and quick excuses when they discover who you really are. We might even feel sorry for Paul W.S Anderson, but every two years he inflicts another Resident Evil movie on us; another gristled lump of the undercooked, seemingly eternal video game franchise that started badly and went down hill from there: testimony to the undiscerning character of Russian and Japanese movie audiences, for they alone buy the tickets required to keep this shithouse open.
Anderson’s wife, Milla Jovovich, a mannequin in lycra, spearheads each listless, plotless, thrill-deficient shoot ‘em up, without any single discernable human emotion (possibly a side-effect from the T-Virus) bar surprise. Paul W.S, as he’s known to Hollywood agents, whose secretaries are under strict instructions to watch for those initials and not put through calls from any man answering to them under any circumstances, didn’t cast his belle for her ability to bring nuance and depth to Alice’s ongoing battle with zombies and Umbrella corporation mercenaries, rather her flexible limbs and weapons training. By these crude yardsticks she’s an unqualified success, kicking the undead, wrapping chains around the undead, shooting the undead through the head, but each movie presents a mystery that neither Jovovich nor Anderson have yet solved: why should we care about any of this?
In the past, movies used crass and vulgar devices like plot, character and performance to engage an audience and manipulate them into becoming involved with the action on screen. Anderson however, perhaps believing that gamers don’t wish to be troubled by cinematic conventions in a movie adaptation of a game, foregoes such madness, opting instead for the simple set up/levels of game play/end of level boss/set up for next movie formula that he believes will send Tokyo flick houses into waves of rapturous, orgasm inducing applause.
With no characters to speak of and no story to follow, each Paul W.S Anderson flick becomes a parlour game for movie enthusiasts: which of your favourite films has he unsuccessfully borrowed from? Can you spot them all? You’d have to be awake first, but if you can manage it, using an iron will and prescription meds, this fifth movie points to The Matrix, Aliens, Dawn of the Dead, er, Resident Evil and Channel 4’s much missed game show, The Crystal Maze.
Add a crude 3D gimmick, which Anderson hopes will alchemise this lead weight, and you’ve got the best reason to avoid the cinema since Resident Evil: Afterlife. The ending threatens yet more. Let’s hope the fates intervene and put Paul and Milla in divorce court before then.