Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City: Review
Resident Evil Welcome to Racoon City Synopsis: Once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City is now a dying Midwestern town. The company’s exodus left the city a wasteland…with great evil brewing below the surface. When evil is unleashed, the townspeople are forever changed, and a small group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night.
While his bombastic style never suited critical interests, Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the few craftsmen to prosper in the dreaded video game movie subgenre. With Resident Evil, his six-film series forwent the brand’s favoring of atmospheric storytelling, using the horror sandbox as a platform for highly-stylized actioners that effectively danced around the game’s busy plotlines. I understand why fans still hold mixed feelings toward W.S. Anderson and his creations, but the director’s visual electricity behind the camera always drew me to his creative universe.
After a short reprieve, Hollywood is already resurrecting Resident Evil from the dead with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. Liberally combining elements of the first two games, Welcome to Raccoon City possesses an earnest appreciation for the franchise and its time-honored roots – but this spirited revival struggles to define its own lane amidst a flurry of fan-centric homages.
Still, Welcome to Raccoon City shines favorably compared to the muck of tasteless disasters that dominated the videogame movie-sphere for much of its existence (looking at you Uwe Boll). While he doesn’t imbue the same visceral vibrancy behind the camera as Anderson, new franchise helmer Johannes Roberts skillfully incorporates his pedigree in genre B-movies (47 Meters Down and Strangers: Prey at Night are vastly underrated).
From the desolate, rain-soaked dreariness of Raccoon City to the dimly-lit corridors of each close-quarters location, Roberts demonstrates expertise in eerie, atmospheric filmmaking. The director also showcases impressive ingenuity with his small-budget assets, utilizing practical make-up work and inventive stylistic wrinkles to mask the inherent limitations (a one-take shootout set to a familiar 80s rock tune is a particular standout). I think fans of the series will be pleased by Roberts’s dedication to the franchise, with the director showcasing a keen understanding of the visceral blood-drenched allures behind the franchise.
Unfortunately, the director’s strengths behind the camera do not translate to his listless screenplay. I am sympathetic to the difficulties of incorporating hours of lore and exposition into a truncated two-hour package – yet the decision to blend two games into one film leaves audiences with nothing to latch onto. Roberts creates a dull mishmash of franchise cornerstones, relying more upon fans recognizing familiar faces rather than delivering their personalities to the big-screen. I couldn’t even imagine watching this film as someone with no prior knowledge of the games. Without imprinting his own stamp on the brand, Roberts struggles to invest viewers into his half-baked reboot.
Welcome to Raccoon City never fully encompasses the games’ narrative strengths. Umbrella Corporations’ abusive practices and disenfranchisement of its neighboring community always stood as a deft depiction of pharmaceutical malpractice – but here – the thematic concept reduces to a few bluntly-formed lines that clumsily spell out the central conceits. The characters are similarly thankless in their construction. Aside from a few spirited performances from recognized character actors (Neal McDonough as the wicked William Birkin and Donal Logue as a foul-mouthed police chief steal the show), most of the cast deliver performances akin to cheap cosplay interpretations. It’s impossible to convey the soul of a property when the adaptation maintains little of its storytelling appeals.
Resident Evil: Welcome to City will please diehard fans with its earnest competence. Outside of that core group, the film’s dysfunctional narrative will likely struggle to generate new fans for the franchise.