Resident Evil is one of my all-time favorite video game franchises but it is also something that I can honestly say no one has ever experienced for their deep and meaningful plots. It’s not that the games don’t have interesting plots, it’s just that they’re deliberately cheesy and B-movie like.
I say this as someone who proudly admits that he read the S.D. Perry novelizations of the games in the Nineties that is probably the absolute worst way to experience the franchise. The Umbrella Corporation is the stupidest corporation of all time in terms of making money and poor safety standards, even exceeding Aperture Science and Omni Consumer Products.
Nevertheless, there’s been people who have always wanted a more faithful adaptations of the games than the pre-existing Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil movies. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for them alongside the Underworld movies. I don’t ask much more from my films than the stunning lead kicking all sorts of monster butt. Yes, they’re terrible but they’re also fun and that is the spirit of the Resident Evil franchise. Which brings us to the story of Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City and the question of, “How faithful should a video game be?”
It’s not a perfect adaptation of the video games, far from it. Indeed, there will undoubtedly be some fans who are upset that Barry Burton is missing, there’s no Mr. X, and there are two Doctor Birkins working for the Umbrella Corporation (not just her dad) you sexist pigs! FYI, that was a joke. You never can tell on the internet these days. Either way, though, it is about a thousand times closer to the video games and is so full of Easter Eggs and references that I’m not sure it’s possible to stuff more into the film.
The premise of Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City is Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) heading to Racoon City to visit her brother, Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), when she discovers the town is overrun by zombies. Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) is in over his head, especially when Chief Irons (Donal Logue) decides to skip town in the middle of the crisis. We also get a flashback to the assault on the Spencer Mansion by Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) and Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper). Add in William Birkin (Neal McDonough) trying to escape with his family.
The recreation of Racoon City and the Spencer Mansion in Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City is fantastic with all of the actors doing a fine job with the material. Chief Irons is not quite the serial killing monster he is in the games but still pretty damn evil and enjoyable as a foil to Leon. He clearly knows SOMETHING is happening and doesn’t care about the people.
Wesker is way too empathetic and actually causes me to confuse him with Chris Redfield at times, especially given Tom Hopper’s chemistry with Hannah John Kamen. They seem to have combined his and Barry’s roles in the story to poor effect. Did this movie need David Harbour as Barry Burton? No, but it feels like it would have been the cherry on a perfect sundae.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City kind of wavers between subtler horror movie and conspiracy thriller, with a surprising lack of action. It’s just kind of funny because any gamer, who will be the movie’s primary audience, already knows all of the twists and turns. Also, there’s big enough changes (like Claire and Jill’s meeting plus the inclusion of Lisa Trevor) that will prevent a 100% faithful adaptation. It’s still about 80%, though, and I enjoyed it greatly. If you’re not a die-hard fan of Resident Evil, a lot of the references will go over your head and you’ll definitely benefit from having recently played Resident Evil 2’s Remake.