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WonderCon: FOG! Chats With RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION Star MILLA JOVOVICH and Director PAUL W.S. ANDERSON!

Forces of Geek is proud to welcome correspondent Patrick Lee, who covered WonderCon for us last weekend.

When last we left our heroes at the end of Resident Evil: Afterlife, things looked bad: Wesker had apparently escaped from his exploding plane, and Alice, Claire, Chris and K-Mart were standing on the deck of the Arcadia, waiting for the arrival of the Umbrella assault force—led by none other than Jill Valentine.

If none of this makes sense, well, you have a bit of time to catch up before the fifth (and presumably last) installment in the insanely successful video-game-based sci-fi horror film franchise hits theaters in September: Resident Evil: Retribution, written and directed for a third time by Paul W.S. Anderson and bringing back Anderson’s comely kick-ass wife, Milla Jovovich, as Alice.

The movie, shot again in 3-D, promises to tie up a lot of loose ends and bring back a lot of old friends (SPOILERS AHEAD!). Besides Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine, the cast list includes Michelle Rodriguez, whose character, Rain, apparently perished in the first movie; Oded Fehr, whose Carlos similarly died in Resident Evil: Extinction; and Colin Salmon, whose Shade was diced in the first movie. Also expect a lot of familiar faces from the Capcom game series, as well as the appearance of game-related story points.

Here’s the official synopsis:

“The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, ALICE (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion. The countdown has begun.”

Anderson and Jovovich sat down with reporters last week at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, to talk about Resident Evil: Retribution. After the jump read an edited version of our conversation.

Resident Evil: Retribution opens on September 14th.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson (left) and star (and wife) Milla Jovovich discuss the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution at WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, on Saturday, March 17 (Patrick Lee)

Does it seem like after a while it becomes tough to come up with something new for the fans?

Paul W.S. Anderson: It’s not tough for me, because, firstly, I’m really excited about doing it. … It’s a real treat to be able to come back and do another Resident Evil movie. So I have a real kind of passion for it. But also, the subject matter, the source material, the Resident Evil games, have done an exceptionally good job of staying current and relevant and also kind of mutating.

Like the T-virus, they kind of mutate and change, and they’ve really provided the freshness that we take inspiration from. You know, the video game franchise has not remained the same, and I think that’s why its still very, very successful. And we’ve followed along with that.

So for example, just in terms of the undead, the first game and the first movie in fact had the classic kind of Romero-esque, kind of slow, shambling zombies. Then the game slowly developed. You know, you had faster zombies. You had the Majini with … the mandibles coming out of their mouths. you had the Las Plagas parasite, which meant the infected could now ride motorcycles and shoot machine guns. You know, when you’re given that kind of fresh subject matter and material you know its easy to kind of integrate that into the films and keep the films fresh and of course they keep raising the bar.

Milla Jovovich: But If I could just, just a little bit, just because I live with the guy, I mean, its pretty amazing, because there’s a lot of films that … have their slot, and … they have to be out by this time every year. And that’s never been the case with us. … What I love when Paul writes these movies is that you don’t know if its going to be out next year or in two years or in three years. But it will be, like, boom, he’ll either see a book from Resident Evil, or you’ll see a thing or have a dream or see something in the news, and boom, he’s on his computer.

And then something is born that comes from just a great spark of an idea where it’s not forced. It’s very organic. It’s very natural. And, of course, when you read it, “Oh, my God, this is so fresh and so new.” And it’s not like you have to have it done by this time every year, and if you don’t, you know, we don’t have a movie. So there’s not that pressure. It’s very free in that sense, and it’s very unpredictable in that way, and that’s what keeps it fresh.

How hard is it to work and get back to home with work? How do you divide family and work?

M: I think the last couple years have been a little bit. We’ve stretched ourselves a little bit thin because Paul, especially, went from Resident Evil 4 to Three Musketeers and to Resident Evil 5, and … I had press to do. … We worked really hard the last couple of years.

