|Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City|
|Directed by||Johannes Roberts|
|Written by||Johannes Roberts|
|Based on||Resident Evil|
|Edited by||Dev Singh|
|Music by||Mark Korven|
|Box office||$25.1 million|
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is a 2021 action horror film written and directed by Johannes Roberts. Adapted from the stories of the first and second games by Capcom, it serves as a reboot of the Resident Evil film series and the seventh live-action film overall, which was loosely based on the video game series of the same name. The film stars Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, Donal Logue, and Neal McDonough.
Development took place in early 2017, after Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was released, with producer James Wan expressing interest in the project. Later, Constantin Film chairman Martin Moszkowicz said that a reboot of the film series was in development. In the same month, Wan was called to produce the reboot with a script by Greg Russo; subsequently, Roberts was hired as both writer and director and both Wan and Russo left the project. Filming began on October 17, 2020, in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The film underwent reshoots in May 2021.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City had its world premiere at the Grand Rex in Paris on November 19, 2021, and was theatrically released on November 24, 2021, in the United States by Sony Pictures Releasing. The film has grossed $25.1 million worldwide and has received mixed reviews from critics, with praise given to its faithfulness to the games.
Claire Redfield and her older brother Chris are children living at the Raccoon City Orphanage. Claire befriends Lisa Trevor, a disfigured girl who has been experimented on by Dr. William Birkin, an employee for the Umbrella Corporation, who oversees the orphanage and takes children for his own experimental research. Claire escapes from Birkin when she is selected to participate in an experiment.
In 1998, Claire returns to Raccoon City, hitchhiking in a semi-truck. The truck driver accidentally hits a woman in the middle of the road. While Claire and the driver are arguing, the woman becomes zombified and disappears. The truck driver's Dobermann licks the blood she left behind, and, over time, begins to foam at the mouth, becoming erratic. Meanwhile, Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie police officer new in town, notices that the diner's owner has blood coming out of her eyes.
Claire heads to Chris's home to warn him about Umbrella's experiments, revealing Ben Bertolucci as her source of information. After Chris leaves for the police station, a child breaks into the house, running from his mother, who attacks Claire; both mother and child have severe hair loss, are erratic, sick-looking, and bloody. Claire escapes on Chris' motorbike.
At the police station, the STARS Alpha team meet with Chief Brian Irons, who explains that the Bravo team went missing while investigating a death at the remote Spencer Mansion. The Alpha team, composed of Chris, Jill Valentine, Richard Aiken, Brad Vickers, and Albert Wesker, is sent to the mansion by helicopter to investigate. They discover the mansion overrun by zombies.
Unknown to his teammates, Wesker is an operative for an unidentified party, tasked with stealing Birkin's virus, using inside knowledge to navigate the mansion. Their helicopter crashes into the mansion after the pilot gets bitten by a zombie. Chris and Richard encounter zombies eating the bodies of the Bravo team. Richard is eaten while Chris battles the horde, reuniting with Jill. The pair flees into the secret passage Wesker unlocked.
Back at the police station, the truck driver, bitten by his dog, transforms into a zombie and crashes his truck into the station. Chief Irons tries to drive out of the city but is stopped by Umbrella guards who shoot civilians attempting to escape so they can contain the outbreak. Returning to the station, Irons is attacked by the truck driver's zombie dog but Claire rescues him. Claire and Leon retrieve weapons and encounter Ben, who is locked up in a cell. Ben is bitten by a zombie inmate before he can escape his cell.
The police station becomes overrun by zombies, and Leon, Claire, and Irons escape to the Orphanage, looking for a secret Umbrella tunnel in the building. A licker kills Irons and attacks Leon, but he is saved by Lisa. Lisa recognizes the grown-up Claire and gives them the keys to the secret passage. The pair discovers the secret lab where Umbrella was experimenting on children like the Ashford Twins.
