Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

63 / 100

Watchable Minutes: Clocking in at 107 minutes, the second go round for the Resident Evil franchise is nothing to pause for a bathroom break for. There’s about an hour of things worth watching, but not much more. 

Movie or Film: Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is yet another video game movie that both fails to live up to the hype of the source material and fails to be more than mildly entertaining at best. There’s nothing of substance to consider it a meaningful or imapctful film, so a movie it shall be. 

Info : 

  • Run time : 1 hr 47 minutes
  • Studio : Sony Pictures
  • Director : Johannes Roberts
  • Where to Watch : In Theaters

Summary : 

Raccoon City lies in a deep depression after the phamaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation that was the lifeblood of the town relocated and took the economy with it. Now the once prosperous city lies almost in ruin as a modern ghost town, a shell of what it once was. However, Umbrella didn’t just leave for greener pastures which is what Raccoon City native Claire Redfield tries to convince her brother Chris about. As she pleads her case, the city goes into lockdown and the dark secret underneath Umbrella begins to escape. 

Review : 

Before covering the subpar Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, it’s worth looking at the video game genre as a whole. One of the more interesting genres in the movie industry is the video game genre and there is a long list of entries. Without much effort, a list of those movies would include Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Super Mario Bros., TRON, Pokemon, Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Doom, Hitman, and technically Free Guy. Most of these movies won’t score more than a 50 on any review site. The crux of the matter is that most of the source material games have pretty solid stories to begin with, which is what catches the attention of the studios. There aren’t many games out there with bad stories and great gameplay. Similarly, there aren’t many games out there with great stories and bad gameplay. Usually, the video game movies that get adapted come from the few with great stories AND great gameplay. But the problem with the adaptations is the studios try to replicate the feeling of playing the game by making the gameplay a larger part of the adaptation than the actual story. While that seems like a good idea on paper, the execution has left much to be desired as evidenced by the list above. The only two movies on that list that have a halfway decent score (according to my ratings) are Tron: Legacy and Free Guy. These two succeeded in being halfway decent by not adapting gameplay, but by expanding on the story or premise of the video game.

Where the previous Resident Evil movies failed was the over-reliance on CGI, explosions, and guns to send Mila Jovovich through hordes of undead zombies for about a decade in some sort of strange alternate timeline. Each of these movies was such a departure from the game’s storyline that they were basically unrecognizable aside from some characters with the same names. The longer these movies went on, the less and less they resembled the source material, which is what most likely lead to this reboot. While Welcome to Raccoon City doesn’t stray very far from the story of the first game, it does have the issue of trying to shoehorn in some gameplay scenes. Ultimately that’s not the largest issue with this movie, but it is a contributing factor. Much of the story is cheesy or poorly written with bad transitions from point A to point B. It’s not an overly complex story, even if the audience hasn’t had any exposure to the video games. It’s a zombie movie and that’s about all there is to it. There are a lot of overly dramatic moments with odd dialogue that just doesn’t flow. It feels clunky and stupid at times. There is also next to zero character development to be had, it’s just an action vehicle to get to the sequel and franchise this new reboot as quickly as possible.

The biggest name on this cast is Robbie Amell, cousin to Stephen Amell of Green Arrow fame. Robbie plays the role of Chris Redfield, who is a fan favorite protagonist of the Resident Evil franchise. The casting isn’t bad, because he is probably the one one that a) the studio could afford to play the role and b) won’t get too much flak for playing a video game character in a D-tier movie. The same goes for the rest of the cast, with Kaya Scodelario as Claire Redfield, Hanna John-Kamen as Jill Valentine, Avan Jogia as Leon Kennedy, and Tom Hopper as Albert Wesker. All the big names of the franchise are there, but they are all played by lesser-known actors. Imagine if instead Chris Pratt (who seems to be in everything next year) was cast as Chris Redfield. It wouldn’t work because Pratt has his own established identity with a certain type of character, but Amell doesn’t have that sort of brand recognition and makes him easier to accept. This applies to the cast as a whole. This is a double-edged sword though because while the audience is given the chance to see a character without overlap from previous roles, there are no standout performances to be had. Each actor delivers their clunky and poorly written dialogue as well as anybody, but it wouldn’t have helped if the writing was better. There’s a requisite amount of cheesy dialogue that’s to be expected with a video game movie and if it wasn’t there, it would have come off as disingenuous.

Johannes Roberts is the mastermind behind this underwhelming video game movie, with no experience with a property like this in his filmography. Again, not an issue as it’s usually a halfway decent idea to allow new blood to come in and give it a shot, rather than handing it off to somebody who just pumps out garbage (cough cough Paul W. S. Anderson cough cough). The cinematics and atmosphere of Welcome to Raccoon City feel the most like the games, which is a large benefit to the movie. Raccoon City has never really been captured accurately and this iteration definitely matched the vibe that the earlier games gave off. Everything looked and felt dirty, lost, and forgotten which is exactly what it should feel like. The mansion sequences were cramped and claustrophobic at times, with large dark areas that were creepy and unsettling, which is another page from the book of the games. There were moments of action and dread that worked well together, but not nearly as many as a movie like this needed. Roberts managed to keep in the required slow turn zombie head that the series is known for, so there’s that too. There is one scene where Chris Redfield is shooting in the dark and the barrel flash of his gun creates an almost strobe effect that made it hard to look at for a few moments. The CGI for most of the movie was pretty rough as well, with some giblets looking like they were straight out of DOOM from 1993. And lastly, the soundtrack that was layered over the top of the movie was uninspiring and forgetful.

While Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City isn’t an awful movie, it is ultimately and unfortunately par for the course as a video game movie. Johannes Roberts captures more of the atmosphere and visuals of the games while presenting a more faithful story than previous iterations. B-Tier casting and rushed dialogue do this reboot no favors, but it is a low bar to clear and will ultimately garner a few sequels.

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