Written by Patrick Hao
It has only been about five years since Paul W.S. Anderson’s final film in his Resident Evil series, a seminal group of films in the canonization of Anderson as a vulgar auteur. One might say it is entirely too soon to have a brand-new reboot of the popular Capcom video game series. But in our current day cultural climate, five years is entirely too long to let a popular series with any sort of cache lay dormant. Thankfully, we are lucky enough to have Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City be directed by Johannes Robert, a filmmaker who may slowly be making a name for himself amongst the popular B-movie auteurs, who infuses enough style and skill into the reboot that it is merely underwhelming rather than outright bad.
This reboot is a more faithful adaptation of the video game series than the Anderson films series ever was to the point that it is pointlessly set in the year 1998 – the same year that the first two Resident Evil games are set. The film follows Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) as she goes back to Raccoon City to look for her brother (Robbie Amell) because there is trouble afoot in this town that used to be dominated by a pharmaceutical company called Umbrella. Meanwhile, her brother, a member of the Racoon City Police Department is exploring the Spencer Mansion with his fellow officers Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) and Leon Kennedy (Avon Jogia). A zombie breakout soon occurs, as all the characters try to survive. We all know what Resident Evil is at this point.
Roberts, who had previously directed the better-than-they-should-be, The Strangers: Prey by Night, 47 Meters Down, and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, does not entirely rely on jump scares here. He creates an atmosphere that is filled with dread. His shot compositions suggest care. Unfortunately, the same care in composition is not given to the screenplay he wrote nor the production budget he has to work with. Rather than having a brisk sparse screenplay like a John Carpenter movie, the film is sunk by clunky exposition and fan service quips. If anything, the film does match the dialogue of an NPC in a video game series cheaply translated from Japanese to English.
It doesn’t help that the film is also filled with a cast of “who is that.” No offense to Kaya Scodelario, but there is a reason that Hollywood has spent ten years trying to groom her into a leading actress of worth only for her to star in a Resident Evil reboot. Her wooden bland charisma really just shows how great of a presence Milla Jovovich was twenty years ago. At least a game Donal Logue and Neal McDonough add much-needed presence and camp to supporting characters. However, this is not so much a movie but a collection of cut scenes from a video game.
In ten years, there might be a chance Johannes Robert will be amongst the names mentioned alongside Paul WS Anderson or Alejandro Aja as genre auteurs making “Termite Art.” He definitely has the panache of one. Resident Evil: Raccoon City, however, does not have the qualities that indicate it will be seen as an underappreciated classic.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City Trailer
Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City is currently available in wide theatrical release.