Leon S. Kennedy - Wikipedia

Leon S. Kennedy
Resident Evil character
Leon S. Kennedy in Resident Evil 2 (2019)
First gameResident Evil 2 (1998)
Created byHideki Kamiya
Noboru Sugimura
Designed byIsao Ohishi (Resident Evil 2)[1]
Portrayed by
Various
Voiced by
Various
  • English
    Paul Haddad (Resident Evil 2)[4]
    Paul Mercier (Resident Evil 4, Degeneration, The Darkside Chronicles)[4]
    Christian Lanz (Operation Raccoon City)[4]
    Matthew Mercer (Resident Evil 6, Damnation, Revelations 2 (Raid Mode only), Vendetta, Death Island)[4]
    Nick Apostolides (Resident Evil 2 and 4 remake, Infinite Darkness)[4]
    Riley McShane (Dead by Daylight)
    Japanese
    Takeshi Maeda (Resident Evil 2 drama cd)
    Jin Yamanoi (Degeneration)[4]
    Toshiyuki Morikawa (Operation Raccoon City, Retribution, Damnation, Resident Evil 6 (Special Package), Revelations 2 (Raid Mode only), Project X Zone 2, Vendetta, Resident Evil 2 and 4 remake, Infinite Darkness, Death Island)[5]
    Yuki Kaji (Welcome to Raccoon City)[6]
Motion capture
Various
  • Teruaki Ogawa (Resident Evil 4)[7]
    O.C. Ormond (Degeneration)
    Kevin Dorman (Damnation)
    Jason Faunt (Resident Evil 6, Vendetta)
    Nick Apostolides (Resident Evil 2 and 4 remake, Infinite Darkness)

Leon Scott Kennedy (Japanese: レオン・スコット・ケネディ, Hepburn: Reon Sukotto Kenedi) is a character in Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan), a survival horror video game series created by the Japanese company Capcom. He debuted as one of the two player characters of the video game Resident Evil 2 (1998), alongside Claire Redfield. During the events of Resident Evil 2, Leon is a rookie police officer who arrives in the doomed Raccoon City late for his first day on the job, to be confronted by a zombie outbreak.

During the course of the game, he teams up with civilian survivor Claire Redfield, rescues the young Sherry Birkin, and is aided by the mysterious Ada Wong. Six years later, in Resident Evil 4 (2005), Leon returns as an agent for the U.S. federal government, as part of a special anti-Umbrella Corporation task force assigned to rescue the president's daughter, Ashley Graham, from a sinister cult. In Resident Evil 6 (2012), he continues to work for the U.S. government and reunites with Ada and an adult Sherry.

Leon is the protagonist of several Resident Evil games, novelizations, and other game franchises, including Project X Zone and Dead by Daylight. Leon appears in the CG animated films and in the animated miniseries. In later games, such as the Resident Evil 2 remake (2019) and the Resident Evil 4 remake (2023), his features were based on Romanian model Eduard Badaluta. Several actors have portrayed Leon, including Johann Urb and Avan Jogia in the live-action Resident Evil films. Video-game publications list Leon among the most popular and iconic video-game characters, and he ranks consistently as a fan favorite character of the franchise.

Concept and design[edit]

Leon was conceived one of two new lead characters (alongside Claire Redfield) for Resident Evil 2, as the development staff wanted the game to star characters who had no experience with terrifying situations, rather than returning and experienced protagonists.[8] Although director Hideki Kamiya preferred the "blunt, tough-guy type", he created Leon as "someone with weaknesses" in order to set him apart and take the game in a different direction from Chris Redfield and the first Resident Evil.[9] While Leon was originally designed as a veteran police officer, he was changed to a rookie after the original version of Resident Evil 2 (also known as Resident Evil 1.5) had been scrapped.[10] Leon's characterization was further revised by new story writer Noboru Sugimura.[11] Leon's appearance was designed by Capcom artist Isao Ohishi.[1]

In the manual for the original version of Resident Evil 2, Leon is explained as being late to his job due to a fight with his girlfriend, which Kamiya later said was based on Kamiya's own life.[12] In Resident Evil 2, Leon has an ambiguous romance with Ada Wong, which has been further explored in later entries, starting with Resident Evil 4. Makoto Kamiya initially wanted the film Resident Evil: Damnation to follow the dysfunctional romance between Leon and Ada, but that idea was scrapped.[13] Johann Urb, who portrays Leon in the live-action film series, described their relationship as "kind of like Mulder and Scully and an X-Files type of deal, where you're waiting for it to happen, but it never does. Maybe in the next one, I'm hoping."[14]

