Dominic Thornton, ‘Through the (Digital) Looking Glass – Resident Evil: Retribution’



With a deep appreciation for the films and directorial style of Paul W.S. Anderson, this video essay aims to highlight his characteristics, and how such an approach informs his films as symbolic deconstructions of the action genre, with specific focus on Resident Evil: Retribution (2012).

The video essay begins with an exploration of Anderson’s directorial characteristics, primarily his use of maps, geometric compositions and tableaux action, which are emphasised by their repetition in the video essay, aiming to make a case for Anderson as a filmmaker. Following this, I explore how such stylistic traits inform his film’s “video game logic” as outlined by Chris DeFalco,[1] laying out a sequence of Resident Evil: Retribution to detail the use of space, puzzle solving and action. Just as the film does itself, I move on from video game logic to examine how Retribution’s plot and setting embody the idea of the simulacra as outlined by Jean Baudrillard in his essay, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. Particular focus is placed on how Retribution, and the Resident Evil film series as a whole, recreates events and repeats familiar camerawork and staging from previous films, demonstrating Baudrillard’s idea that, “the real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models – and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times”.[2] The introduction of Anderson’s directorial characteristics outlined earlier in the video essay, then, come to demonstrate that the repetition found in the Resident Evil series is also a trademark of Anderson’s films.

V.F. Perkins writes in Film as Film, “in part a recording mechanism, but also an optical illusion, an art based on reality but dependent also on magic, the film is inherently impure”.[3] Using Baudrillard’s ideas, and with an interest in how the impure nature of film can be depicted, this video essay aims to demonstrate how Resident Evil: Retribution acts as a simulation of the action genre, with the filmmaker in control of the protagonist, placing them in scenarios and gradually giving them the means to escape, over and over again.



[1] DeFalco, C. ‘Game Theory: Paul W.S. Anderson and the Filmic Board Game’. Mubi Notebook.

[2] Baudrillard, J. ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. in Poster, M (ed.). Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings. (Polity Press, 1988). p. 167

[3] Perkins, V.F. Film as Film. (New York: First Da Capo Press, 1993). p. 58

Leave a Reply