CAST: Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Neal McDonough, Lily Gao, Chad Rook, Marina Mazepa
RUNNING TIME: 107 mins
BASICALLY…: After the town of Raccoon City is ravaged by a great evil, a group of survivors try and infiltrate the mysterious Umbrella Corporation…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
I am so not the best person to be reviewing Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, for not only have I never played a Resident Evil game in my life, but I also haven’t seen a single one of the Milla Jovovich-starring movie series based on said video game franchise. Thus, I cannot tell you with complete sincerity how it compares to either the previous films or the games – which I hear this film is much more faithful to than the other film adaptations – because, frankly, I know next to nothing about any of it.
That leaves me to more or less look at this movie as its own, separate product – and I can say that you don’t need to have watched the previous movies or played the games (well, maybe you do in this case) to determine how unentertainingly dull this movie is to watch, because unless you’re already well-versed in the mythos of Resident Evil, there isn’t much at all to get invested in or excited about.
The film takes place in 1998, over the course of one night in the derelict location of Raccoon City, which was once home to the pharmaceutical conglomerate known as the Umbrella Corporation, but is now a virtual ghost town save for a small police force and limited citizens. It is also where Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) returns, years after she left her cop brother Chris (Robbie Amell) there when they were both living at the local orphanage, to investigate rumours surrounding Umbrella’s true intentions with the townsfolk. Pretty soon, all hell breaks loose as a virus starts infecting people and turning them into undead monsters, forcing our heroes to survive the night while also figuring out what exactly Umbrella’s role is in everything.
Again, I can only get into what I think of this movie as just a movie, and not a reboot of a popular movie franchise based on a video game series, so with that in mind I mostly found this to be a massive bore of a zombie movie. It fails to take off because writer-director Johannes Roberts – despite his movie, based purely on what I’ve heard from other reviewers, being much closer to the spirit and tone of the games than the Milla Jovovich movies – paces his movie so slow that it never entirely feels as though we’ve actually progressed that far in the plot; by the time it becomes apparent we’ve entered the third act, very little has been established that it feels like we’re still in the phase of introducing and establishing certain character arcs. The plodding plot is made more noticeable because there’s never a good enough reason to care about the characters, whose personalities could all be interchanged with one another and nothing would be amiss, with a number of the performances not being good enough to carry a lot of the wooden dialogue they have to utter.
The effects used for the zombies are okay, but they’re not massively interesting designs to make you feel truly scared of them. The film in and of itself lacks that truly frightening appeal, because most of it is comprised of scares that are clearly telegraphed, or accompanied by distracting musical stingers that take away from the dark, mildly eerie atmosphere. You’re not emotionally invested enough in this story or these characters to even warrant a scream, leaving you to just sit there with your arms crossed and impatiently waiting for the next big scare to come so that the movie can finally move forward. That’s pretty much how I was throughout this film, just sitting in my seat and not being affected in any way by what was happening on the screen; occasionally, there would be a decent shot and a fun use of soundtrack choices, but mostly I was just so unentertained by how lame the fundamental storytelling techniques it was using were, which regardless of whether you’ve played the games or not should at least be fun enough to watch as a viewer, which this really wasn’t.
My guess is that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City plays best to people who do know the games inside and out, since you can tell that Roberts is also a major fan of the series and does his best to insert familiar characters or certain iconography for eagle-eyed viewers to point out. Good for them, I guess, but that leaves little else for uninitiated viewers like myself, who can only summarise based on the dour and unengaging narrative that this movie operates around, and so it is much more isolating a viewing experience unless you know your Resident Evil lore inside and out.
Either way, based purely on how dull and unentertaining this movie is, it doesn’t exactly make me want to check out these games any time soon.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a dull and unentertaining zombie horror to anyone who has very little experience with the original games, who might appreciate how much more faithful this version is than past adaptations, but for everyone else there’s staggeringly little to get invested in or excited about.