Kamiya was surprised at how popular Leon had become, and enjoyed his evolution into a "really cool looking guy" for Resident Evil 4, adding that he "fell in love all over again".[9] In a documentary explaining the conception of the game's characters, it was stated that Leon was intended to "look tougher, but also cool".[15] Masaki Yamanaka explained the change as being due to the experience he has gained since Resident Evil 2. He was made to look more muscular, but Yamanaka did not want him "too buffed out".[15] His face was modeled after the game's animation department director Christian Duerre.[7]

Resident Evil 6's producer Kobayashi took a liking to Leon and decided to include him in the game, since "he is central to the story".[16] Leon's eventual inclusion led to making his story be more horror-based than those of the rest of the cast and gave a sense of incompleteness, as players would need to choose the other protagonists to understand it.[17] His initial design is meant to be that of a civilian as well as giving the idea of being someone easy to fight.[18] For his China design, the clothing is meant to give an air of stylishness that contrasts with Chris' military equipment. Leon's key color was blue.[19] The initial jacket is also meant to have a civilian look.[20]

For the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake, Leon's design was adjusted to better match the more photorealistic setting; for example, Leon no longer wears large shoulder pads, which were added to distinguish his original, low-polygon model.[21] The remake of Resident Evil 4 emphasized Leon's experience and ability to show how he'd changed between games.[22]

Actors' portrayals[edit]

Toshiyuki Morikawa
Matthew Mercer
Leon has been voiced by several actors, including Toshiyuki Morikawa (left) and Matthew Mercer (right).

Leon is voiced by Paul Haddad in Resident Evil 2. Paul Mercier takes the role in Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil: Degeneration, and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles.[4] Mercier remembers being happy with the localizer, Shinsaku Ohara, and the team in the making of the game ever since its early demo. Despite initial issues in the making of Resident Evil 4, Mercier was relieved that his work as Leon was not removed and was happy to have the opportunity to work with director Ginny Mcswain. Nevertheless, Capcom requested that Mercier re-record some lines because they felt Mercier made Leon sound too old for his age. While Leon acts sarcasticly in Resident Evil 4, he behaves colder in the first CGI film. Mercier believes Capcom wanted a different voice for Leon when developing the film. For the prequel Darkside Chronicles, Mercier expressed difficulties in voicing the younger Leon while still understanding how different he was in this title due to the hardships he has faced.[23]

Mercier was replaced by Matthew Mercer in Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Damnation, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, and Resident Evil: Vendetta.[4] Mercer described himself as a fan and friend of Mercier and said that he felt honored to take over as the voice of Leon. He also detailed his interpretation of Leon and talked about the changes being made to the character.[24] Mercer elaborated that the Leon from Damnation is a "younger, cockier" character, and "actually follows his transition" in contrast to the "broken, downtrodden Leon that Resident Evil 6 begins with". Thanks to discussions with the director, Mercer was able to give his character more personality, linking him to the superhero Spider-Man, who also has a tendency to perform one-liners. However, Mercer claims that since some of Leon's enemies are silent, there is little occasion to joke.[25] Due to the dark narrative in 6 and Damnation, Mercer believes that Leon in Vendetta is a more terrified character, who no longer trusts in his own skills.[26] He will return to play the character in 2023 CG animated film Resident Evil: Death Island.[27] In the Resident Evil 2 commercial directed by George A. Romero, Leon was portrayed by Brad Renfro.[2]

About Johann Urb's casting in Resident Evil: Retribution, the film's producer and director Paul W. S. Anderson said, "You have no idea how difficult it is to find someone with Leon Kennedy's hair [who] has to be manly and has to have these long bangs",[28] adding that "if you put photographs of them side-by-side, it's almost like he was manufactured by Capcom."[29] Anderson said that the decision to include Leon and other game characters in the film was "fan-driven". Urb mentioned that he learned the video-game Leon's mannerisms from watching clips posted on YouTube, commenting that "he doesn't have a high-pitched voice. I feel like he talks how I naturally talk, which is kind of slower."[29]

Christian Lanz voiced Leon in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.[4] Nick Apostolides is the voice and motion capture of Leon in the remake of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, and in the film Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness.[30][31] Apostolides stated that, thanks to the Resident Evil 2 remake, he gained more exposure for his career.[32] The actor was a fan of the franchise and noted that director needed a new voice for Leon/ due to the remake's younger persona. He went on to describe the character as a good nature young adult who stumbles into the mayhem that resulted from the outbreak in Racoon City. He was curious about the character's relationship with Ada Wong, believing his character had feelings for the Ada but found this unhealthy due to how the franchise expands these two's connection.[33] His facial features in the remake of Resident Evil 2 were based on model Eduard Badaluta.[34]

