Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City (2021)
Fans Will Have to Wait Longer for their Faithful Adaptation
Score 5/10 - Standard Faire
Posted by Anthony DeRouen | February 16th, 2022
Synopsis - Set in 1998, this origin story explores the secrets of the mysterious Spencer Mansion and the ill-fated Raccoon City.
For any real fans of the Resident Evil video games, when you heard Johannes Roberts' promise to stay faithful to the video game series, and then you watched the trailer you knew he was full of it. There were way too many deviations in the trailer alone to take this effort seriously. In the end it was just another cheap marketing ploy to lure the franchise's legion fans. Granted, Johannes spent some time to recreate a few visual queues - most notably the opening truck sequence, the poorly rendered take on Racoon City’s police department entrance, and Spencer’s mansion. But any real narrative similarities between the first two games and this film end there.
None of the characters in Welcome to Racoon City resemble their fleshed out video game counterparts. Claire and Chris are, for some inexplicable, unnecessary reason, at odds with each other. It was bizarre to watch the siblings bicker at one another. If you played the games then you would know these siblings have been incredibly close and supportive of one another, with just about every appearance of Claire shown to be a product of her concern for Chris.
Speaking of bizarre, the filmmaker’s choice to create a supernatural backstory for Claire was a red flag this wasn’t going to be a Resident Evil adaptation. It also failed to serve its purpose of creating motivation for Claire to pursue Umbrella as Johannes abandoned this narrative thread early on in favor of other less than stellar alternatives. All told, Not a single plot line correctly upheld to canon, further cementing the belief the filmmaker simply wished to make his own version of the game, rather than adhere to what made the game spectacular.
Let’s take a moment and remember what made the Resident Evil game so good in the first place, for those who played RE on the PlayStation in 1996.
The feelings of isolation, dread and desperation should bubble to the surface. Isolation because your squad is separated, either missing or dead, and you’re left to fend off all manner of creatures by yourself. Dread, because you do not want to open that door! The game made an effective use of a first person door opening sequence while the next room loaded. A seamless and masterful effort to keep the gamer engaged while collating assets. And lastly, desperation, because let’s face it: your handgun has three bullets left, you have a single green herb and you still cannot find the basement key - and how many zombies have you skirted by already? Good luck.
Fans are savvy enough to know some of the crazier moments in Resident Evil will not make it to the big screen. What we hope to experience is the fear and anxiety the circumstances had placed on the characters. Paul W.S. Anderson wasn’t shy about using Resident Evil as a vehicle to feature his wife, Milla Jovovich, in action movies. The franchise had almost nothing to do with Resident Evil, but they were fun!
The same cannot be said for Johannes Roberts' effort. There are moments of fright such as when the zombies attack Chris in the mansion, however, a closer look would show a number of mindless shambling horrors easily getting the better of elite soldiers. I thought S.T.A.R.S. stood for Special Tactics and Rescue Service? Apparently not here.
The helicopter scene stands out as an easy opportunity to build tension and mystery, and showcase what the filmmaker can do. The scene before this, however, ensures none will be had since the police captain bails on his team in cartoonish fashion. Apparently, it's game over already and every man for themselves! So, we're left with a poor CGI imitation of a chopper (they couldn't afford to shoot a real helicopter?) panning into blanked-face S.T.A.R. personnel. Only the music saves this scene from severe eye-rolling.
Based on ticket sales a large number of RE fans opted not to see it in theaters. I myself can be included in this statistic. Conversely, the movie is worth a $2 Redbox evening. Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City features none of the characters from the video game franchise. Only their names make an appearance. If you view the film through his prism it’s not too bad. The script is laughable at times, and the CGI is dodgy, but you might find some enjoyment regardless.
To summarize: A popcorn worthy horror film with some nice moments, but largely misses the mark. If this film was anything but a Resident Evil video game adaptation one might say it's enjoyable and spunky, but the promise to stay close to the source material and venture off anyways will no doubt leave fans in the cold and dark.
The film deserved a 3/10, but earns two more points off Mark Korven's face-ripping score. The music is truly the stuff of childhood nightmares.