The National - News
RESIDENT EVIL IS BACK FROM THE DEAD WITH A NEW GUN-TOTING FEMALE LEAD
▶ The successful video game film still has some rounds left, writes Chris Newbould
It has been almost five years since the Resident Evil film series seemingly bowed out of cinemas with the promised The Final Chapter’s release at the end of 2016. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its status as the $1 billion-plus grossing, most successful video game franchise in world cinema, it’s emulating the undead hordes that populate the films and returning from the grave to hit our screens once more this weekend.
Welcome to Raccoon City is the seventh film in the franchise and reboots the series with a new central character, Claire Redfield, taking over zombie-slaying duties from Milla Jovovich’s much-loved Alice.
The lead may be new, but fans can be assured there are plenty of the same old virus-infected zombie hordes they know and love from the previous films to be seen too.
The role of Redfield goes to rising star Kaya Scodelario, from hit UK drama Skins and the cult Young Adult fiction adaptation The Maze Runner.
The events of the latest film, meanwhile, take place in Raccoon City, home of the game world’s Tyrant Virus, where we find Redfield returning to her childhood home town in time to witness the events that will turn its residents into hungry flesh-eating monsters.
“Claire grew up in Raccoon City. She was raised in an orphanage there, but she ran away at an early age,” Scodelario tells The National. “
“She’s kind of been on the road for a few years and learnt how to handle herself. Now she comes back to town to speak to her brother and to warn him that she has new information that she needs to share with him that she thinks may save the world.”
It’s a set-up that will be familiar to fans of the previous films – Jovovich made the role of gun-toting bad girl determined to save humanity from the armies of the dead – and despite being a whole different character, Redfield’s similarities to Alice are unmistakable.
When asked if she found it daunting following in the footsteps of such a well-established heroine, Scodelario replies: “Definitely, but I only choose roles if the female part is real.
“The women I’ve worked with, and the directors I’ve worked with, have always had strong female leads as a standard, so for me, that is just the bare minimum. And then you get to build on character and script and wardrobe and everything else on top of that. I wouldn’t walk into anything that didn’t start with the character being a strong female, because that’s every woman that I know. I love that challenge, and I was very excited to meet that.”
It’s not only the film’s central character that may look familiar to audiences in 2021. The decision to reboot the franchise was made in 2017, but by the time of its release four years later, fans will be uncomfortably familiar with the idea of a society ravaged by a terrible virus. Could virus fatigue affect fan responses to the latest instalment?
“That was interesting, and you’re right that it was preCovid when I got the script,” Scodelario says. “But then we actually were one of the first major productions to work during Covid and I did speak to the director about it.”
The actress describes the logistical challenges of testing a 300-strong crew every two days, of colleagues developing blisters in their noses from the frequent swabs, and the difficulty of working out how to physically film big action scenes while maintaining social distancing and other Covid requirements.
Scodelario maintains that audiences still have room for another virus in their lives, though.
“I do think there is enough of an interest in this story. There’s already such a strong fan base and this character has been a part of people’s lives for multiple generations,” she says. “I have a great belief that people still want to go to the cinema to have an experience, to really go and shut out the rest of the world for a couple of hours, and immerse themselves in a different world.
“What is more frightening, yet still weirdly entertaining, than the idea of the dead coming back? There’s something old school that generation after generation can still enjoy about that kind of popcorn experience.”
Scodelario does also admit, however, that while fans of the franchise may be eager for more virus-induced mania, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. “At the same time, I would also completely get it if some people are like, ‘No, I don’t want to watch anything to do with viruses ever again. Just give me rainbows and clouds,’” she says with a laugh.
I wouldn’t walk into anything that didn’t start with the character being a strong female. I love that challenge, and I was very excited to meet that
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is in UAE cinemas from today