Leon's Japanese actor Toshiyuki Morikawa said Leon has an unwavering sense of justice and the strength of his convictions, so he tries to make sure that everyone who enjoys the work can easily enter that world. He further said he enjoyed his character, while seeing him as young man that people can find anywhere. Leon grows up by getting involved in important events and fully demonstrates his various skills, resulting in his growing confident and secure enough to be a hero. However, Morikawa had the hardest time in the Resident Evil 2 remake, where he acted as a younger Leon. Morikawa was able to enter that world smoothly this time by playing the role of Leon, who became more magnificent after that.[35]

Leon's appearances[edit]

In the Resident Evil video games[edit]

Leon debuted in Resident Evil 2 (1998), as one of the game's two protagonists, alongside Claire Redfield. In the story, he is a police officer on his first day, who arrives in the Midwestern United States town of Raccoon City just after a viral outbreak begins. He meets Claire by chance as she is chased by zombies created by the T-virus. Together, they flee towards the Raccoon City Police Department building but get separated and go their own ways. They eventually meet again at the Umbrella Corporation underground research complex responsible for the viral outbreak.[36] Along the way, Leon teams-up with Ada, a mysterious and charming woman eventually revealed as a spy seeking a sample of the even-more-powerful G-virus. During the final confrontation with the seemingly unstoppable T-103 Tyrant that constantly pursues the characters, Ada tosses Leon (or Claire, depending on the scenario) a rocket launcher to destroy the creature. In the end, Leon faces and kills the grotesquely mutated Umbrella scientist William Birkin, and escapes from the self-destructing facility, along with Claire and Birkin's young daughter Sherry.[36] Leon reprises his role in the remake of Resident Evil 2 (2019).[37]

An epilogue to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) reveals that Leon later joined the U.S. federal government. In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (2000), Claire contacts Leon to relay information to her brother Chris while she is imprisoned on Rockfort Island.[36] Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2009) features re-imaginings of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil – Code Veronica; it also has a new scenario, set in 2002, that involves Leon and the soldier Jack Krauser on a mission to search for Javier Hidalgo, an ex-drug-lord who had been said to do business with Umbrella.[38]

Leon is the protagonist of Resident Evil 4 (2005). In 2004, he is a special agent assigned to rescue the U.S. president's daughter, Ashley Graham, who is being held somewhere in Europe.[39] Her kidnappers turn out to be part of an evil cult known as Los Illuminados,[40] which has taken control of local villagers using parasites known as Las Plagas. As Leon searches for Ashley, he is captured and injected with the parasite. With help from Ada Wong and the Illuminados researcher Luis Sera, Leon is able to remove Las Plagas from his body and to rescue Ashley while confronting the cult. At the game's climax, Leon kills the cult leader, Osmund Saddler, but is forced to give a Plagas sample to Ada, who escapes in a helicopter, leaving Leon and Ashley to escape on a watercraft.[36] Leon reprises his role in the remake of Resident Evil 4 (2023).[41] He is also one of the protagonists in Resident Evil 6 (2012), alongside Chris Redfield, Jake Muller, and Ada Wong.[36][42]

Leon also appears in several non-canonical games in the series. He stars alongside Barry Burton in the Game Boy Color-only Resident Evil Gaiden (2001).[43] Along with Claire, Leon is one of two playable characters in the browser and mobile game Resident Evil: Zombie Busters.[44] In the third-person shooter Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (2012) revisiting the Raccoon City incident, the players control Umbrella operatives sent to kill any survivors, and certain actions can lead to Leon's death.[45] He is also a player character in the "Heroes" mode of this game[46] and is portrayed by the computer-animated film Leon face model, Jamisin Matthews.[47] Leon, along with Claire's costume, appears in Resident Evil: Resistance (2020).[48] He is also a playable character in Resident Evil Re:Verse (2022).[49]

In Resident Evil films[edit]

