Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Robbie Amell, Hannah John-Kamen, Neal McDonough, Tom Hopper, Donal Logue, Avan Jogia
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing Singapore
Opening Day: 2 December 2021
Synopsis: Returning to the origins of the massively popular RESIDENT EVIL franchise, fan and filmmaker Johannes Roberts brings the games to life for a whole new generation of fans. In RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City is now a dying Midwestern town. The company’s exodus left the city a wasteland…with great evil brewing below the surface. When that evil is unleashed, a group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night.
Long held as a Milla Jovovich franchise, the newest revival of Resident Evil takes a hard game reboot and erases 15 years and six film features’ worth of history with a new title that caters to game loyalists, but quite frankly, amounts to little for the average viewer.
Setting the film in 1998 and harkening back to the first few chapters of the actual game, director Johannes Roberts attempts to invoke nostalgia with appearances that gamers would enjoy while adding generational highlights such as a snake game on a Nokia phone to satisfy the rest. I belong to the latter camp, and sadly, there’s just that much throwbacks and era-specific soundtrack to sustain interest.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City reminds me of my health nut of an auntie who reduces the seasoning from my grandmother’s chicken rice recipe, so much so that it’s like eating plain rice with boiled chicken in the end. The focus on paying homage to the games with familiar game characters like protagonist Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) has made the other parts of the film obviously empty and wanting.
Lines are flat out insipid and formulaic, often having one party ask questions and the other not answering. In measures, this builds tension, but Roberts rinses and repeats this so much that it just becomes pure lazy script-writing.
This happens when Claire returns to town and barges into her brother’s home. Chris (Robbie Arnell) would then ask her a few questions (to none of which Claire would answer), before both separate for most of the movie - funny, because she supposedly made the long trip back to warn him to get out of town.
The rookie cop Leon (Avan Jogia) receives the same with the town police chief Brian (Donal Logue) when he hastily exits the police station. STARS Alpha team member Jill (Hannah John-Kamen) also just receives looks when her fellow member Albert (Tom Hopper) urges them from the station to the Spencer Mansion. It all makes for the wrong kind of mystery, especially when we know the reason why. Maybe it’s no surprise that Greg Russo, who also worked on the limp Mortal Kombat (2021), is writer here - giving the tired old runaround.
At least with Jovovich, we can anticipate a thrilling action piece. With Roberts’ version, it’s a hacked up mix of horror and action, with game-scene inclusions that are woefully lame. The most “memorable” being the scene where Chris repeatedly flicks his lighter to see a zombie coming closer. Too many cliches just goes to show that the production is dated in the wrong way, and that the vision here is less steered than stirred. While some of the monster bits and in-game character Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa) hold interest, they don’t contribute much to the story at all - which really is a waste given there’s some nice design there.
If you’re looking to fill in an hour plus with some mindless monster fun, have a go at the film. If not, you’re better off just replaying the games - at least there’s some form of direction there.
(This reboot is an empty homage. Game fans might enjoy the perks of easter eggs, but as a film, this is braindead)
Review by Morgan Awyong