The Resident Evil franchise is getting a new movie adaptation in November 2021 with the release of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, and details about the story have been released in the latest updates. The movie is being written and directed by Johannes Roberts. The filmmaker has previously directed several horror movies, including 47 Meters Down and The Strangers: Prey at Night.
This is not the first time that the Resident Evil video games have been adapted for film. From 2002 to 2016, Milla Jovovich starred as a protagonist called Alice in six films. While the films were not always well-received critically, they saw financial success and, to date, hold the record for the most live-action film adaptations of a video game. There have also been multiple animated films made; 2021 saw an animated series launch (Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness) and a new live-action TV series in the works for Netflix.
Since the release of the first Resident Evil video game in 1996, a huge number of games, adaptations, and spin-offs have been released. This means that the new movie has a lot of material to draw on for inspiration, both for tone and story. So, what is known about the story of Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City so far?
The original six Milla Jovovich Resident Evil movies told a complete narrative, with the final moving literally being called Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The story of the previous movies has been concluded, and there is not more to add. While Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is not technically billed as a reboot, it will draw from the same source material while including an entirely new cast.
Roberts has worked to distance Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City from the previous movie franchise, highlighting some of the different directions they are taking in the new film. In an interview (via IGN), he noted that the previous films were closer to “sci-fi action” and that the new movie would be “much more a horror movie.” So while some of the same character names will appear and similar events and locations might be seen, they will be represented entirely differently and have no continuity with the previous movies in the Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will tell the origin story for the series as it appeared in the first two games from Capcom. Roberts and his team worked hand-in-hand with Capcom to ensure that the adaptation was as “faithful as possible.” However, Roberts was keen to clarify that they will not just be making a shot-for-shot remake of the video games. Instead, his team made the narrative and characters work within the movie format while feeling fully fleshed out.
One of the promotional images released demonstrates how closely Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will be keeping to the original video games. The shot depicts Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa), who was experimented on heavily by the Umbrella Corporation. While there are some subtle changes to her portrayal, her appearance is undeniably faithful to the video games. Similarly, the production team worked closely with Capcom to ensure that iconic backdrops like the Spencer Mansion and the Raccoon City Police Department appeared as almost direct copies of the game environments.
Roberts’ comments about creating a faithful adaptation of the games, combined with hints from the promotional images, suggest that Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will follow fairly closely to the games’ story. In the first Resident Evil video game, the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team explores the abandoned Spencer Mansion. The mansion turns out to be housing a secret lab where the Umbrella Corporation has been conducting viral experiments resulting in the creation of the T-virus, which then was unleashed on their staff. Lisa Trevor, who can be seen in another image, was held captive there for several decades and experimented on extensively. Lisa’s backstory is tragic, and she haunts the mansion searching for her long-deceased mother. Roberts has indicated that he sees her role in the movie as being pivotal to the story.
Resident Evil 2 takes place several months after the events of the first game within the nearby Raccoon City and follows a completely different cast of characters. Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) and Claire Redfield (Kaya Scoldelario) head to the Raccoon City Police Department; Leon, to start his new role there while Claire is in search of her brother, Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), who was part of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team. The two can be seen working together in one of the promotional images. The story centers around William Birkin (Neal McDonough), one of the scientists who experimented on Lisa Trevor, as he tries to escape the city with a sample of the G-virus, his life’s work.
Combining the narratives of the original two Resident Evil games into a single movie for Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City poses some obvious challenges for the writers. While they are reportedly staying faithful to the spirit of the Resident Evil games, keeping the time gap between the stories would result in a mid-movie break that felt disjointed within a single film. To combat this, they will have to have the events occur somewhat concurrently and have some level of interaction between the team at the Spencer Mansion and the individuals battling in Raccoon City nearby.
Roberts has hinted at how this might be achieved when talking about the importance of Lisa Trevor to the story. He has said, “we really connect her to Claire Redfield’s story, starting with the orphanage where Claire grew up.” It is unclear exactly what this connection might look like. However, it promises to bring Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City the cohesion between the two stories that will be crucial to pulling this movie off successfully.