Welcome to Raccoon City is a deeply faithful Resident Evil adaptation, and a deeply bad one at that.
If there’s a guiding principle to Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, it’s the same corrective impulse that animates recent franchise films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a cynical catering to a sense among fans of the original material that they have been misserved by a previous iteration, in those cases the Star Wars prequel films and Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters. Though Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil films have become cult items in their own right — see the fifth entry’s placement on InRO’s Best of the Decade list — they are far from faithful to their video game source text, taking the basic premise of a lab-engineered zombie virus and running away with it to action movie bliss. Johannes Robert’s film is a more direct, albeit extremely abbreviated, adaptation of the series’ first two games, but the dubious honor of fidelity is just about all this garbage has to offer anyone.
Here are the characters fans know, only played by miscast actors in interpretations that rob them of their already threadbare personalities. Here are painstaking recreations of the rooms players traversed in the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon City Police Department, only strewn about haphazardly without atmosphere or purpose. And here is more than a few shots cribbed directly from the game, elevating a hamburger on a dashboard into meaningful iconography in the dull hope of triggering fan-pandering recognition. For all Roberts clearly wishes to evoke of the games, his act of compression loses nearly everything that made them classics in the first place, namely the slow creep through unknown spaces where some new horror lurked around every corner. Anderson’s divergent adaptation understood what it was to play Resident Evil, to become familiar with the layout of a terrifying space until it could be defeated. When a character in Welcome to Raccoon City opens a map on his PalmPilot though, it’s just another reference to spot, the terror of exploration shunted off just to show an audience something familiar. Because this film saddles itself with the material of two games when one would have been enough, there’s not much time to spend in any one place with any one character. Instead, Welcome to Raccoon City comes off as a lazy shuffle through a series of references from the Where’s Waldo playbook and uninspired, drab horror set pieces in which a zombie appears and is promptly shot. Worse, Roberts’ adaptational tunnel vision finds plenty of space for the game’s dumb catchphrases but none for it’s more exuberant ideas, like zombified sharks and giant snakes. The result is nothing more than a piss-poor version of a zombie movie everyone has seen before.