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SYFY WIRE Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Welcome to Raccoon City: What to know about Johannes Roberts' Resident Evil origin flick

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City arrives in theaters everywhere Wednesday, Nov. 24.

By Josh Weiss
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Sony Pictures couldn't just let the Resident Evil film franchise die after the property's six-movie run (shepherded along by Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson) brought in over $1 billion at the global box office.

Like the mutated abominations created by the Umbrella Corporation, the Capcom-inspired series isn't dying anytime soon. In fact, it's coming back to the big screen later this month with Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, a '90s-set origin story centered around legacy characters we know and love from the bestselling video games.

"This movie really had nothing to do with the previous franchise," writer-director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) explained to IGN over the summer. "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."

Before the outbreak reaches your local movie theater, head below for a quick crash course on everything you need to know about the film before it opens.

When is it out?

Unlike most big studio releases that make their theatrical debuts on a Friday, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will arrive on the big screen Wednesday, Nov. 24 (in order to take advantage of the long Thanksgiving box office).

The movie was originally slated for an opening in early September, but was ultimately delayed to late November as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This may have turned out to be a smart move as Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ended up cleaning up at the Labor Day box office with a record-breaking domestic bow of $90 million.

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Where you can watch it

On the big screen! Sony Pictures is committed to the old school exclusive theatrical model and has no current plans to adopt the dual release strategies of its major competitors like Warner Bros. and Disney.

"I don't think we'll be in the day-and-date release business," studio CEO Tony Vinciquerra said last December. "I think the economic model for very big budget movies require the windows that are in the flow now and will continue with that. I think every film released will have an individual negotiation with the exhibitors, but look, we think a 30-day window is probably the best. It'll allow us to advertise our marketing over the two windows, theatrical and home entertainment. So we think that's the way to go."

You can pre-order theater tickets right here.

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Reviving Resident Evil

Welcome to Raccoon City has been in the works since the spring of 2017 when German-based production company Constantin Film announced that it planned to reboot the lucrative cinematic franchise. Roberts was tapped to write and direct the project a little over a year later in the winter of 2018.

Roberts offered a quick update on the film in the summer of 2019 while speaking with ScreenRant. “We are in active development of that at the moment," he said. "I pitched them a take, and they really loved it. So, we are just gearing up on that as we speak, really." 

He continued: "It’s gonna be super scary. It’s super, super scary. And it’s just getting back to the roots of the game. I think, at the moment, I’m not really allowed to say much more than that. But it’s gonna be a lot of fun."

The principal cast members were announced on Twitter last fall, with production taking place in and around Ontario, Canada. Sony debuted a collection of first look stills this past summer and the film's debut trailer arrived several months later on the first morning of New York Comic Con (the footage played throughout the weekend before a number of virtual panels).

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The players

Kaya Scodelario (Crawl) and Robbie Amell (Upload) headline the ensemble as the story's protagonists: Claire and Chris Redfield. Their father was a scientist for the Umbrella Corporation — working alongside folks like Neal McDonough's William Birkin — and may hold the key to containing whatever viral outbreak the company cooked up in its shady labs.

"Claire is a rounded character," Scodelario said for a behind-the-scenes character featurette. "She has her own journey. She isn't just there to shoot guns. I love how rebellious she is. She's an absolute badass."

Claire ran away from Raccoon City a while back, but her brother is a current officer of the Raccoon City Police Department (led by Donal Logue's Chief Irons). In the featurette for Chris, Roberts explained that Chris needs to go beyond his reputation as a "small-town hero" in order to contain the virus. "He has to become this action hero."

Rounding out the cast are Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), a slightly crazy member of the RCPD; Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia), a nerdy and reluctant hero; and Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper), the lead antagonist.

Since this is an origin story, a lot of these characters won't be the same people fans know from the source material. For example, Hopper and Roberts agreed that Wesker should not be "a stereotypical villain, we wanted him to be likable. We're seeing who he really is underneath the sunglasses ... It really does feel like we're making the movie version of the game."

“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," Roberts told IGN. "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.”

Click here for SYFY WIRE's exploration of direct links to the games that we picked up in the first trailer.