The Resident Evil films (six films from 2002-2016) starring Milla Jovovich have earned over $1 billion worldwide. The action movies were well-liked by international audiences but otherwise shunned by hardcore fans of the Resident Evil video game. When Resident Evil was first released, fans expected a faithful film adaptation but instead, what they got was something loosely (and I do mean LOOSELY) based on the games. Jovovich’s character Alice was explicitly created for the movies and didn’t appear in any of the game lore. With this misstep in the previous films, director Johannes Roberts intends to right these wrongs with the reboot titled Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which aims to get back to basics by aiming to meet fan expectations.
Reboots are in vogue now, but how does this one stack up? Well, it’s not as black and white as giving a definitive answer. The storytelling is more efficient, does well to build tension, with better character building. At other points, it’s slow and disjointed, with sub-par special effects that resemble a PlayStation 2 video game. With the balance of good and not so good, it’s just an OK film that tries to do a lot in such little time.
It begins in the Raccoon City orphanage, where young Chris and Claire Redfield reside. Claire knows something is amiss at the orphanage and makes the mistake of asking the resident Doctor and Umbrella Corporation employee, William Birkin (Neal McDonough doing his typical antagonist thing), too many questions. When Claire (Kaya Scodelario) is separated from her brother at the orphanage, she runs away, and the next time she is seen is as an adult in the late 1990s, on her way back to Raccoon City. She’s been receiving messages from local conspiracy theorist Ben Bertolucci (Josh Cruddas) about something in the water in RC that’s making people sick. She wants to get to the bottom of this mystery while hoping to reconnect with her brother.
Meanwhile, RPD’s finest Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) are tasked with investigating what’s happening at Spencer mansion. At the same time, Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) has to guard the front desk. With Claire heading right into the middle of chaos, no one could anticipate the horrors that await them as the townspeople slowly turn into disease-spreading cannibals. The characters are at different points in time when things truly pop off, but with Raccoon City set to be destroyed, the audience gets to watch to see who will be returning for the sequel.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City improves in many ways from the Paul W.S. Anderson films by giving viewers the information they need upfront. Instead of relying on characters like Alice, we see those involved deal with their situation and the different ways they handle conflict, which grounds the film in realism. The cast is solid, with the female characters being the most intelligent, competent, and heroic of the story.
However, the flaws become noticeable when the film meanders in the middle as the exposition stops the pace from moving forward. I can see the townspeople have turned into zombies. I don’t need a shoehorned explanation to explain further. The special effects are so distracting. It’s hard to take what’s happening seriously. The budget for this film is larger than it was for the 2002 version by a few million, yet the makeup and graphics appear more believable in that film.
When it comes down to it, the success or failure of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will depend on fans of the game and how they interpret what they see. I’ve never played the game, but I can say that there were some enjoyable moments as a movie-goer, but the film doesn’t aim to do anything except let nostalgia do all the work and hope for good results.