Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, MA15+, 107 minutes. 2 stars
This is the seventh film in a series of films based on the video game series Resident Evil, which probably makes it the most successful series in its genre.
Sure, there have been big-budget films based on video games, such as Tomb Raider, and they've probably made more than the Resident Evil series in a single go.
But seven films is an impressive effort.
A lot of jobs.
A lot of world-building.
And a lot of fans.
The first six films in the series came at the hand of British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson and starred the woman who would become his wife, the actress Milla Jovovich.
This entry in the series is supposed to be both a prequel and a reboot and Anderson steps back from the camera, now handing the reins to Johannes Roberts, director of the tension-filled 47 Metres Down.
The film is not entirely successful, thanks to a lack of that tension and perhaps a focus on remaining faithful to its video game origins over plot and pace.
It doesn't inspire confidence in the franchise's future.
In the American heartland is an orphanage run by a mysterious pharmacological conglomerate, the Umbrella Corporation and here we meet the young Chris and Claire Redfield.
A few decades later, the adult Chris (Robbie Amell) is still hanging around Raccoon City while sister Claire (Kaya Scodelario), haunted by a not entirely clarified childhood trauma, is returning for the first time in years.
She's back because she's heard that the Umbrella Corporation are up to shady things, which reunites her with her estranged brother.
The pair split up, however, as they each team up with a crew that is investigating different leads starting at the Spencer Mansion to look for some missing friends.
Joining Chris on the mission to retrieve some missing colleagues are police pals Albert (Tom Hopper from Umbrella Academy), Jill (Hannah John-Kamen) and Richard (Chad Rook).
Working separately are a team including Claire, Leon (Avan Jogia) and Chief Irons (Donal Logue).
This being something of a reboot, fans of the series might recognise that when the two narrative threads separate in this film, they're actually mirroring the plots of the first and second of the original Resident Evil films.
As the teams move through these scary underground spaces, many elements recognisable from the earlier films pop up, be they slow-moving zombies or suspicious-looking laboratories hinting at evil intent.
Johannes Roberts directs from his own screenplay and I think the weakness of the film is his need to move constantly between his two plot lines.
It doesn't allow us to spend enough time with any of the characters to suitably flesh them out or make us care for their outcomes.
That said, I love Robbie Amell as a performer, ever since True Jackson, VP.
He is engaging and winsome and his presence probably makes me like this film a whole lot more than I otherwise might have.
The origins of the zombies and the mysteries of Raccoon City have been explained a dozen times over in the previous films.
However, going back to the story's origins does allow for a fun exploration of the technology of the 1990s in which it is set.
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