Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City worth a watch?


   When the popular game franchise Resident Evil released its first edition in 1996, the video game took the entire world by storm. New survival horror with a thrilling story and fresh game mechanics created an experience that captivated millions of horror fans. As Capcom continued to release new installments of the series, introducing new characters and story elements, the popularity of the game continued to grow.

   Eventually, a movie inspired by the game was produced in 2002. Once it had been released, it immediately received criticism and disappointing receptions. A new main character, Alice, had been introduced and the lack of involvement with the game’s environments and characters disappointed many fans after the release. Five more additions to the series involving this character were introduced, with ratings continuing to decline with each new release. The final film came out in 2016, with a “strong” 5.5/10 rating on IMDb. Hope for an enjoyable Resident Evil movie was sparse.

   This all changed in November 2021, when a new film was released five years after the finale of the previous Resident Evil movie series by the name of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. 

   The movie takes place in two settings at once: Raccoon City and the Spencer Mansion. We follow two teams – Alpha team, investigating the strange mansion in the Arklay Mountains, and the pair Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy, who are attempting to escape the city overflowing with the infected and learn what happened to cause the apocalypse. Throughout each team’s campaign, we watch each character struggle to survive and learn the secrets of the pharmaceutical company, “Umbrella.”

   With no connections to the previous film collection and a clear storyline taken from the games, I had high hopes. Watching this movie, I found that the movie was, in fact, true to many aspects of the game franchise. I also found that a lot of the movie was completely inaccurate and different, in negative and positive ways.

   One component I noticed right off the bat was a difference between timelines. In the game series, the Arklay Mountains expedition occurs a little bit before the outbreak in the city showcased by Resident Evil 2 and 3. A leak from the mansion after it is blown up at the end of the first game delivers the virus to the city, and consequently transitions into the second game when Leon and Claire come to Raccoon City. Despite this, Alpha team leaves the police department as soon as Claire comes to town in the movie, which caused me some confusion as to where the virus would have originated from. It is also shown that Chris is not out of the country, as the note found in the second game reveals. Instead, he is still at home, and Claire’s purpose in coming back to town to search for her older brother in the film is immediately solved when she discovers him in his home. Without the context of the games, though, these aren’t big issues and are given explanations, so it’s majorly a nit-pick.

   Early on, Claire and Chris’ backstories are delved into, and this deepens over the course of the film, which I actually enjoyed. Instead of taking away from the story at hand, a lot of the flashbacks helped reveal what the orphanage had been working to hide, and gave more character development to the two. It explains why Claire had ghosted the town and her brother (an escape from the secrets of the town), and why Chris remained a citizen (thankfulness for what the town provided in his youth). As this likely wouldn’t have fit well into a game, putting it in the movie was a nice inclusion.

   Some of the enemies used in-game are used again in the movie, which made me really happy! One of my biggest worries before viewing this movie was whether it would just end up being another boring zombie movie, but the enemies from previous games were included. They were animated really well and made to look very creepy and disheveled. They were one of the most noteworthy parts of the film. With this, of course, comes a downside. Though the monsters were animated beautifully, they are hardly used. Zombies are basically present the entire time, but the zombie dogs’ only prominent appearance is as the truck driver’s pet. Lickers, one of the most interesting concepts and designs as an Umbrella experiment, in my opinion, were simply used to kill off a character, and then scrapped after it had been killed. The screen time for these interesting enemies was very disappointing, and I wish they had a little bit more if anything.

   The movie was very slow-paced for a series meant to be exciting and energetic. It takes nearly 30 minutes before the story is fully set into play and the apocalypse hits, and I found myself easily getting bored waiting for the exposition to end and the action to begin. I wish the introduction hadn’t been so long, if only for more detail and interesting backstory to be inserted into the movie.    

   One big factor I’ve found bothered many viewers was Jill and Leon’s appearances. One look at the game characters compared to the movie actors, and it’s obvious that these do not look like the same people. Despite this, I didn’t have much of a complaint about their looks. Though it doesn’t follow the game, not everything in the movie has to follow the game; that’s why they made a movie and not just a review of the game series. Jill and Leon’s appearances didn’t contribute much to the games. Though that was how they were made to look, there was no cultural or story-based information about the characters that made how they looked important, aside from the obvious outfitting options. Their personalities are what build them as characters to enjoy, and I honestly almost enjoyed how different they looked in the movies (It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve transformed a character into a brand new model).

