Caution: Spoilers. There are so many, the spoilers have spoilers. You’ve been warned.
I’m a huge fan of the zombie genre. My fascination with the recently dead and reanimated was born from watching my two older, game-obsessed brothers play Resident Evil. Being much younger and unbelievably bad at first-person shooters, I was quickly relegated to an avid observationalist.
I watched with bated breath, just waiting for a zombie to sneak attack as my brother explored the disintegrating mansion, using a zippo lighter to faintly illuminate dark rooms and stairwells. He traveled for hours through seemingly endless corridors draped with blood-red curtains and shattered windowpanes, dodging zombies all the while. His character choice was between two members of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) team, Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield.
When Resident Evil 2 was released two years later, again, I was hooked for hours, watching as my brother navigated his way through a city on the precipice of ruin. His choices of who to use to claw his way out of the city were Chris’ little sister, Claire Redfield, and a novice beat cop from Raccoon City, Leon Kennedy. The sequel’s “bad guys” were bigger — and brainier. My brother was no longer exclusively fighting zombies and zombie dogs; hulking mutants with a giant eye-shoulder and a ceiling-crawling brain-face had joined the lineup.
The first two games set the precedent for the rest of the 28-game franchise. Quite frankly, they’re video game royalty and should have a silver screen counterpart of the same caliber. Maybe it was the initial high hopes I had that made the first film adaptation in 2002 seem like such a steaming pile of garbage. Nope, it was trash through and through. And with the knowledge that video game-inspired movies are notoriously bad, I was sure this newest attempt would be just another prettily packaged turd. Turns out, “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” was game-to-film gold.
Honestly, this film version of the video game is hands down the best one that’s ever been made for any game. Sony’s cinematic adaptation is littered with Easter eggs, all paying homage to the games. The overall mechanics of the movie exude a very “game-like” energy, from the way that the actors move to the high contrast of dark colors against bright colors. This hyper-focused coloring technique localizes certain aspects on the screen, similar to when a first aid spray “winks” or flashes at you while in gameplay, immediately drawing your attention to it.
The visual likeness is nearly identical yet just slightly different so that it gives the film its own sense of identity while staying true to the story. Slow reveals, a feature employed countless times during the games, are executed flawlessly in the movie. Unique story-progressing tactics that are used throughout the games, like uncovering an essential chunk of the story after watching the slides of an old projector, are something else the film manages to perfectly replicate.
The film’s dialogue, while a little corny and odd at times, is completely in sync with the awkward audio of the game’s cutscenes. The zombies, with their high-pitched screeching and sickly thinning hair, are portrayed perfectly in the film from their entire aesthetics down to their movements. The visual of the police station’s outer gate becoming engulfed with zombies desperately trying to press their way through by squeezing between the bars is a prime example of this stellar portrayal.
Before we compare the storyline of the games to that of the movie, let’s take a brief look at the separate stories of the games first.
Raccoon City’s recent string of cannibalistic murders prompts the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, or S.T.A.R.S., to send their Bravo Team out to the isolated mansion that borders the forest where the killings occurred. Losing contact with its Bravo Team, the Alpha Team heads out to investigate, and included in the rescue squad are the main characters, Jill and Chris.
What starts out as a rescue mission quickly becomes a desperate fight for survival. They take refuge in the mansion, which they instantly regret when it’s discovered that the residents are reanimated, hungry corpses. As members are killed off, secrets are unveiled, the biggest being the secret lab owned by Umbrella Pharmaceuticals that is located underneath the mansion. It’s in this lab that scientist William Birkin mutated the original virus strain into the G-Virus, the cause of the mansion’s recent infestation of zombies.
After battling their way out against zombies and traitors, Jill and Chris make it out of the mansion and head back to Raccoon City in search of answers from their police chief, Brian Irons. After receiving no help from the corrupt police chief with deep pockets, Chris decides to take the investigation to the European branch of Umbrella.
Resident Evil 2
Claire has just returned to Raccoon City in search of her brother when she quite literally runs into Leon. The pair is, for the most part, separated throughout a large portion of the game. During Claire’s search for her brother, she stumbles upon Sherry Birkin, the 12-year-old daughter of William Birkin — now the mutated creature known as the “Tyrant.” Claire brings Sherry along with her and begins her search for a way out of the city.
Meanwhile, Leon also has a few run-ins with the mutated Birkin and also meets fake FBI agent Ada Wong. Leon agrees to help Ada when she tells him she’s on a mission to extract a test sample of the G-Virus. Unfortunately, Leon soon discovers that she’s actually a spy sent from one of Umbrella’s rivals. Upon learning the city is on a self-destruct countdown, Leon, Claire and Sherry board a train and just barely make it outside of the city limits before it implodes.
The film blends the uniquely complex storylines of the first two games in a way that not only makes sense but captures the essence of the games while maintaining the pivotal facets of the overarching story. The most prominent, non-invasive alteration is the slightly skewed timeline. The events that occur in games one and two occur six months apart, whereas the events in the film happen simultaneously.
The movie’s received mostly negative feedback, yet I’d attribute this to the fact that the film is definitely tailored for fans of the games. Gamers embrace the film’s weird moments, seeing the awkwardness as endearing because they highlight the efforts made to stay true to the games.