Resident Evil has not had the best time of it on the big screen in terms of its critical reaction, with its high point being Resident Evil: The Final Chapter's 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Commercially, it has fared a bit better with fans, grossing more than $1.2 billion across its six-movie run (live-action movies only). So it's no surprise that producers Constantin Film wanted another crack at bringing the hugely popular video game series to life, even after the so-called "final chapter".
The 2016 movie did mark the end of Milla Jovovich's run in the series, meaning it was time for a reboot – and time to go right back to the beginning. Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City takes fans back to Day Zero of the outbreak in the titular city, but is it any more successful than the previous movies?
Not quite. While long-time fans will adore the faithfulness to the games, this approach has its own flaws that lead to the new movie lacking bite. You might recognise the locations and characters, yet you'll experience none of the terror of playing the games.
Set over one fateful night in Raccoon City, the new movie combines the plot of the first two Resident Evil games, adding in a splash of the ticking clock hook of the third movie and elements of the remakes, such as Lisa Trevor.
Once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City is now a dying Midwestern town after the company's exodus left it a wasteland. A skeleton crew is left in town, as well as anybody who is too poor to leave, but they're all unaware of the evil about to be unleashed.
Shortly after arriving back in town to reunite with her brother Chris (Robbie Amell), Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) finds herself in a battle for survival after the horrors of the Umbrella Corporation are revealed.
Teaming up with rookie cop Leon S Kennedy (Avan Jogia), Claire sets out to find Chris and fellow STARS members Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) and Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) to uncover the truth. But can this ragtag group of survivors make it through the night?
If your biggest complaint about the previous Resident Evil movies was that there was no sense they were connected to the games, it's not something that can be levelled at Welcome to Raccoon City. It's clear writer/director Johannes Roberts is a huge fan of the series and it can be felt in practically every frame.
Key sequences and moments have been replicated faithfully here, such as the slowly-turning trucker crashing through the city and the first zombie reveal in the Spencer Mansion. Locations from the games have been perfectly recreated, including that mansion and the Raccoon Police Station too, while you'll spot the fixed angle view of the game at points too.
It truly feels like these characters are walking through the games and there are Easter eggs to be found everywhere. Roberts has also brought over several other characters from the games alongside those main five, including Chief Irons (Donal Logue) and Umbrella scientist William Birkin (Neal McDonough).
Whether an intentional homage or not, this faithfulness unfortunately extends to a ropey script (fortunately no "Jill sandwich" here, though) and some sub-par CGI in the recreations of iconic monsters like the Licker. When so much attention has been paid elsewhere, it's a shame more wasn't paid to these elements.
Once you get over the initial thrill of seeing the games so vividly brought to life, you'll also realise that there's a point when being too loyal to the games comes at the detriment of the movie. Namely, it's just nowhere near as terrifying as the experience of playing those games and lacks any tension.
Roberts keeps things dark (and we mean literally, not tonally), but you never really feel a sense of dread. If anything, you'll be as likely wondering what the hell is going on. The games knew when to mix it up as it was just as scary to see a zombie in bright light, while the tension also came from a regular lack of ammunition where the characters in the movie seem to have unlimited amounts.
Because it's mashed together two of the games, Welcome to Raccoon City can't help feeling overstuffed yet also undercooked. The cast all look the part (despite reservations from some fans over Jogia's casting as Leon), but they're given no time to flesh out their characters as there's so much plot and backstory to fit in.
If you know the games well, there are certain blanks you can fill in for yourself, but what of newcomers or casual fans? In the end, Welcome to Raccoon City just feels like another origin story where the good stuff is still to come. Whether those newcomers will want to return for a sequel is questionable though as there's nothing particular new here.
And that's the real kicker. While it's great that the movie is super faithful to the games, it needed to appeal to a wider audience as well. There's just not enough there without any notable scares or memorable set pieces. Dare we say it, but even the first Resident Evil was more engaging than this.
Fans will undoubtedly get a lot out of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, but Easter eggs and faithful recreations can only go so far. Everybody else will be left wondering why there's all this fuss about Resident Evil... again.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is out now in cinemas.
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