This year, I said, “Now, our daughter is 4, I’m going to be Mommy world and stay in L.A., and he’s got to go back to Toronto and finish the mix and do stuff.” So it’s like, well, you do your thing, and I’ll stay with baby. … I needed a break, too. He’s still running strong developing new things, and I’m like, I’m ready to like chill and stay at home for a little bit. …

So how many more Resident Evil movies do you have?

P: This is very much the beginning of the end. I mean, you know, this is setting up for kind of an epic showdown where there will be a lot of people dead and a lot of blood spilled. In 3-D. … This is like the beginning of the end. It really is. I mean, when we did Afterlife, we said, it would be nice to do like another trilogy. Kind of bring everything to an end. So … there’s a lot of … loose ends coming to an end, and everything is going to get tied up.

Milla Jovovich stars in Screen Gems’ action horror RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION.
Photo By: Rafy.  Copyright: © 2011 Davis Films/Impact Pictures (RE5) Inc. and Constantin Film International GmbH.

How close will Alice get to Umbrella?

P: She’s in the kind of belly of the beast in this movie very much, … literally and figuratively. She’s gone back down the rabbit hole. So, yeah, you’re, you’re in the kind of Umbrella prime, the prime Umbrella facility. So there’s definitely a sense in this, you know, not only is it the most kind of epic of the films that we’ve made and the most global, … the edifice has become so huge, Alice is about to bring it crashing down, which is why we have the title Retribution.

M: … Paul is very modest, and I get to toot his horn since I’m his wife, but when … you have a movie on the scale that this movie was at, especially like with the car chase sequence, I remember you coming home, and we were talking about [it] and the clone sequences, … it’s amazing the way his mind works. Because it’s so simple, …but it’s so complex all at the same time. … When you first got the storyboards for some of these scenes, …the studio is like, “This is a $40 million scene.” And Paul is like, um, why? Well where are we going to get all this stuff? … And he’s like, “Well, you just take a picture, and you take that picture, and put it here and here and here,” and it turned into a $45,000 scene.

P: It was a little more than that.

M: But I’m just saying …

P: $45,000 a minute, maybe.

M: But still, … because of his organization and his imagination–and it’s not … like … we’re trying to create a world on the stage that’s photo real. We’re just trying to put everything on screen and make the people believe it.

And when you think about how much organization that takes, like, one sequence between the live action, the CGI, the stunt work all being put together, … I couldn’t believe his brain wasn’t exploding. And also, in the midst of that, cutting scenes, going, “You know what? Let’s not waste a half a day doing that scene. I’m going to cut it out anyway.” And thinking so far ahead, I mean, it’s crazy when I think about how much you go through. Like, people [tell me], “You would make a great director,” and I’m like, “Uh uh.” I would hide under a table, lock the door and throw things at people.

How much of this is appealing to the fans of the movies and the game as opposed to drawing in outside viewers?

P: I’ve always felt its very important to, to kind of broaden the fan base of the movies, and that’s what we’ve always kind of striven to do, and that’s why I think we have been successful up until this point. At the box office, the movies have always gone up [the franchise has taken in about $700 million so far]. Especially with the last movie, we did make kind of a big jump, and it’s always a fine line between kind of pleasing the hardcore fans who know everything about the universe.

So you’ve got to make a movie that pleases them that has enough detail and texture in it that they really feel this is a Resident Evil film. But you have to make it accessible to people who may be checking it out for the first time, and you don’t want to feel like you’re excluding them just because they haven’t watched the other four, [that] they can’t come and watch this film. So we do try and make the movies like work for both audiences. You know If, if you’ve never seen a Resident Evil film before, there’s nothing stopping you walking in through the door, watching this and go, “Wow, that’s great. Now maybe I’ll check the other ones out.” But if you do watch, and you’ve seen all the others, it’s an even more rewarding experience, because it’s got a kind of level of texture and detail in it that you would only know about if you’ve seen the other films or played the video games.

M: If you’re a fan.

Do you listen to the fans’ feedback?

