Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City gets mixed reviews

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City gets some things right, and some wrong, leading to mixed audience and critical reviews.


The new Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City film aims to be a rebirth that is more faithful to the games. But it seems audiences and critics have mixed reactions.

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Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is getting a mixed bag of reactions from critics and fans. (Images: Constantin Films/Sony Pictures)

While it addresses the inconsistency versus the source material, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City stumbles in trying to reach its goals. Critics and fans have blasted the film for relying on prior knowledge to fully appreciate the plot, along with other problems with the finished product.

What did the fans and pundits have to say so far with the new Resident Evil film? Check out the details below.

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Old Resident Evil vs. New Resident Evil

It is no secret that the Resident Evil film franchise is something of an oddity. While the animated films (including the Netflix series Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness) have all been consistent with the canonical details from the video games, the live action film follows a wild variation.

Since the very first Resident Evil from 2002 that was headlined by Milla Jovovich as Alice and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, the live action film only loosely based the plot from the games. Instead of the game’s protagonists such as Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ada Wong, and Leon Kennedy, Jovovich’s Alice was front and center. Meanwhile, the said protagonists would only appear as supporting characters or as villains, as in the case of Albert Wesker.

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Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City sets up Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) as the central character for the main plot.

But while that film series received much negativity from both critics and fans alike, it was undeniably a financial success. Running for over 15 years and with seven entries, it is almost as enduring and prolific as The Fast and the Furious franchise, with a total box office take of over $1.2 billion.

Now, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City intends to restart the live action franchise with a more faithful adaptation. There is no connection to the previous series and goes back to its roots… all the way back to the setting of the titular Raccoon City in the year 1998 and the infamous Spencer Mansion. But does it succeed with its goals?

In a nutshell

Beginning with the opening scene, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, one can already predict this film will be chockfull of jump scares and body horror. There is less of a futuristic and science fiction feel that was persistent in the previous film series.

The good news is that if you played the Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan) games, then you will not find yourself lost in the proceedings. The plot and players are consistent with the first two Capcom games that launched on the Sony Playstation console, Resident Evil (1996) and Resident Evil 2 (1998), as well as some elements from 2000's Code: Veronica on the SEGA Dreamcast. The film sets up two major plot threads, with separate groups of characters that recreate the events that occur in the Spencer Mansion and the Raccoon City Police Department.

The cast of Kaya Scodelario (Claire Redfield), Hannah John-Kamen (Jill Valentine), Robbie Amell (Chris Redfield), Tom Hopper (Albert Wesker), Avan Jogia (Leon Kennedy), Donal Logue (Chief Brian Irons), Neal McDonough (William Birkin), Chad Rook (Richard Aiken), Marina Mazepa (Lisa Trevor), and Lily Gao (Ada Wong) all play their parts adequately. But adequate is as far as it goes.

There is way too much time spent on the characters acting like a deer in front of headlights. The circle comes down to encounter something, be surprised by what they see, react as best they can, and run away. That pretty much is how the scenes in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City gets from Point A to Point B.

While that is fine for a typical horror movie, the strength of the Resident Evil games is that the protagonists like Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy adapt to their situations effectively, despite the terrible odds of surviving. And fans will likely be very disappointed with how Leon Kennedy acts like a complete novice at certain points, a far cry from the capable rookie cop from the games.

On that note, there is a by-the-numbers sense of the reactions to outlandish scenes. Instead of genuine sense of emergency, it seems the characters are only a little more than mildly annoyed when situations start hitting the fan.

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One particular odd choice is giving Claire Redfield a backstory that is connected to a creature she encounters as a child. This apparently is the impetus for her to investigate into the dealings of the sinister Umbrella Corporation. It seems to be an attempt to make her the central character. But it comes off as forced and the actress (Kaya Scodelario) lacks the natural charisma to carry the role, which is even more disappointing with how the video game and animated versions are handled so well.

Moreover, there is an expectation that the audience will accept the elaborate and far out plausibility of details in the film. To his credit, director Johannes Roberts does a fine job being faithful to the source. But it comes with the price that there is not enough time to develop characters and plot elements without relying on the viewer to have previous understanding of things such as the Umbrella Corporation being a paramilitary organization and not just a pharmaceutical and tech giant.

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The VFX and production design for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City lacks cinematic polish.

And when it comes to the production value, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City falls short. It looks and feels like a high production fan film, but not a big budget theatrical release. There is a lack of polish with some of the CGI, particularly with the the Bio-organic Weapons (B.O.W.s). Even the trademark zombies infected by the virus are not as menacing as expected.

The results are not terrible. The VFX and creature designs are certainly better than most Syfy productions and could even be compared to a slicker Netflix film. But it comes up short of being big screen worthy.

Reactions and reviews

Since the film’s theatrical debut last November 24, the responses from viewers have ranged from lukewarm to mockery.

As of this date, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City has a 28% on the Tomatometer and 60% Audience Score at Rottentomatoes.com. Here are a few of the more notable reactions to the reboot of the Resident Evil film franchise:

  • Amy Nicholson (New York Times): The only surprise is that Roberts shuns cheap jump scare surprises in favor of well-crafted suspense scenes that play out like a game of three card monte.

  • Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com): Choppy action and clunky storytelling hold Raccoon City back from becoming the dread-inducing nightmare that hardcore fans know the game series to so often be.

  • Chris Evangelista (Slashfilm): Why make a movie that transcends boundaries when you can make one that says, "Hey, remember this thing? Here it is again. Now give us some money."

  • Kimber Myers (Los Angeles Times): [It] never successfully replicates the fear that was a hallmark of playing the games, and its approach to ample gore is only as imaginative as a kid picking at a scab.

But is Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City a dud? Not at all. It certainly has potential and nowhere near as bad as some reviewers paint it. But it is a bit off the mark of its lofty goals of matching the intensity and consistency of the video games that spawned it.

Perhaps it can pick things up in a possible sequel. While the film has a definitive ending, there is a mid-credits scene that sets up where the story could lead to. Director Roberts has expressed interest in following up with a sequel that is based on Resident Evil 4 which centers on Leon Kennedy and the Las Plagas, which is the most critically and financially successful entry in the video game franchise. But this will likely depend on the final box office tally of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.

Based on the popular survival horror games from Capcom, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is produced by Constantin Films and Sony Pictures. The film is now running in theaters internationally.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.