I have to admit, I have an ironic love for the original six film Resident Evil series. They start off as semi serious before they devolve into complete and utter nonsense full of clones, bullet time and cartoon villains. I love them. After “The Final Chapter”, the only way to go is with the reboot. And here we are! Welcome to Raccoon City attempting to ground the series a little more, albeit with still some on brand silliness thrown in. And I kinda like it. Legitimately this time too!
Writer/Director Johannes Roberts deciding to meld the two stories of Resident Evil 1 and 2 into a solo story works far better than imagined. Early on the film is very, very exposition heavy. With a story of William Birkin and a childrens orphanage (where Claire and Chris Redfield live) involved in some sort of secret experiments, it’s not long before we flash forward to the city of Raccoon being a shadow of its former self as the company Umbrella is in the process of moving out. There’s a lot to take in at first, with talk of conspiracy theories and introductions to multiple characters one after the other, but it doesn’t take long before the monsters appear.
While the original series of films, despite occassionally introducing some characters from the game, went in its own direction – Welcome to Raccoon City is the complete opposite. It’s almost too faithful in places, creating a film that seemed to be pre-built ready for the “25 Easter Eggs you may have missed!” YouTube videos. Environments are ripped from the game. The Spencer Mansion entrance is already shown in the trailer and the RPD lobby is identical, right down to the ridiculous statue. As the film progressed it became like the “DiCaprio pointing at things” meme as more and more game references kept pilling up.
I’m unsure as to whether the performances were intended to be silly or serious. On the one hand you have Kaya Scodelario as Claire Redfield and verteran video game movie actor Neal McDonough as William Birkin taking everything very seriously. Then the other story that’s happening simultaneously features a bit more scenery chewing with Tom Hopper as Wesker and Hannah John Kamen’s Jill providing a bit more light entertainment. The real MVP though is Donal Logue as chief of police whose angry police captain trope is very played out at this point, but he provides some of the best laughs in the film, especially when paired with Avan Jogia’s Leon S Kennedy. The biggest character change here being our hapless rookie cop who, unlike the games, is portrayed here as a complete moron. Constantly falling asleep (he manages to not hear a massive truck crash just outside) he’s the butt of all the jokes and honestly, this is how I always want Leon portrayed going forward.
With a runtime of 1hr 47min, it zips along at a nice pace and while there are some slow sections, it never outstayed it’s welcome. The action is shot quite well, with cinematography that is honestly too good for the film its in. While the original series of movies felt like they came out of the algorithm production line, this one at least feels like it was made by proper filmmakers.
One downside is that the CGI can be a little ropey. The truck crash scene and more ridiculous looking monsters being the primary problem, but on the other hand it does give the whole film a low budget-like quality that I actually quite liked. A bit reminiscent of those 80’s movies you’d find at the bottom of a bargain bin that becomes something of a cult hit amongst friends.
I am going to say this is one of the best films of the year? Of course not. But I will say, if you get a group of friends together and some alocoholic beverages, then a good time will be had by all!