IGN has your exclusive first look at Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which Screen Gems bills not as a reboot or remake of their feature film franchise but rather as the origin story of the original Capcom games. Check out the three exclusive images below to see the new big-screen versions of Claire and Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy, Albert Wesker and more characters gamers will recognize.
The upcoming film — written and directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Strangers: Prey at Night) — is based on the first two Resident Evil games. The movie chronicles how Raccoon City went from being a city of industry to a dying Midwestern town that’s become ground zero for the t-Virus outbreak.
In a new exclusive interview with IGN, Roberts elaborated on the differences between his Resident Evil movie, the prior films starring Milla Jovovich, and how his filmmaking approach here draws not only from the Capcom games but also old school genre filmmaking:
“This movie really had nothing to do with the previous franchise. This was all about returning to the games and creating a movie that was much more a horror movie than the sort of sci-fi action of the previous films. I was hugely influenced in particular by the remake of the second game and I really wanted to capture the atmosphere-drenched tone that it had. It was so cinematic. The previous movies were very bright and shiny whereas this movie was dark and grimy, entirely shot at night. It’s constantly raining and the town is shrouded in mist. … I was hugely influenced by movies like The Exorcist (and Exorcist 3!), Don’t Look Now, and The Shining. You can really feel the texture in this movie. Nothing in this town feels hi-tech. It feels dilapidated. I wanted Raccoon City to feel a bit like the town in Deer Hunter; a ghost town forgotten by the rest of the world. And the whole structure of the film was definitely very influenced by Assault on Precinct 13.”
Our first exclusive image from the film reveals the first look at Kaya Scodelario as Claire Redfield and Avan Jogia as Leon S. Kennedy. You’ll notice Leon is wearing his police uniform, in keeping with what his job was at the time of the Raccoon City Destruction Incident.
In Resident Evil 2, Leon and Claire Redfield, sister of S.T.A.R.S. officer Chris Redfield (played in this film by the Arrowverse’s Robbie Amell), were among the few people who ventured into Raccoon City following the outbreak. They eventually crossed paths with Raccoon City Police Chief Brian Irons, played in this film by Gotham’s Donal Logue.
“The difference with this film as opposed to the previous movies is that it is an ensemble where each of the main characters carries huge importance to the narrative. They are not just cosplay characters who have the exact hair and costume of the characters,” Roberts said. “It was hugely important with the whole casting process to find people who embodied the spirit and energy of the characters I wanted to portray. I think often in game adaptations one of the big flaws can be just casting someone to look visually like the characters – giving them the identical haircut and clothes but not really trying to give the audience the thing that a movie does better than a game – which is to create a three dimensional character that you can really connect with and believe in.”
Roberts recalled the particularly difficult search for the right actor to play Leon S. Kennedy: “We must have seen so many people – it was really quite a tricky role because of the balance of humor and weariness. Then Avan read and I was like he’s the one! He gets it.”
IGN’s second exclusive image from Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City features, from left-to-right, Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper), Richard Aiken (Chad Rook), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) on the prowl in the Spencer Mansion, which Roberts previously described to us as being “creepy as f*ck” in his film.
“I wanted to go back to the horror of it all. I wanted scares and atmosphere rather than full-on action,” Roberts told IGN when comparing what differentiates Welcome to Raccoon City from the earlier Resident Evil films. “I think fans of the game felt the same. They wanted to see the iconic characters and locations and feel that the movie was more in line with the Resident Evil game world so that’s really why we chose to go in that direction. We worked hand in hand with Capcom on this movie to the point that we actually got blueprints from them on the designs of the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon police station in order to recreate them as perfectly as we could. We even have the exact artwork up on the mansion walls. Capcom saw it for the first time the other day and was so happy and excited.”
The final image we can exclusively reveal from Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City depicts Lisa Trevor, played in the film by Marina Mazepa. In the games, Lisa is the teenage daughter of the architect of the Spencer Mansion in Raccoon Forest who went missing while on a walk. Umbrella scientists working out of the Arklay Laboratory near the Spencer Mansion experimented on Lisa for years, including exposing her to multiple viruses.
These gruesome experiments on Lisa led Umbrella to discover the Nemesis Tyrant and the G-Virus, but they also transformed her into a deranged monstrosity. One of the scientists who experimented on her is Dr. William Birkin, played in Welcome to Raccoon City by Neal McDonough.
“Lisa Trevor is actually quite a pivotal role in the movie. I was always fascinated by her when playing the remake of the first game. I found her character both disturbing and at the same time strangely haunting,” Roberts told IGN. “When we were discussing how to bring this story to life it was one of the elements that I really wanted to feature strongly as she has never been in any of the filmed versions of Resident Evil. I wanted her to be a three-dimensional character, not just some creepy specter. We cast Marina Mazepa, who had just done Malignant for James Wan and really worked hard in bringing this character to life in a way I think the fans are going to love so much. She’s terrifying but also tragic. In the movie, we really connect her to Claire Redfield’s story, starting with the orphanage where Claire grew up.”
Fans of the games should know that Capcom was involved in the film’s development and designs. “We worked very closely with Capcom. Every character and creature is from the game and as such, I wanted to be as faithful as possible. I wanted to create a truly immersive feeling for the fans,” Roberts explained. “But that also became the trickiest part of adapting a piece of IP like this because I didn’t just want to put the game on screen – it had to be its own thing with living breathing characters and creatures (and, of course, zombies!) that felt true to the world.”
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City opens only in theaters on November 24, 2021, in the US, December 3 in the UK, and November 25 in Australia.
(Editor’s note: Our original post incorrectly included Brad Vickers instead of Richard Aiken. We regret the error.)