I went into watching Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City with no real expectations at all. Everything that I saw and heard about the movie leading to the release made it sound horrible. However, I was pleasantly surprised by it. Now, that doesn’t mean I walked away liking the movie, but all things considered, it could have been a lot worse.
This reboot? Remake? Reimagining? This other adaptation of the popular video game franchise Resident Evil, takes the main storyline of the first two video games and blends them into one movie. On paper, this sounds like garbage. After all, you’re taking two plots and making them one. Why would you do that? Just do one and then the other, right?
To be fair, the movie pulls it off pretty well. Both plots move along simultaneously but head for the same goal. I thought when I first heard about this, it was going to be too much. It was far from perfect, in fact, some of it was used just for padding but overall it worked out better than I expected. Then again, that bar wasn’t set too high.
There have been a lot of Resident Evil games over the years and many that I haven’t played. The ones I have played, I haven’t played in at least 15-20 years other than the Resident Evil 2 remake. That feels like a standalone game though. So when it comes to the overall story, I don’t remember too much. I bring this up because the movie does have elements from other games, such as the twins from Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (I think). I kind of assume this was done for future movies.
One of the aspects that worried me about Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City was the casting. It was poorly done overall, but I’d like to think that was more due to studio pressure than the director, Johannes Roberts. Then again, maybe not. I don’t know, I don’t have the energy anymore to bitch about casting characters purely to race or gender swap.
I still hate that it happens, but it’s not like it hasn’t been happening for decades now. Also, it’s not done terribly here. Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia) and Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) are basically the only two. Everyone else is cast basically to look like the video game counterparts.
The other reason I think I don’t care much is that the casting wasn’t great in general. That’s a bigger problem to me than making white characters a little darker. Robbie Amell is Chris Redfield and does a decent job. Although I can’t help feel like he’s a discount version of his brother Stephen Amell. It’s kind of like when you have one of Chris Hemsworth’s brothers is in a movie instead.
Robbie Amell certainly has the look. I constantly think of Chris Redfield from Resident Evil 5, where he’s the size of the Sears Tower. Amell handles the role fine enough, but then again, no one really is any good in the first place. They’re all serviceable, which is fine for a throwaway movie that has nothing to do with anything, but this is Resident Evil. These characters are well established at this point.
Kaya Scodelario plays the part of Claire Redfield. Like Amell, she does an OK job, but doesn’t make Claire standout at all. She comes off as kind of a badass, which is great, but otherwise seems pretty constrained. It might be due to how many characters are shoved into the movie, with multiple leads. She’s basically teamed up most of the movie with Leon. To go back to that, Leon is maybe the worst character in the movie. He’s a rookie cop, just like the game, but he’s made into kind of an idiot.
His whole character is basically a gullible buffoon and a major screw up. The whole reason he’s been transferred to Raccoon City is for messing up and shooting his partner. Everything about him seems out of character compared to the games. I guess that was the best excuse they could make for him coming to Raccoon City.
Raccoon City is a dying town now and everyone is leaving, except apparently for poor people. So it doesn’t make any sense to have new police recruits sent there. Still, they should have done better by Leon as a character.
Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) is maybe the most bizarre character. I don’t really know how to put it into words. He has the most developed character arc of anyone. It doesn’t just turn out he’s a bad guy working with Umbrella or anything like that. He is, but he actually cares about his team and hates that he’s basically screwing them over. All of his urgency seems to come from messages he gets from a beeper. He feels shoehorned in, which doesn’t make sense, seeing as he’s one of the main characters in the whole series.
Yes, I did say beeper. This movie takes place in 1998 and it goes out of its way to remind you of that. The movie tells you front and center the year it takes place in, but I guess that wasn’t enough. A lot of modern movies treat viewers as if they have the short-term memory of a goldfish, why should this be any different?
As I said, the movie does a pretty good job of handling the story of the first two games simultaneously. It follows them beat for beat in most ways, which is good, but maybe it’s done too well. It follows to a fault. That takes away some of the tension and makes many scenes predictable. If you’ve never played Resident Evil games or only dabbled in them, you might be better off.
It’s kind of hard to criticize the movie for sticking to what happens in the games, but maybe not do it so heavy-handedly? The Paul W. S. Anderson movies were completely out of touch with the games until the later movies. AT that point they became glorified cosplay, but at least you didn’t know what was going to happen just because you’re a fan of the games. Not to say his movies weren’t predictable.
I don’t want to find fault here, because I know how it sounds. Hating movies based on game franchises because they’re too far removed from the source, then bitch about another movie for staying too close to the game franchise? It’s a recipe for being dickish, I know.
There’s also a lack of zombies. There are some, sure, but they’re largely in the background and pose no real threat. They’re few and far between and often used for jump scares. It kind of feels like The Walking Dead with how they’re used, and rarely seen.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City did some good things and I admire that about it. I went in expecting trash and it wasn’t. Again though, I didn’t like it. The story was predictable because it stuck to the games to a fault and the characters were poorly portrayed by either bad acting, bad writing, or both. When comparing it to the other movies, it’s not half bad, but when looking at it as a fan of the games, it tried… but failed.