Warning: we’re going to go deep with SPOILERS for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. If you’re looking to see the film unspoiled, you might want to head into another piece of coverage that doesn’t give away the secrets.
The first time I saw the trailer for writer/director Johannes Roberts’ Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, I was really excited. Sony’s big reboot of the landmark Capcom survival horror franchise seemed to actually be taking the time to be a more accurate representation of the games. Even the fact that they were drawing from two different entries to make one cinematic experience didn’t phase me all that much, as the sight of Spencer Mansion and the RPD police department felt nice and cozy.
Unfortunately, I actually saw the movie, and most of those good feelings went away pretty quickly. Actually, my worries started to grow before I set foot in the theater, as I’d noticed the marketing campaign was focusing on those easter eggs and recreations of locations from the first two games rather intently. That fear only progressed throughout my viewing, and it’s only part of why Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City really bothered me as a fan of the games. Let’s dive into my issues and why they bugged me so much.
Mixing The Events Of Resident Evil 1 And 2 Was A Big Mistake
It only poked my brain ever so slightly when it was first announced that the first two entries in the Resident Evil canon were being combined to make this movie’s narrative. A creative enough storyteller could theoretically toss out the two-month gap between the respective adventures of the Spencer Mansion investigation of RE1 and the RPD escape in RE2. In this special case, that theory is horrifically disproven.
There’s a lot that goes on in both games mined for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. So much so that an almost two-hour movie isn’t going to nearly cover enough of the story to make it compelling to fans, or even outsiders. It’s tempting to throw Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) and Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), as well as Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) and Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) into the same movie. If you don’t do it right, two really rich stories become shallow and flat excuses to play with the characters everyone loves. That leads to the next huge misstep in this house of horrors.
Some Wild Choices Were Made To Important Resident Evil Characters
Two of the most chilling villains in Resident Evil history are turned into inept clowns in Welcome to Raccoon City. By no means do I lay this at the feet of either Donal Logue or Tom Hopper, as their respective performances as Chief Brian Irons and Albert Wesker are sterling for the material they’ve been given. However, the writing for both Irons and Wesker totally gutted their original purposes in the games.
Resident Evil is a survival horror thriller, mixed in with a conspiracy plotline. Characters who seem on the up and up initially can be outed as total monsters at any given time, as seen with both Chief Irons and Albert Wesker in the source games. Wesker in particular is a traitor who's been planted firmly in the Umbrella higher-ups the whole damned time; seeing as he helped create some of their greatest bioweapons. In Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, Albert is merely in it for the money, apologizing to Jill and trying to convince her to join him in escaping. Even his post-credit revival casts him as the innocent pawn, rather than the ruthless bastard Wesker's always been known to be.
Chief Irons was an especially cruel cut in this recent adaptation, because once I’d read that Donal Logue was cast as this absolute piece of work, my hopes rose ever higher. A character who's corrupt to the core, Irons has been linked to everything from taking bribes and sexual assault to flat out serial killings in the game canon. In the movie, all we get is a superior who likes to yell at his subordinates while bumbling about and delivering monologues that are firmly written to remind us this movie takes place in 1998. Again, Donal Logue and Tom Hopper receive no blame for this, and if you were to tell me they were being given a mulligan to replay these characters in a proper adaptation, I’d be really damned happy. Particularly with Mr. Logue, who, for the record, really does sell the hell out of that monologue busting Leon Kennedy’s chops.
Other Characters/Creatures Didn’t Even Show Up
If you’re going to make a game as memorable as Resident Evil 2 into a movie, there are certain monstrosities from the Umbrella Corporation’s bestiary that need to make an appearance. Paul W.S. Anderson even understood this when he made 2002’s Resident Evil, as he ended that initial foray with a big fat cliffhanger promising Nemesis in the next round. While Welcome to Raccoon City doesn’t have to make such promises, as Nemesis doesn’t come into the game canon until Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, it does skip out on using one of the most iconic monsters from Capcom’s second installment: Mr. X.
A variant of the Tyrant bioweapon that should have appeared as part of Resident Evil 1’s half of the adaptation, Mr. X would have been a perfect opportunity to unite a fan favorite piece of RE canon. We don’t get any Tyrants this time out, but thankfully, we do get a Licker. Then again, the creatures aren’t the only problem with this mess of an adaptation.
Whole members of the S.T.A.R.S. team are missing in the Resident Evil reboot, most notably fellow traitor/aid to Jill Valentine Barry Burton and easy prequel bait Rebecca Chambers. Victims of the gutting to Resident Evil 1’s story, they aren’t even present in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. Though to be honest, as we’ve seen above and will see again, it’s not like showing up in this movie meant a character was going to be treated properly to begin with.
Good Luck Trying To Make A Faithful Adaptation Of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Why would anyone want an adaptation of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis? Is it because it takes place in the same 24-48 hour period as Resident Evil 2? Maybe it’s the creature that lends its name to the title? Or perhaps it’s because Jill Valentine would have been given so much more room to grow as a character in an adventure that focuses on her? These questions are kind of self-defeating, as a faithful adaptation of the 1999 game is impossible thanks to the decisions made in this film.
If there were any justice in this world, we would have seen Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis combined into a singular film; just as the source games would have made possible. Having Jill Valentine and Carlos Oliveria run into Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield would have been a more natural fit than what we got in Screen Gems’ reboot, as the pieces were already laid out. Instead, we got a Jill who pines after Albert Wesker and barely gets to kick any ass. Score another point for the previous run of films, warts and all.
Did Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City Do Anything Right?
I know I’ve taken up a lot of your time grousing about Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City’s faults, and I do slightly apologize. Only slightly, because the header said it all, and you’ve read this far on your own free will, my friends. So to round things off, I’d like to talk about the things that the movie actually got right; because it can’t all be venom and bioweapons, can it?
The cast assembled for this movie deserved a much better film than they were given, as outside of the questionable structure of their characters as written, I enjoyed these performances. Even Neal McDonaugh’s hammy performance as a mutating Dr. William Birkin is fun to watch, with the creature design remaining as gruesome as you would have hoped. Plus, while they turn Leon S. Kennedy into a stock inept rookie who was banished to the RPD for shooting his partner in the ass during training, Avan Jogia’s moment of glee with that rocket launcher balanced the scales tipped against his character from the beginning.
I do also appreciate the sentiment behind getting the look and feel of Raccoon City just right in this movie, as well as the fact that this movie brought the John Carpenter font back out of retirement. There are a lot of ways Resident Evil’s cinematic return could have gone right, and seeing those threads scattered like easter eggs throughout what we eventually got is all the more upsetting.
Maybe I just need to give Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City some time to settle, at which point I can revisit it with fresh eyes. First viewings can be the harshest for a movie with a fandom like this, and even though I dismissed some of the Paul W.S. Anderson era films upon first viewing, I somewhat came around to some of them eventually. At this particular junction in time, I’m very bothered with this adaptation of Resident Evil; and it’s making me worry even more about the Netflix live-action series, which has all around badass Lance Reddick cast as Albert Wesker.
I’ll leave you all with the disclaimer that not everyone disliked Welcome to Raccoon City. If you’re even the slightest bit curious about the film, or if you want to give it another look, it’s in theaters now and I encourage you to research your own conclusions. Just don’t expect Annette or Sherry Birkin to be anywhere near as important to the plot as they were in the games.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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