I have a very strong love-hate relationship with the Paul WS Anderson Resident Evil movies. I do love them because they’re mindless entertainment fodder you can turn off your brain and watch mindless action which doesn’t make a lick of sense. However, I also hate them with a passion because they never took the source material seriously and essentially became Resident Evil In Name Only (REINO, for short). It did its own thing and I’m glad it’s over and done with. Now, can we get a real Resident Evil movie?
Oh, there actually is a new live-action Resident Evil movie called Welcome to Raccoon City? Well, it can’t be as bad as the old series of REINO flicks. Can it?
The film was released a while ago but I only recently watched it as it’s now available on Netflix. However, I know, based on the movie’s box-office records, a lot of folks are wary of seeing it. So, even if it’s been out for a while now, this will still be a SPOILER FREE review.
Anyway, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City takes place in 1998 in the titular town. The former bustling city is now just a shell of its former glory as the pharmaceutical conglomerate Umbrella is slowly moving its headquarters to a new location. Claire Redfield, who ran away from the city years ago, returns to warn her brother, STARS Operative Chris Redfield, of a possible conspiracy involving Umbrella and how they’ve slowly been poisoning the city’s water supply due to their negligence. After she delivers the warning, Chris and the entire STARS team is sent to the Spencer mansion to investigate an incident and, at the same time, the zombie outbreak starts, leading Claire to head to the Raccoon City Police Department to better her chances of survival.
Welcome to Raccoon definitely has more love for the Capcom games than the previous Resident Evil movies. This is clearly evident as there are a lot of scenes and locations directly lifted from the first game as well as Resident Evil 2 Remake. The facades of some of the locations, such as the Raccoon City Police Station and the Orphanage looks so much like the entrances from Resident Evil 2 Remake, I wouldn’t be surprised if the producers of the film went to Capcom and asked for the game assets! There are even some scenes which more than just paid homage to the games as they were almost shot-for-shot recreations. As a fan of the games, I really loved picking out all these Easter Eggs and references, no matter how small they are.
This movie also has a more, well, survival horror feel to the older Resident Evil films, which was more focused on over-the-top, bombastic action rather than trying to scare you. There were some moments when the action would slow down in order to ratchet up the tension of some impending doom just looming around the corner. They even selected some really good camera angles to make sure the thing that’s going to jump out is just out of frame or the lights never illuminate the area enough so you can get a clear look at what it is. I can appreciate these scenes are the games generally feel this way. Then again, these scenes weren’t exactly frightening but at least it tried.
Unfortunately, while Welcome to Raccoon City does pay its respect to the Capcom’s older survival horror games when it comes to the general atmosphere and the locations, the same cannot be said for how it deals with the characters. I get sometimes you have to rewrite the characters’ backstories and personalities to make them work for movies. However, the rewrites have to make sense and, for the majority of the characters in Welcome to Raccoon City, they don’t! Claire Redfield and Chief Irons had some changes to their stories which work to the movie’s advantage. The rest, which includes Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and Albert Wesker, just didn’t work. The worst case of character assassination definitely goes to Leon S. Kennedy as it’s like the writers heard he’s a “rookie cop” and just wrote the character like that instead of focusing on how he behaves in the games he’s in. It’s atrocious how Leon is here!
The script and the dialog is also incredibly terrible but I can’t really describe what makes it bad. It’s like whatever they’re saying doesn’t feel like what a person would say in real life. Maybe that’s because they have to espouse a lot of exposition and it doesn’t come off as natural. It also doesn’t help most of the acting across the board is so wooden and cheesy! There wasn’t a scene where I believed any of the performances and there were even times when it was like I was watching an amateur improv group who were thrown for a loop when someone mentioned the scene happens in Resident Evil!
It also doesn’t help the action scenes, what little they have here, just doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping. They feel incredibly short so, once the action starts, it’s over in just a minute or two. Even the ones that are long, you never feel like anyone’s in danger because it’s usually just a person shooting at zombies, sometimes zombies that are off-screen! Some of them don’t even make sense as there are a couple of times when you see our heroes seemingly about to be overwhelmed by zombies and then it cuts to them being okay! Did I miss something?
I also have to mention the soundtrack as I have to question the use of licensed music. I guess it’s supposed to be more immersive as these are the tunes of the time period. However, it just takes me out of the movie and, thinking about it a little bit, putting these songs don’t really enhance the movie in anyway. If anything, it’s distracting as it breaks my immersion as the song choices don’t really work for the scenes they’re in.
Overall, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is not a well-made movie. Even so, I can’t deny I enjoyed watching this piece of garbage. Maybe it’s because it takes so many cues from the games so I can’t help but be enamored with how many references it manages to squeeze in this 107-minute film. The really cheesy dialog and acting gives it a B-movie feel, which I think is apt for a Resident Evil movie as the games do pay homage to them in a way. It does, at the very least, try to emulate the games, which is a whole lot more than you can say than the original REINO attempts. I guess if you love the games or simply enjoy bad movies in an ironic way, you’ll probably want to spend some time with Welcome to Raccoon City.
Have you seen Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!