P: Yeah, Milla has a very kind of big open conversation with them via Twitter [@MillaJovovich] and going on websites. … The appearance of Leon [Leon S. Kennedy, played by Johann Urb] and Ada [Ada Wong, played by Li Binbing] and Barry [Barry Burton, played by Kevin Durand] in this move was very much because that’s what the fans would be wanting

What are Milla’s qualities as an actress and as a person?

M: All of them

P: Every quality

M: You should just forget about all the rest of the roundtables

P: Or the rest of the weekend, even.

You know, Milla really is the heart of these movies and this franchise, because what she brings is – she allows you to believe the world. I mean, she kind of brings 150 percent effort every day. And because she believes the world you as the audience believe the world. … The classic thing about these movies is that they’re not the undead; they’re not terrifying’ they don’t want to eat your brains. They’re just some extras with some makeup on talking on their Blackberries and sending texts to their girlfriends and boyfriends.

They’re not scary. But it’s Milla’s reaction to them and the way she treats them that makes you believe that they are.

Anaheim, CA., March 17, 2012: Milla Jovovich and Director Paul W.S. Anderson at WonderCon 2012.
Photo By: SPE.  Copyright: © 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

And she makes you believe the creature’s right there, when in fact It’s a guy holding a pole with a little cross on the top of it. And, you know, you would laugh at some of the shots that we have in the cutting room right now, where it’s Milla, and she’s terrified, and the world you see in her face is real. But, actually the shot around her, it’s like some people are standing, smoking cigarettes in the background, someone’s having a sandwich.

But she drags you into that world, and she makes you believe it, and that’s really the strength of the franchise for me. And also she brings an emotion and a heart to the film that, I think, is very touching. And it’s quite often lacking with kind of male action heroes. I think there’s something very special about this being a female-led franchise.

Are you going to incorporate any of the new Resident Evil games?

P: There’s some of the stuff we saw, because we got a sneak peek of Resident Evil 6 that kind of we’ve incorporated. I can’t tell you what that is, because CAPCOM would have me worse than executed.

M: Strung, drawn and quartered.

P: And also, you know we’ve continued to take inspiration from some of the older games as well, especially Resident Evil 4 with the Las Plagas parasite, and an amazing car chase from Resident Evil 5 through the desert. Which we’ve taken and we’ve transplanted into Red Square [in Moscow], in an abandoned Red Square. And we’ve taken that kind of Hummer and replaced it with a Rolls Royce.

M: We did the desert in Resident Evil [Extinction], and then they did the desert in Resident Evil 4 the video game.

Did you really shoot in Red Square?

P: Yes, we did. … We had a complete close off of Red Square two nights in a row. We had a huge crew, 100 of which were policemen who were just there to kind of like lock the whole thing down.

With the success of The Walking Dead did you have to up your game? And how much does Alice know about what’s going on with Umbrella?

P: [To Milla] How much do you know?

M: Well, only recently did I find out that I knew anything. I’ve just been coming along for the ride.

P: … And in terms of The Walking Dead

M: The TV show?

P: It’s very exciting to see a show like that be able to succeed on a channel like AMC and people really embrace it in their own homes, because … we were there a decade ago. Resident Evil was the first movie to really bring the undead back, before 28 Days Later, before all of these movies. So it’s great to see The Walking Dead. …

M: Well, it was funny, because we were shooting this last movie, and I was getting tweets because I think The Walking Dead had just aired or it was the middle of it or something, like, “Are you watching The Walking Dead ? We keep imagining that you’re going to come out and kill everybody.” I’m like, “I have to see this show.” Because it sounds really good.

P: I think the advantage we have of doing a movie, especially on this scale, is you can portray a kind of epic vision of that. … The Walking Dead is very, very intimate because it’s television, because of the budgets. You know we’ve fortunately been given the freedom to kind of roam around the world and kind of portray this kind of global apocalypse on a much grander scale. So I think that … both are great, but I think both kind of deliver slightly different things.

Resident Evil: Retribution 3D Arrives September 14th
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