Tuesday, February 22

Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City Review

I watched on: 4K UHD DVD
The Price I paid: £24.99
Notes: n/a

As a massive fan of the Resident Evil games, films, and franchise as a whole I was really excited for Welcome to Raccoon City. Did this pay off or was it another lesson in the follies of getting yourself overhyped? The short answer is, this film is rather bad. In fact, I’ve come to nickname it ‘Welcome to Raccoon Shitty’. The long answer is that this film isn’t worthless. I wouldn’t even say this is the worst Resident Evil film. That dishonor goes to the shockingly terrible RE Vendetta.

We begin with Chris and Claire Redfield growing up in the Raccoon City orphanage. It’s here that Claire meets and befriends the mutated Lisa Trevor. Shortly after this, we’re introduced to Dr.Berkin who tries to abduct Claire before she escapes and runs away leaving her brother Chris behind. Fans of the games will already notice massive alterations from the source material. This was my first big issue with Welcome to Raccoon City. All of the promotional material advertised this as a more faithful adaptation of the games than the previous live-action films. This just isn’t the case. Although visually it does come closer to the games the story and characters are just as far removed as the Paul W Anderson films.

After this introduction, we’re reintroduced to an adult Claire hitchhiking a ride back into Raccoon City. She has some information about a massive leak by the Umbrella corporation and is hoping to share this with her brother Chris. When she meets up with Chris and tells him about the leak, he refuses to believe her. The siren from Silent Hill then goes off and Chris leaves for his job as a police officer. My next big issue comes up here. Although Chris, Jill, Wesker, Richard, and Brad all wear uniforms with the S.T.A.R.S logo on them we’re never directly told that they’re part of an elite unit. They do end up taking the helicopter to search for a missing Alpha team like in the games. In the film though Alpha team consists of two normal uniformed officers and not members of S.T.A.R.S which makes it even more unclear. For those unfamiliar with the games, the S.T.A.R.S or Special Tactics and Rescue Service are an elite unit funded by Umbrella and consists of the best of the best in their fields. These are not just cops; these are soldiers on par with the army’s own special forces. Having two plain uniformed cops make up the Alpha team in the film makes it feel like the Bravo team are just normal police officers as well. The film wanted to visually recreate the games while having its own story, characters, and world. Due to this, nothing lines up. If Chris, Jill, Wesker, Richard, and Brad are just police officers then why do their uniforms say S.T.A.R.S and if they are part of an elite unit why is it never mentioned?

After the Bravo team leaves for the Spencer mansion the city itself is overrun by zombies. This traps Claire, Leon, and Chief Irons in the RPD station. It's here that we’re really introduced to Leon and Chief Irons. These are the characters that got their personalities butchered the most. In the games, Chief Irons is a disgusting man completely under the thumb of Umbrella. He covers up any and all of their more criminal experiments in exchange for generous bribes. The original Resident Evil 2 game even had him hiding a torture dungeon under his office. During both that game and its remake we find him with the recently deceased daughter of the mayor. While never confirmed it’s heavily implied that he killed her. During Welcome to Raccoon City, he is a selfish coward but not evil. It’s hinted that he may know more than he lets on as he leads Claire and Leon to a secret doorway inside the orphanage. Ultimately this goes nowhere, and we never learn if he really did know about Umbrella’s involvement or not. Leon in the second game is a rookie cop who’s capable of holding his own but his desire to help everyone he meets gets him in over his head. During the film, he is a bumbling idiot unaware of anything around him and unable to even load a shotgun at one point. It’s mentioned that he was transferred to the RPD because he accidentally shot his partner in the butt during training. Simply put, Leon has been downgraded to the comedic relief here.

So, this isn’t the adaptation we were promised. Similar to the Paul W Anderson films if we take this as its own thing then maybe we can enjoy it? To the credit of the film, my second viewing was much more enjoyable with this mindset but it’s still not a good film. 

The plot feels oddly paced starting slow and remaining slow until the halfway mark than not letting up on the breaks until the end. There is also the aforementioned disconnect between what we see visually and what we’re told. We’re also just not told a lot of things. We never even hear the term T-Virus or G-Virus. We do see Birkin with some G-Virus vials at one point, but we’re never told what it is. The entire outbreak and all of the monsters are just hand-waved away as Umbrella experiments. We’re never given any more information on what those experiments are. During the games, Umbrella’s founder, Oswell Spencer, wanted to use the progenitor virus he discovered to become immortal. He created Umbrella and started producing and selling viruses to fund his personal research. During the Paul W Anderson films, the virus was created for profits similar to the games. This was later retconned into being designed to wipe out the population leaving only those Umbrella deemed worthy to survive. During Welcome to Raccoon City, we’re never given a reason, Umbrella just does evil shit because it’s Umbrella.

Then we have the issue of non-characters that while technically in the film don’t do anything at all. Sherry and Annette Birkin are prime examples of this. During the second game, Annette is the main human antagonist. She shoots Leon and tries to kill him later only being stopped by a rampaging monster. In this film, she is in the background most of the time and then is killed by Wesker when she picks up a gun but does nothing with it. Sherry is one of the main characters in both versions of the second game. She is infected by her mutated father and Claire has to venture into the underground lab to find a cure for her. During this film, she says two lines, both of which don’t add anything to the story. Lisa Trevor also suffers from this issue. They’re only in the film so that fans of the games can point at them and go, “oh look it’s So-and-so from the games!”.

Do I hate this film? Nah, far from it. I think it may end up becoming a guilty pleasure of mine. Visually it’s amazing seeing parts of the mansion and RPD recreated in live-action and the characters all look amazing. The costume department deserves massive praise here. The action is also fun when it gets going. Sure, the pacing is a mess, the world is non-sensical, the story just isn’t explained, and half the characters are pointless call-backs, but as far as bad films go, this one is fun!

Recommendation Rating: 5 out of 10.

1 comment:

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