Kaya Scodelario on rebooting 'Resident Evil' for 'Welcome to Raccoon City'

The video game zombie saga is back from the dead

It has been almost five years since the Resident Evil film series seemingly bowed out of cinemas with the promised Final Chapter’s release in January 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its status as the $1 billion-plus grossing, most successful video game franchise in world cinema, however, 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 to date 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.”

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
Kaya Scodelario, actor

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 her own – 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?

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'

“That was interesting, and you’re right that it was pre-Covid 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 challenges 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.”

She 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.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will be released in cinemas on November 25

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 9:39 AM