You know by now about the disdain I have for the Resident Evil films and Paul W.S. Anderson in particular. He may have an identifiable style, but that style is nauseating and disgusting to my personal visual palette. So, thank goodness he’s only an executive producer for the series’ much needed reboot. I think the reason people have stuck with Resident Evil as a potentially great film franchise is because of just how deep and complex it is from other zombie series. What I was hoping for from Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City was a reboot was a celebration of not only a return to form for the video games, but a film series rising from the ashes in capable hands. Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
But before that, I have to address at least some positives in Welcome to Raccoon City and I suppose the most obvious positive for anyone who also despises the Resident Evil franchise of Paul W.S. Anderson is how this film is so unlike his Resident Evil films. The millions cut a second, strobe lighting visuals are now a thing of the past so audiences can now actually see action scenes instead of developing epilepsy. You don’t get the sense that the film is rushing either, so you get an actual build-up to scarier scenes rather than pushing you into the thick of it.
Fans will be happy that Welcome to Raccoon city follows the video games much closer so there will be plenty to dissect in the form of nods to the video games. But the biggest fan satisfaction is that the characters of the games are the actual main characters. No more Milla Jovovich as the seemingly immortal Alice, now we follow Kaya Scodelario as Claire Redfield who I have to say does a pretty good job. I did expect the film to make compromises with the characters, and I was to an extent proven right, but Kaya plays her role pretty convincingly. I’ll even say that the sets are impressive. The Spencer Mansion in particular is fantastically close to the video game and people who were sent to scout for locations on this film should really give themselves a pat on the back.
It’s a shame the rest of the film doesn’t share her convincingness. If you thought this film marked a new era for Resident Evil films, you are dead wrong. I’m almost on the fence as to whether the filmmakers truly dissected the source material because while Claire is pretty close to her video game counterpart, other characters are far from it. Case in point Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia). By no means this is the fault of Jogia, but while yes, Leon is the rookie cop of Raccoon City like he is in the video games, he is often the butt of his cop buddies and isn’t taken seriously. Even in the action scenes, he acts like a buffoon with impenetrable plot armour. What a way to respect one of the series’ most beloved characters.
While the style of Paul W.S Anderson is out of the window, his dark arts are still at work here. We may not have his branded B-Movie way of filmmaking, but Welcome to Raccoon City has something in abundance, which is just as annoying. Timestamps. Timestamps galore in Welcome to Raccoon City, just a couple of times is tolerable, but they seem to keep coming every twenty minutes and it can be really infuriating when you’re trying to get invested. The strobe lighting even makes a very brief appearance when Claire’s brother Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) has only a lighter to see in the dark corridors of the Spencer Mansion, whilst zombies are all around him. Honestly, if there wasn’t a chair to sit on, I’d be on my knees shouting “Noo! We we’re so close!”.
The film also tries to be funny with references to the ’90s like PalmPilot, Pagers and Blockbuster just to name a few, and none of them land. Thank goodness the trend of referencing the ’80s has gone away because if this film thinks it can start the 90’s reference trend, it has already killed it dead.
Thinking outside of the box, I believe that Paul W.S Anderson’s Resident Evil films were just a case of very bad timing. As the film was doing terribly, so was the video game series. The name Resident Evil had become a bitter taste in fans mouths, especially by the sixth game in the series which has effectively killed the series dead with its action-orientated gameplay. But now with RE7 and 8, the name has much more respect to its name thanks to a return to its roots. Whilst Welcome to Raccoon City does tell an origin story, it is still in the mindset that people want zombie-killing action. They’re wrong. The world of Resident Evil is rife with exploration and as RE7 and 8 have proven, suspense and dread is the way to go.
Though it also raises the question after six failed attempts and now this, is it time to give up on Resident Evil films, or continue searching for the right director to do it justice?
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
Have you seen Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: West Side Story