REVIEW: RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY (2021, Sony)

Paul W.S Anderson’s 6-film live action series came to an end in 2017 with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. While the video games continue to progress across generations of consoles, the live action films appeared to have died. However, British director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Strangers: Prey At Night) embarked on an ambitious project to reboot the original film and bring Resident Evil back to the big screen. Now in 2021, while he fight out our own pandemic, Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is released in cinemas nationwide.

The film starts by showing Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) and her brother Chris (Robbie Amell) who are living as children at Raccoon City Orphanage run by Umbrella Corporation scientist Dr William Birkin (Neal McDonough). Claire is visited late at night by a creepy figure who her brother tells her to ignore. Claire’s curiosity gets the better of her as she wants to find out more, leading to her first acquaintance with Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa), a tortured soul with a heart wrenching back story which will change her opinion of Umbrella forever…

The scene cuts out and we move to 1998 and the opening scene of Resident Evil 2 video game is recreated in all its guts and glory. As a fan of the video games since my childhood I was instantly in awe seeing my gaming memories being brought back to life on screen. The locations looks exactly how I remembered them especially the Police Station, Mansion and the streets of Raccoon City. The attention to detail in the location sets has to be commended for its accuracy and closeness to the video games. Watching the film was like playing the game albeit with less backtracking and puzzle solving…

The film tries to stay as close to the source material of the games as much as possible, something Paul W.S. Anderson failed to do with his efforts. However, Johannes Roberts tries to combine the storylines of two video games into one standalone movie with a few unique twists and turns. For the most part it works, there is never a dull moment and the plot is constantly moving. Unfortunately, sometimes it moves so fast between characters and locations that you aren’t given much time to admire the scenery or look for hidden easter eggs. Resident Evil (2002) had better pacing but Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City (2021) has a better storyline and wears the source materials closer to its skin…

I was eagerly anticipating seeing the next room and scenarios as the film progressed but also sad to be leaving at the same time. Welcome To Raccoon City is a blast with its frantic pace, stunning locations and impressive CGI but I kept wanting it to slow itself down and give itself a moment to catch its breath. Despite its fast pace and action heavy sequences there is still plenty of horror and solid character development. This is quite possibly the best live-action survival horror adaptation of the Resident Evil franchise I’ve seen and I hope it stays true to its horror roots in the subsequent sequels which will no doubt follow.

In terms of the characterisation, most of the cast are portrayed well against their video game counterparts but there are a few mis-castings along the way. I thought Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) and Dr William Birkin (Neal McDonough) were the real stars of the show with amazing performances. Former Skins actor Kaya Scodelario was good as Claire Redfield but the performance felt flat during some of the key scenes. Robbie Amell was good as Chris Redfield but lacked intensity. The film really dropped the ball with Jill Valentine (Hannah-John Kakem) & Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia) who looked like terrible cosplayers and barely resembled who they were supposed to be. Leon is portrayed as a useless rookie; yes, it is his first day in the job but he was never as daft as this in the games…

Welcome To Raccoon City is by no means a perfect movie but it crammed in so many references to the game that I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I normally favour practical effects over CGI but this is a rare instance where I thought the special effects looked so good that I wasn’t disappointed. There are plenty of zombies and zombie dogs with plenty of rounds fired to deal with them. The licker looked fantastic and very creepy; something which the original film failed to do.

The music stayed true to the time period, as did the phone’s being used by the actors and the weapons at their disposal. It felt like a trip down memory lane and I absolutely loved it. It took me back to late late sessions playing the games. I felt the film served its purpose and gave as much as it could to please fans of the franchise. Infact, at times it may have given too much in its first outing.

Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is a fine tribute to the source material and gives fans of the franchise something to enjoy. Johannes Roberts has taken a dead-horse live action film series and given it a new lease of life. You won’t need herbs to enjoy this one, it is a glorious reboot that will hopefully give birth to many new sequels. Long live Resident Evil.

Score: 4/5

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