Wesker encounters Dr. Birkin. In the ensuing scuffle, Wesker is shot by Birkin, shoots him back in response, and kills his wife in defense. When Wesker hesitates to pull the trigger on their child Sherry, Jill shoots him. Before dying, Wesker tells them to escape via the underground train before the Umbrella Corporation destroys the city. Chris finds that William has injected himself with the "G-Virus" to survive. Chris, Sherry, and Jill, Claire and Leon escape to the train. The train is stopped when Raccoon City is blown up, allowing a now-mutated monster version of Birkin to attack them. Leon saves them by shooting the monster with a rocket launcher, killing it for good. As the Corporation states that there were zero civilian survivors in the aftermath of the destruction, the five-member crew walks out of the train tunnel, leaving Raccoon City behind.
In a mid-credits scene, Wesker awakens in a body bag, unable to see anything. A mysterious figure then hands him sunglasses and reveals herself as Ada Wong.
Pre-production took place in early 2017 while Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was still in theatres, with Constantin Film chairman Martin Moszkowicz saying that a reboot of the series was in development, and producer James Wan expressing interest in the project. In December 2018, it was announced that Johannes Roberts was attached to write and direct the film. However, Wan later confirmed that same month that he was no longer involved in the project and said that news of his involvement was premature, and instead produced Mortal Kombat (2021).
During an interview with IGN in March 2021, Roberts said he wanted to give the film a darker tone:
"The big thing for me in this film is the tone. What I loved about the games was that they were just scary, and that's a lot of what I wanted, that atmosphere. It's raining constantly, it's dark, it's scary, Raccoon City is a rotten character," he said. “I wanted to put [it] and mix it with the fun side, especially with the narrative style of the first game. We had a lot of fun, we even used the fixed angles that the first game has when the characters are at Spencer Mansion."
Inspired by John Carpenter's films, including Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, and The Fog, the filmmaker explained that the origin story is a piece divided between two main locations: Spencer Mansion (the setting for the first game) and the Raccoon Police Department, which first appeared in Resident Evil 2:
"[The remake of the second game] was a wonderful cinematic experience with the tone, the constant darkness, the rain, the look of the game and I just took that and said yes, this is the world I want to work in," Roberts said. "We chose the tone for the remake of the second game and made it our model for this film."
Although director Paul W. S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich released six commercially successful films based on the games between 2002 and 2017, Roberts emphasized that his version has nothing to do with the series that preceded it, although he says he enjoyed Anderson's first film:
"It's a totally separate story that is based on the roots of the game and the world of terror," he said. "I fell in love with Milla Jovovich, that first film is a lot of fun… but it was a real pleasure to get the reins of a new franchise. I had never seen the horror and atmosphere of the games [in the movies], what I felt when I was playing those games or watching from behind the shoulders of people playing games. I never felt it on the screen, and this is something I wanted to tell you about."
Greg Russo was attached as writer in 2017. Russo, who was also attached to write the script for Mortal Kombat (2021) at the time, drew inspiration from the 2017 video game Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, though he would later clarify he only drew on the tones of the game – "scary, isolated, alone" – rather than the story itself. Russo wanted Moonlight Sonata, a composition featured in several Resident Evil games, to feature in the opening credits. In a November 2018 interview with DiscussingFilm, Russo confirmed he was no longer involved with the project. In August 2019, Roberts told Screen Rant that the reboot would be "super, super scary" and more faithful to the games than the previous films.
I really wanted to go back to the original first two games and re-create the terrifying visceral experience I had when I first played them whilst at the same time telling a grounded human story about a small dying American town that feels both relatable and relevant to today’s audiences.
In the same article, Resident Evil producer Robert Kulzer states:
After a dozen games, six live-action movies and hundreds of pages of fan fiction, we felt compelled to return to the year 1998, to explore the secrets hidden in the walls of the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon City.
In early 2020, casting was underway but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a February 2020 interview with Starburst Magazine, Roberts confirmed that casting details were set to be announced in March. In April 2020, Full Circle Cinema reported that the studio was eyeing Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, and Harris Dickinson for the roles of the Redfield siblings Chris and Claire and Leon S. Kennedy.
On October 6, 2020, Deadline Hollywood reported that Scodelario and Hannah John-Kamen had been cast as Claire and Jill Valentine, alongside Robbie Amell, Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia, and Neal McDonough as Chris Redfield, Albert Wesker, Leon S. Kennedy, and William Birkin, respectively. The reboot was described as serving as an origin story set in 1998. That November, Donal Logue was cast as Chief Brian Irons, alongside Chad Rook as Richard Aiken, and Lily Gao as Ada Wong.
