Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is the latest adaptation of the Resident Evil games, taking the mantel from the previous series of 6 films starring Milla Jovovich. With a trailer that promised a much more faithful adaptation than the original film series, which had a passing resemblance to the games at best, hopes were fairly high. However, despite being a much better adaptation than the previous 6 films combined, it is still sadly lacking.
The film opens on a young Chris and Claire Redfield in an orphanage in Raccoon City, where they encounter doctor William Birkin (Neal McDonough), who obviously has questionable links to the Umbrella Corporation, a pharmaceutical giant responsible for booming business in the city. The action then jumps to the present day in 1998, where the now-adult Claire (Kaya Scodelario) is hitching a ride with a tanker driver to take her back to Raccoon City to visit brother Chris (Robbie Amell), who is a cop in the Raccoon City PD. The Umbrella Corporation have all but abandoned the city, leaving behind a virtual ghost town.
On their way into the city, the tanker driver hits a woman standing in the middle of the road. He stops, Claire confirms the woman is dead and when they turn their backs on her, she wanders off. Unperturbed, the driver jumps back into the truck and proceeds to drop Claire off in town. Meanwhile, rookie cop Leon S Kennedy (Avan Jogia) is preparing for his first shift in the local diner, alongside veteran members Wesker (Tom Hopper), Jill Valentine (Hannan John-Kamen) and Richard Aiken (Chad Rook).
Claire arrives at Chris’s home and receives a less than warm welcome, after having abandoned him years before. Claire shows Chris claims from a local scientist that Umbrella are poisoning the population, which he refutes just as an Umbrella air raid siren resounds across the city. Chris heads to work where his team are sent to the Spencer Mansion in search of missing colleagues, while in their absence all exits from the city are blocked and the population begins to suffer the effects of Umbrella’s poisoning. After being attacked by a neighbour, Claire heads to the RPD in search of her brother and safety from the increasingly violent citizens.
Welcome to Raccoon City is an amalgamation of the first two Resident Evil games, and it stays fairly faithful to the original stories and characters. Squashing two very long games into one 107-minute film, it was never going to be 100% faithful to the original storyline, but they’ve still done a decent job. They’ve accurately replicated key scenes and locations, and the overall look of the film feels very true – it’s sombre, dark and with a score that is incredibly fitting. Even the 90s music doesn’t feel out of place.
All of the key characters from the games are here and the cast features fairly good choices, although I would argue that trying to squash so many key characters into one film has left them all very underdeveloped and one dimensional. None of the characters are really fleshed out enough, which makes it very difficult to care for them even though they’re characters that fans of the games, like myself, know and love. I do have a few qualms over Leon especially, as to begin with he’s given the dumb rookie role and that’s not how he comes across in the games. He does at least get the few funny lines of the entire film and Avan Jogia does a great job with what he’s got to work with. The rest of the script is mediocre at best, and often rather dodgy.
One thing that this film is missing is the sheer terror and horror that was ever-present in the games. The first two Resident Evil games terrified me, and aside from a couple of blink and you’ll miss it moments, there’s nothing here that felt particularly scary. Yes it’s nice and gory and the zombie effects are decent, but it just doesn’t build up any tension or dread. And the CGI, especially on the Licker, is pretty dire.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a film that has tried too hard to be faithful to the original games, resulting in it underperforming in many areas. It’s a shame, as had they split this out into two films or fleshed it out a lot more, concentrating on the finer details to get even closer to the games, it could have been much better. That said, it is still the best adaptation we’ve had of the Resident Evil games so far.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!