Back to Raccoon City we go, then, only this time things will be a bit different for this isn’t the same beast – quite literally in some ways – as we’ve been used to. The previous iterations of Resident Evil, the hugely popular video game series from Capcom, actually went down a treat in terms of the box office (over $1.2billion and change over the course of six films is certainly impressive) but for fans, the series, started and finished by Paul W.S. Anderson, was lacking in many areas, not least its detours from the original games, and that did not sit well at all.
Still, a franchise was born, and after 2017’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (ironically the highest worldwide grosser of the series), thoughts moved to revamp it to give fans something a bit more definitive so step forward filmmaker Johannes Roberts, a self-confessed fan, to bring a new, darker, wetter interpretation to the fore that while much more faithful is sadly slightly perfunctory in nature. This time around, we are heading to Raccoon City and back to 1998 (the time of the first game) with both the tactical police force at the heart of the games – STARS – led by Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) and Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia), as well as Chris’ sister Claire (Kaya Scodelario) all brought together as the dark, sinister history of the town and the infamous Umbrella Corporation is about to be buried before their secrets – that of experiments leading to zombies and horrific human mutations – are revealed. You know, the usual small-town stuff.
What is notable about this version of Resident Evil is Roberts’ passion and genuine love of the games and visual material: you can feel the games coming to life in ways that they haven’t before, with his dark, muted colour palette and energetic camerawork working well in tandem to bring those ferocious and genuinely terrifying images fans know and love to life on the big screen. However, doing such a literal adaptation such as this has its downside, too, and while the care and precision are there it leads the film down the wrong path, stripping it of any real tension or scares and undoing all the good work technically with a flawed and ultimately dull adaptation. His winning cast, led by the always brilliant Scodelario, do their best to try to inject their own energy and humour to proceedings but even they struggle to keep their feet as the cracks begin to show, particularly in its decidedly dull final act that becomes more pastiche than “faithful” adaptation.
The question, ultimately, is whether Welcome To Raccoon City is a worthy successor/follow-up to what has gone before and strangely it probably is – just about- given how, despite its huge global success, none of the previous six films were at all memorable and, in some cases, just downright awful. But while fans will get a kick out of the 2.0 version and see much of their formative years of playing the games on-screen, it still isn’t the definitive adaptation that many had hoped for. They may well fancy dusting off the old GameCube instead.
Horror, Thriller | Cert: 18 | Sony Pictures U#K | Cinemas: 3rd December 2021 | Dir. Johannes Roberts | Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, Neal McDonaugh