I’ll be forward, I’m a big Resident Evil fan. My sheer excitement towards this renaissance of great Resident Evil games and remakes has fed my young self quite well. I’ll always have a soft spot towards the older installments (RPD will always torment me). However, I’m in the demographic that wasn’t crazy about the Paul W.S. Anderson movies. So the prospect of a new Resident Evil movie closely following the plot of the games piqued my interest exponentially. Now that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is out, I can honestly say that I admired most of it.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is the combination of the plots of the first two games. The original Resident Evil follows a task force investigating a peculiar set of deaths consistent with cannibalism leading them to a nearby mansion (the Spencer Mansion). The second Resident Evil follows the fallout of Raccoon City after a mysterious yet dangerous virus befalls the citizens. Within these games, you follow characters Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Claire Redfield, and Leon Kennedy. For the most part, this is a pretty one-to-one adaptation of the two games all the way down to their respective finales.
With Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City you can see the inspiration bleed from the screen. It is very much an adaptation of the first two games, and thankfully it respects the source material. There are some creative liberties, but most of them pay off well. In the 2001 remake of the original Resident Evil, Lisa Trevor was designed to emphasize a particular obstacle (vague to avoid spoilers for the game) as well as show the Umbrella Corporation’s remorseless experimentation. In this movie it only covers the latter description, but Lisa’s utilization works perfectly for this movie.
There are also a few nods to the original games that will make any longtime fans giddy (“ITCHY TASTY”). Writer/director Johannes Roberts put out something full of admiration and love for the Resident Evil franchise. Going from the respectful set design of both the Spencer Mansion to the Raccoon Police Department to the committed costume design. You could tell this was made by a fan for the fans.
Now, if the mentions of an “Umbrella Corporation”, “Spencer Mansion”, or the plethora of character names confuse you, I promise you this was intentional. Most successful adaptations have a foundation for anyone to understand. However, this movie relies too heavily on the viewer’s knowledge of the source material rather than creating a strong narrative. In this movie there are tons of references, characters, and creatures that the script doesn’t explore any deeper than their initial scene. There is a definitive difference between nods and building your idea on another foundation.
Because we got the first and second game merged together there are a lot of things the regular moviegoer miss. The film does not develop the main characters (beside Chris and Claire Redfield) any more than what’s at face value. Sherry Birkin? Just kind of there. The Lickers? There for a scene. It’s disappointing how much is shown and never used or never seen again. Additionally, if you know who is who you know who is going to die. To avoid spoilers I won’t say, but when the deaths did happen you’re thinking to yourself “yep there they go!”
The first Resident Evil game follows its own timeline, then two months following those events is when the second game takes place. I’m not entirely sure what lead the creative team to merge the first two games together, but the marriage of the two doesn’t pay off like the creators intended. Adapting the first game and the first game alone could have served this project well. However, in the end we follow too many characters, to the point where it’s just a buffet of underdeveloped ideas. If they were to combine two Resident Evil games for a movie, the second and third games are the ideal choices.
Despite my personal grievances with this movie I do believe passion was present in every shot. Clearly Roberts is a fan of the series and wanted to make something that would honor the source material. Whether that honor means anything is up to the viewer to decide. I believe Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a project that wanted to reach for the stars but could only afford a trampoline. The passion and the possibility was there, but the budget backing it held it back. Hopefully, the next movie (teased heavily with the mid-credits scene) will create something wholly of its own. – Jacob Mauceri
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is now playing in theaters.