Just in time for the Resident Evil franchise's 25th anniversary, the survival horror video game series received a live-action feature film adaptation with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, the new movie is a cinematic reboot from the Resident Evil film series helmed by Paul W.S. Anderson that ran from 2002 to 2017. To its credit, Roberts' film hews much closer to the video game source material that inspired it.
While Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City crafts a love letter to the popular video games and boasts a competent cast giving it their all, the 2021 horror film bites off more than it can chew. Sadly, the constraints of its production budget are evident in its execution.
Adapting the events of the 1996 video game Resident Evil and its 1998 sequel Resident Evil 2, Welcome to Raccoon City shows Claire Redfield returning to Raccoon City and investigating the nefarious activities of the Umbrella Corporation. As Claire teams up with rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy, her estranged older brother Chris joins his fellow S.T.A.R. officers to investigate strange occurrences outside Raccoon City at the Spencer Mansion. Throughout this long night, the Redfield siblings face waves of zombies and uncover the truth behind what Umbrella is up to in their hometown.
Roberts has done his homework regarding the Resident Evil games thoroughly. Welcome to Raccoon City admirably recreates shots and sequences directly from the games. From the bloody appearance of the first zombie in the darkened Spencer Mansion to the hordes of undead threatening to swarm the Raccoon City Police Station, this is a movie made by and for fans. Kaya Scodelario and Robbie Amell look like they're right out of the Resident Evil games as Claire and Chris Redfield, with Hannah John-Kamen and Tom Hopper also giving their respective characters more emotional depth and well-rounded personalities than the games. But the problem with Welcome to Raccoon City is that the seams are painfully visible.
Roberts streamlines two video games' worth of stories into a film that runs close to 100-minutes. Overall, he does a decent job and dials up the film's tension before all hell breaks loose. He gives more dimension to someone like, say, Albert Wesker, who was a one-note video game antagonist. However, Welcome to Raccoon City's lack of action set pieces, shoddy visual effects, and limited number settings are apparent. The police station location only has one true action sequence, and there's a faux strobe effect during others -- presumably to conceal the sets in the background. While fans should be pleased by the action, it only comes into the third act, which could prove to be too late to keep the audience's attention.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is the scariest film in the Resident Evil franchise to date. While it's easily the most faithful film to the video games that inspired it, the definitive Resident Evil live-action adaptation has yet to happen. There is enough for fans of the games to recognize and appreciate this film. Its production was perhaps better off narrowing its focus to a single game in the series. The actors are game enough to give their characters life and dimension; however, there isn't enough to provide a thoroughly satisfying experience.
Written and directed by Johannes Roberts, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City opens in theaters on Nov. 24.
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