I am an outlier in that I love the majority of Paul WS Anderson’s Resident Evil movies. They were chaotic and embraced elements of the games, like the characters, while doing a completely unhinged and unique story. So, while the internet was complaining about another Resident Evil adaptation, I embraced Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City with open arms. And, in that vein, this film does a lot, and I mean a lot with its fairly short 107 minutes.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is directed and written by Johannes Roberts and is undoubtedly a love letter to Capcom’s video game franchise. The film stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, and Neal McDonough. Taking place over the course of one night before Raccoon City’s impending doom—a staple in both the games and any adaptation they’ve spawned, live-action or otherwise— Claire Redfield (Scoldelario), Chris Redfield (Amell), Leon Kennedy (Jogia), Jill Valentine (John-Kamen), and Albert Wesker (Hopper as yes, that Wesker) attempt to survive the Umbrella Corporation’s “incident” and escape the city before time runs out.
Right from the jump with the inclusion of Lisa Trevor, a fan favorite from the Resident Evil Remake, Roberts shows you that he knows this franchise, and he’s going to throw in as many characters and moments as he can. And all to make the games’ fans in the audience point at the screen like that Leonardo DiCaprio gif. And that’s where this film shines. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is at its best when we’re in locations like the police station and the Spencer mansion, and we can see puzzle elements being completed by characters or statues that you know you need to move to open a door. In fact, the set design and how the characters interact with it are perfect. But this strength is also the film’s flaw.
The settings are so perfect that the overcrowded narrative means we don’t spend enough time accepting their greatness completely. By mashing up multiple Resident Evil remakes for what we can assume is to get all the iconic characters in one film, Roberts misses the chance to really dive into the locations. The beauty and darkness of the halls and room settings mimic the same tense, claustrophobic atmosphere as the games. To move through it so quickly and misses the chance to allow the mansion to play a character all of itself. This is a film made by a fan, and that’s a good thing, but at the same time, it could have used more editing. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City has so much good going on that eventually it turns into too much at once, leaving its characters as one-liners and fan-service moments.
Additionally, the characters in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City are nothing like their in-game counterparts visually. While there is some parity strived for with costuming, no one in the film captures that immediate recognition, none more so than Claire and Wesker. That said, at the very least, Claire, Chris, and Jill have personalities that fit with what fans know. That’s what makes Jill a standout, but her limited impactful screen time undercuts the character’s strength…oh, and so does the forced romance.
And that’s the push and pull of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City; it’s good until it isn’t, and the bounce between the two makes for a messy film. Honestly, it’s hard even to say who the film belongs to—fans of the games or new viewers. Finally, the film really stumbles in how it characterizes Leon Kennedy and Albert Wesker. For Leon, he’s a bumbling rookie, and for Wesker, I don’t even know how to qualify it; he’s just not Wesker with self-serving motives that wave that Umbrella Corporation flag.
Finally, the CGI work looks like it needed to be cooked a little longer, but the number of creatures included in the film and the in-game mechanics brought out in fighting them works so well. On top of that, the care and attention paid to the zombies in the mansion is so obvious; they illicit the terror and fun of the games. From the head turns to the way their bodies move and the SFX makeup, the zombies work well.
All of that said, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is one of those unique films that leaves me scratching my head. As a fan, it works in some great ways that I genuinely appreciate. But that joy is something I don’t think general audiences with no exposure to the source material would experience. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is easily the best of what the early 2000s had to offer in the way of video game adaptations (and I say that with love), but it also brings all its faults. This film leaves me dead set in the middle. As a video game movie, it’s clear that it’s made by a fan, for fans. Because of that, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a great watch for fans, especially for those who thought Alice was too much of a departure from the games in the previous live-action attempts. That said, it’s one to skip if you have no idea what Resident Evil is.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is out now nationwide in theaters.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
- Rating - 5/105/10
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is easily the best of what the early 2000s had to offer in the way of video game adaptations (and I say that with love), but it also brings all its faults. This film leaves me dead set in the middle. As a video game movie, it’s clear that it’s made by a fan and for fans. Because of that, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a great watch for fans, especially for those who thought Alice was too much of a departure from the games in the previous live-action attempts. That said, it’s one to skip if you have no idea what Resident Evil is.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.