I always assume the objective of video games are to be fun and to immerse the player in the world created. Movies based on video games often don’t focus on immersion so much as monetization, and, except for a few goofy pleasures like Warcraft, there is a really bad track record. With Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, I could tell writer/director Johannes Roberts cared about fans of the games with easter eggs, dialogue reminiscent of NPC’s, and a fair amount of blood. But was it fun or immersive? Not really.
After a difficult childhood in an orphanage Claire (Kaya Scodolario) returns to Raccoon City to visit her cop brother (Robbie Amell) and show him a video warning of Racoon City’s impending doom; the residents apparently have been poisoned over the years by the mysterious pharmaceutical company known as Umbrella Corporation. Of course we never see this company as they’ve decided to pack up shop and leave as the town’s remaining citizens start becoming zombies. One of Claire’s first encounters involves a zombie appearing at the door and smearing it with blood while Claire asks, “Can I help you?” Obviously the zombie just needs to borrow a wrench.
The film is full of fun set-pieces that are squandered. The Spencer Mansion in particular is a great never-ending structure where the lights have somehow been left on but can flick off at any moment and a horde of monsters can be around the next corner. Hidden passages and tunnels could be behind the next bookshelf. But as a team of cops sweep through it, the potential fun someone could have uncovering secrets here is wasted as the action unfolds in selectively disappointing ways. For all the gore, there isn’t one moment where I felt a rush of adrenaline while sitting in the front row.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that the characters aren’t developed beyond the bare minimum. Wouldn’t the logical approach be to create a movie that respects fans of the games as well as draw new fans in? This film didn’t encourage me to pick up a game at all but just contemplate questions like how the third act was almost non-existent, or how character conflict is rushed through. How does the giant final boss show up, get blown apart by a rocket launcher, and the two closest to the mayhem aren’t drenched in remains? In a film all about blood indulgence, this should’ve been a no-brainer in my opinion.
Will fans enjoy seeing a live-action re-telling of the franchise? I suppose. I only have a passive understanding and perhaps I’m simply not the target audience intended but I can’t imagine many thinking this did the games justice. I’d talk more about the characters but there isn’t much to say other than the actors are doing what they can. I appreciate the aesthetics so much that I think a more determined sequel could bring this franchise to life. Only time will tell.
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