"Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" stars Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Avan Jogia, Tom Hopper, Neal McDonough, and Donal Logue. Released on November 24, 2021, the film has a group of people surviving a zombie outbreak.
The film was written and directed by Johannes Roberts, who also directed films such as "Hellbreeder", "The Other Side of the Door", "47 Meters Down", and "The Strangers: Prey at Night". It serves as a reboot of the "Resident Evil" film series, which is based on the video game series of the same name by Capcom. It looks like someone was late for the Halloween party. While the families got together to celebrate Thanksgiving, these people came together to battle the undead. When it comes to video games, "Resident Evil" has always been known for its compelling stories, characters, and creepy horror imagery. Unfortunately, the franchise is also known for its slew of mediocre but successful film adaptations that were as brainless as the zombies themselves. With how much money these movies made, it should come as no surprise that Hollywood wants to keep the undead train going, whether we like it or not. It wasn't that long ago when Paul W.S. Anderson concluded the far-fetched video-game-based franchise in cruddy fashion with "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter". A movie so headache-inducing and so cheesy that it made me feel dead inside. Despite its issues and the title, that film was successful enough for Hollywood to continue the franchise with a reboot that looks more faithful to the games than its predecessors. I haven't played a single "Resident Evil" game throughout my life, mainly because I get easily scared with horror games compared to horror movies. However, my experience with the films is good enough to look into this latest installment of the famous zombified franchise. So was this film scary and fun enough to get the series back on track, or was it proof that it should've stayed dead? Let's find out.
The film centers on Claire Redfield (Scodelario), a young woman who returns to Raccoon City to reunite with her brother Chris (Amell). Claire attempts to warn Chris that the Umbrella Corporation has poisoned the city's water, causing the people to experience unpleasant side effects. Claire and Chris will have to survive against the horde of flesh-eating zombie-like creatures and escape the city before it gets decimated. During the process, they join forces with rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy (Jogia) and STARS members Jill Valentine (John-Kamen) and Albert Wesker (Hopper). The "Resident Evil" films have been known for straying a bit too far from the games by focusing solely on Milla Jovovich's character Alice (who was created for the movies) and making them overblown, mindless action blockbusters. "Welcome to Raccoon City" seeks to fix those problems by focusing on the games' characters and adapting the stories from the first two "Resident Evil" games. This means that things are about to get a whole lot darker. These elements should please fans who didn't like the direction from the previous films, but it also needs something to lure in casual audiences. With the exception of "Detective Pikachu" and "Sonic the Hedgehog", movies based on popular games usually fail to impress both audiences due to some of the changes made and the filmmaking qualities like direction and screenplay. "Welcome to Raccoon City" was able to maintain the elements that worked in the first two games, including the atmospheric horror vibes and grim tone. Unfortunately, they're not enough to help the film survive the zombie apocalypse. While it may prove to be a tolerable installment for fans of the series, the movie is nonetheless a murky and thinly-plotted reboot that once again struggles to connect with general audiences like its predecessors. Regarding the direction, Johannes Roberts had the right idea on what made "Resident Evil" a classic for gamers. The atmosphere in its production design was fittingly bleak and nightmarish, and the zombie and creature designs were appropriately accurate to the ones from the games. It felt like an authentic experience of being in the middle of an outbreak, similar to the games. However, Roberts lacked the consistent thrills needed to pack a horrifying punch in the scenarios despite getting the elements right. What started as a good mixture of fun B-movie horror antics and adult-rated zombie action slowly descents into an underwhelming cup of nostalgia juice that's packed with mediocre dialogue, bland characters, and forgettable action scenes. Well, there was one scene involving Chris fighting off the zombies in the dark that was nicely directed by Roberts. Other than that, the action sequences did very little to raise the tension in the horror vibes. Another thing that didn't sit with me was the third act. From its brief climactic showdown to an ending that screams "Is that it?", the finale was a brutal tease that rushed through specific plot points without any hint of satisfaction whatsoever. Instead of making me feel relieved, the third act made me feel like an insipid corpse. On a positive note, aside from the production design, the actors that played our favorite "Resident Evil" characters were just okay. They're far from awards-worthy, but they're also not highly horrendous, especially Kaya Scodelario and Robbie Amell as Claire and Chris Redfield, respectively. Avan Jogia also didn't do too bad as Leon Kennedy, even though he doesn't look anything like the character from the games. As for Tom Hopper as Albert Wesker, let's just say that he tried.
Overall, it's clear that "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" shows some love for the fans. Sadly, it forgot to share that love with casual moviegoers as well. Roberts did a suitable job at sticking close to the source material regarding its atmosphere and production design, unlike Paul W.S. Anderson's take on the franchise. Otherwise, it is another disappointing entry in the action-horror franchise. It's a film that's so busy catering to the fans, it forgot to provide a strong substance for newcomers to join in on the fun. Despite a fine cast, the film gets killed off rather quickly by a plague that's filled with weak dialogue, underwhelming sequences, bland characters, and a rushed finale. As someone who hasn't played the games, I don't think I'll be heading back to this zombie-infested world anytime soon.