Review: RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, An Enjoyable Enough Ride
The franchise returns with enough stunts and monsters to keep the audience entertained.
Given the cross-over in aesthetics and storytelling techniques in cinema and video games (the former as an influence on the latter in the beginning, but the influence can be said to go both ways in recent years), there's always the main question(s) that hang over the film version of a video game: will I like it as much as the game? They are still two different mediums, and while there are definitely a lot of good film adaptations of games, there is also the risk of too much fan service, of indulging in 'look, here's a moment from the games' that ends up being empty (due to the lack of controller in the audience's hand). You don't necessarily want to complete alienate your fan base, but at the same time, you need to keep them happy.
Given that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is the seventh film in the franchise, it stands to reason that the series has been popular not just among film fans, but fans of the game as well. That being said, this film is coming in with a lot of new creative voices both behind and in front of the camera, essentially a reboot. And while it might not quite provide enough information for those unfamiliar with the previous films or the game, this is a (surprisingly) decent film; entertaining enough, with some good action and nods to the game which blend pretty seamlessly with the narrative.
It's the late 1990s, and Claire Redfield is hitching a ride from a truck driver on a rainy night. She's returning to Raccoon City, a company town in the midst of being abandoned by both Umbrella Corporation and its more affluent populous. She's going to see her estranged brother, Chris; he and his fellow few police officers Albert Wesker, Jill Valentine, Leon Kennedy, and their captain, Chief Irons, are the skeleton crew, set to watch over this last insane night in the doomed city. Meanwhile, Dr. Birken is racing to protect his precious research. For, as he and Wesker receive secret intel, the city is going to be levelled at 6am.
The story involves much of the narrative from the first two games; as I say, if you're unfamilair with the franchise, a few sentences of explanation should suffice to catch you up sufficiently to follow the story. And (whether deliberately or not) it feels a bit timely: a pharmaceutical company has been using locals as guinea pigs, then when it's not longer convenient, decides to abandon these people and the town that relied on them. Claire knows something is up, hence her return to seek out the local conspiracy theorist (who turns out to be right). While Wesker and Valentine investigate a disturbance at the local abandoned mansion and Wesker reveals his involvement in helping conspirators expose Umbrella, Leon is trying to hold down the police station, with his surly Chief (a brilliant Donal Logue) and Claire, while the zombies or monsters or whatever it is the townspeople have become threaten to overrun them.
The story keeps a pretty steady pace: the action starts just about at the beginning, with a hit-and-run (except the victim isn't dead, of course, this is Resident Evil), and the story, as it is put together, makes sense and works within the time frame of the six hours through the night. We can definitely guess the larger points that will happen, but the ride is agreeable enough. There are nice nods to moments in the games, such as certain locations, character actions, weapons, and the appearance of memorable monsters. And yet nothing feels forced or slotted in just for the sake of fan service. A decent horror film needs good scares and good action, and this film provides.
The monster effects are solid, as the photo above shows, and another transformation that I'll let the viewer discover - suffice to say it's both scary and gross. I'll tip my hat to the actors - they never force their performances nor just phone it in. Considering that several of them are playings roles that have in previous films been performed by others (and some names like Iain Glenn and Wentworth Miller), I never doubted them and was rooting for them to at least escape the disaster (well, except maybe Wesker); they knew how to handle the action and I believed the camaraderie between them. Especially Logue, who seems to be having a fun time with the material, and they took it as seriously as it needed to be without pushing too hard.
It's also got a killer soundtrack, for those of use old enough to remember some good late 90s tunes. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City isn't breaking new ground, for the franchise or otherwise, but it's an entertaining horror-action film, with a clear eye to a sequel, and pays decent homage to the games without relying on the material to keep the story going.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
- Johannes Roberts
- Johannes Roberts
- Kaya Scodelario
- Robbie Amell
- Hannah John-Kamen