Principal photography began in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on October 17, 2020, with Maxime Alexandre serving as cinematographer. Filming was completed on December 24, 2020. In March 2021, Roberts revealed the full title as Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. In May 2021, Amell revealed that the film was undergoing reshoots in Toronto.
Official images of the film were released on August 31, 2021, and were met with a mixed response. A trailer was released on October 7, 2021, and was met with mixed reaction from fans, who praised its faithfulness to the first two games, but criticized its casting and special effects. Prior to the film's release, the characters were criticized by Metro based on the film's trailer, who called them "bad cosplay" and further said that their acting was "too authentic to the games". Summarizing the film's marketing results, RelishMix said fans of the franchise noticed Milla Jovovich absence while "questioning the logic, the look of the effects, and comparing the film to the game's CGI."
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City had its world premiere at the Grand Rex in Paris, France on November 19, 2021, but was theatrically released on November 24, 2021, by Sony Pictures Releasing in the United States. It was delayed from its original release dates of September 3 and 9, 2021.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside House of Gucci and Encanto, and was projected to gross $8–10 million from 2,803 theaters over its five-day opening weekend. The film opened nationwide on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, and made $2.5 million on its first day—including $935,000 from Tuesday night previews—from a total of 225,000 theater admissions. The film went on to make $8.85 million in its first five days, placing fifth. Audiences were 64% male as well as 68% between the ages of 18 and 34. Moviegoers were also 36% Latino or Hispanic, 30% Caucasian, 19% Black, and 15% Asian/other. In its second weekend, the film earned $2.69 million.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 29% of 63 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is an affectionately faithful adaptation that further proves its source material is ill-suited to the big screen." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 44 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it a 61% positive score, with 48% saying they would definitely recommend it.
In a positive review, Johnny Oleksinski from New York Post gave 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "The film is empty-headed good fun that’s blessedly under two hours and has just enough character development to make you kind of care when someone gets bitten." Ferdosa Abdi from ScreenRant also gave a positive review, writing: "Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is a fun and faithful adaptation of the games it is based on, but is lacking in character substance." Sean Kane from CNet also praised the film and wrote: "Despite the lack of scares, minor tweaks to the games' lore and overall silliness, director Johannes Roberts' love for Resident Evil is clear in every moment of Welcome to Raccoon City. With a barrage of Easter eggs and fascinating takes on classic characters, the film's a gleeful trip back to the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon Police Department aimed squarely at fans."
Taylor Lyles of IGN gave the film a 6/10 score, explaining, "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is certainly not the worst video game adaptation or even the worst Resident Evil movie, but both those bars are pretty low. Director Mr. Roberts does deserve some credit for sticking much more closely to the source material than the Paul W. S. Anderson films, but a short runtime, a rushed third act, and lack of elements to make it truly scary to watch in the dark hold it back immensely. Nevertheless, it should serve as decent fun for fans of the Resident Evil games, if only to find all the Easter eggs and references scattered throughout."
In a mixed review, Mark Hanson from SLANT, gave two out of four stars and wrote "Johannes Roberts's prequel ultimately remains buried by its indifference to unchecked corporate power." Charles Bramesco from The AV Club gave a C+ and wrote, "Alas, there's no covert greatness to the just-plain-underwhelming Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City, a reboot totally bereft of the visual distinction or creative personality that often made its predecessors intriguing diamonds in the rough."
In a negative review, Nick Schager from Variety wrote, "In any decade, the film's bevy of unexplained details, dropped subplots, paper-thin characterizations and fright-free mayhem would disappoint." Kimberly Myers from The New York Times also gave a negative review, writing: "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City may reward longtime fans of the video games by returning to the series' origins, but others will find themselves wanting to leave town, much like the movie's characters."
Director Johannes Roberts stated that if a sequel were to be developed, he would like to adapt the story from Resident Evil – Code: Veronica and then Resident Evil 4. Robbie Amell has also stated he hopes to return as Chris in a sequel and include his boulder-punching scene from Resident Evil 5.
RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACOON CITY is a US action horror film in which a group of survivors race against time to escape a city during a zombie outbreak.
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