   As for characters I enjoyed, Chris, Claire, and Jill were pretty fun to follow. Chris may not be extremely interesting, but he isn’t extremely out-of-character compared to his in-game character, nor is he annoying. He fits the character’s personality well and is substantially an ordinary policeman. We also get some good action scenes with him, which are lacking in a lot of other areas of the movie, so it was pretty fun to watch his parts. Jill and Claire were highly intriguing and amusing. Claire is obviously highly self-sufficient, beating a cop at his own job and defending herself and others just as well. She also exposes the plot twist and backstory of the town with her own developments throughout the movie, which makes her exciting to watch. Jill is the same; her relationship with her teammates shows just how dedicated she is to them and her job, even if she messes with them once in a while. She has great morals and does the tough thing when it comes to that point, which I found admirable. Both Claire and Jill are able to hold their own and have a sarcastic sense of humor, yet grew serious when the situation demanded it. They were the characters I had the most fun watching.

   With Wesker, I found myself pretty disappointed. Albert Wesker is an icon in the game series, and for good reason; he is the major antagonist and extremely sneaky, clever, and agile. He almost always has a plan and will do anything to achieve his goal. Though hints of this were given to his film persona, I didn’t see much of him whatsoever in this character. In the movie, he is simply following directions for financial gain. Though this could be a decent reason to become corrupt, with how average of a man Wesker seems to be, there’s virtually no context that proves that the character would act out in this way. Transforming from an average police officer covering a mission to a man who leaves behind others for his own wishes in a few hours seems very out-of-character. As someone who chose to enter the police force with, so it seems, zero bad intentions, money being the sole factor to diverge from his team seems like a cheap reason to give a good man an evil backstory. Considering he is a police officer, the most moralistic decision to be made here would probably be to turn possible criminal evidence in, so there is a large leap of faith from the antagonists to depend on Wesker to go along with their secret plans.

   No characters, however, can compare to how dirty the directors did Leon Kennedy. While Leon is one of my favorite characters in the games, he infuriated me the entire course of the film. Though Leon is shown in RE2 to be a rookie, they really play this role up in the movie – so much so to the point it’s tiring and his sole personality trait. It’s almost as though he had no training before being hired. In multiple scenes, Claire, a random girl who has trained herself to handle guns, helps rescue him because he doesn’t pull the trigger or defend himself in any way. The game tells players that Leon may be new to the police force, but he is still able to survive and obviously has professional experience with weapons and bad situations. In the Resident Evil 2 Remake, Leon meets an imprisoned man under the garage of the police station. Throughout their interactions, he keeps a safe distance and refuses to bend the rules for someone he doesn’t know the background of without further consultation (Sure, idiotic during the zombie apocalypse, but in terms of lawful practices this is definitely the strategy to commit to). Yet at one point in the movie, said jailed man is able to steal Leon’s gun and threaten him with it to escape. Had this man really been a threat to society, Leon’s lack of common sense could have had dire consequences. Later in the same scene, he is nearly bitten and doesn’t do anything about it! Claire coming down the stairs and shooting the monster is the only reason he doesn’t die. In the movie, his given backstory, before joining the police department in Raccoon City, is literally shooting someone on accident and being bailed out of prison by his father. He is stupid above all else, and although this provides some comedy to the dark tone of the movie, it’s more frustrating than funny a lot of the time. He is not at all competent, and had there been no games before the release of this movie, he would probably be my least favorite to watch.

   Overall, my rating of the movie is average. It’s definitely interesting and I was invested in a lot of the movie. The new storylines were even kind of refreshing; after years and years of the same story being told to you with different characters and landscapes, it can grow somewhat tiring. The references are fun easter eggs to old hardcore fans and were fun to spot throughout the span of the movie. Most characters were fun to watch, and the majority of the film was intense. Despite this, there were plenty of bad things about the movie. Aspects of the story seemed specific and didn’t appear to be realistic and understandable, or could’ve been solved differently for a more favorable outcome. Slow parts of the movie were kind of irritating, and I was often waiting for them to end to get to the next, better segment. I had a fun time watching, but it probably won’t be a movie I would rewatch unless I were to introduce it to friends who hadn’t yet seen it. The movie has a rating of 5.2/10, which I think reflects a lot of my thoughts fairly well. If you enjoy Resident Evil, I would recommend watching it, if only for the interest of differing perspectives and plots. However, if you were to miss this one, I don’t think it would be a huge loss.