Avan Jogia portrayed Leon in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Leon teams up with Claire Redfield in the 2008 computer-animated film Resident Evil: Degeneration, in order to stop another outbreak of the T-virus on American soil. He returns in the sequel Resident Evil: Damnation,[50] where he is sent to investigate the use of the Las Plagas during a civil war in Eastern Europe. Starting with Resident Evil: Degeneration, Capcom modeled the computer-animated Leon Kennedy after Jamisin Matthews.[51] Unlike the live-action film series, the animated films are canonically set in the same universe as the game series, serving as the prequels to Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, respectively. A third computer-animated film Resident Evil: Vendetta (2017) starring Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy and Rebecca Chambers. A guilt-ridden Leon joins Chris on a rescue operation and decrypts Glenn Arias's plan for a large-scale attack on New York City.[52] Leon also appears in the Netflix series Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (2021). He encounters zombies when the White House is targeted in a mysterious attack. He later meets Claire Redfield, who has been investigating a strange drawing made by a child refugee while working on a TerraSave-led mission to oversee construction of a welfare facility.[53] He returned in the sequel to the animated film, Resident Evil: Death Island.[54]

In a 2010 interview, director Paul W. S. Anderson said that, if Resident Evil: Afterlife succeeds, he would do a fifth film and would like Leon to make an appearance in it.[55] Leon also appeared as a major character in Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), "poised to rumble with Bad Rain and the defected Jill Valentine".[14] The live-action version of Leon is leader of a mercenary group working for Albert Wesker who teams up with the film's version of Ada to fight Umbrella, save Alice, and rescue Jill. At the end of the film, he is one of the characters to survive.[56] In the reboot film Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021), Leon, played by Avan Jogia, teams up with Claire and Brian Irons to escape the city[3]

Other appearances[edit]

Leon is featured in the 1998-1999 manhua comic Shēnghuà Wēijī 2 ("Biological Crisis 2").[57] A romantic comedy, centered on Leon, Claire, and Ada, and retelling of the story of Resident Evil 2, was released in the Taiwanese two-issue comic Èlíng Gǔbǎo II in 1999.[58] Leon also appeared as a character in the Image Comics title Resident Evil, including the novels Resident Evil: City of the Dead and Resident Evil: Underworld by S. D. Perry.[59] In printed trading card media, Leon appears as a card in the Bandai produced game Resident Evil: The Deck Building Game.[60] On Halloween Horror Nights 2013 held at Universal Orlando, Leon was featured as one of two main characters in a haunted house called "Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City", based on Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.[61]

Outside the Resident Evil franchise, Leon appears as a costume for the character Chris Redfield in the fighting game Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.[62] He appears as a solo playable character in Project X Zone 2.[63] He makes a special guest appearance as a spirit in the Nintendo's crossover video game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[64] Leon and multiple other Resident Evil characters appear as playable characters in Dead by Daylight.[65] His Persistent Investigator and Impervious Agent skins were also included.[66] Leon has also appeared in an online multiplayer battle royale game Knives Out on July 29 to August 12, 2021.[67] In August 2021, the character Lion from Rainbow Six Siege received Leon Kennedy's skin.[68] In February 2022, both Leon and Chris appeared as an easter egg in Dying Light 2.[69] In March 2023, Leon and Claire appeared in Fortnite Battle Royale.[70] In April 2023, Leon appeared in Puzzle & Survival.[71] In 2023, before the release of the remake of Resident Evil 4, Capcom released a promotional anime of the Resident Evil Masterpiece Theater, which depicted the story of Leon and Ashley.[72]

Merchandise[edit]

Various types of merchandising based on Leon have been released. In 2004, Capcom announced a series of outfits based on Leon's clothing, called "Leon's Collection".[73] In 2020, a statue and figurine of Leon was also made, alongside that of Claire.[74][75] In Japan, Capcom has released a 10 ml bottle of Leon-styled perfume, which is now on sale for ¥6380.[76] In 2021, Capcom and Kadoya collaborated to produce an official reproduction of Leon's jacket from Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness.[77] Capcom has also collaborated with Darkside Collectibles to develop a quarter-size Leon figurine based on his appearance in Resident Evil 4.[78] In 2022, a $1500 reproduction of Leon's jacket from the remake of Resident Evil 4 has been released.[79] NAUTS and DAMTOYS have released a 1/6 figurine of Leon from the remake of Resident Evil 2.[80] In 2023, Kotobukiya opened up pre-orders for ARTFX figures of Leon from Resident Evil: Vendetta.[81] Little Armory and Seiko would produce 1/12 scale models of small arms and watches.[82][83]

Reception[edit]

Leon was redesigned for Resident Evil 4 to look cooler and more experienced to overcome any situations.[22]

Game publications, including the 2011 version of the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition,[84] included Leon among the most popular and iconic video game characters.[85][86][87] Magazines also praised him as the most likable Resident Evil character.[88][89] His relationship with Ada has been noted as a memorable video-game romance.[90][91] Nintendo Power considered him a Nintendo gaming hero, stating that he went from a "glorified meter maid with a bad haircut" to a tough guy.[92] GamesRadar+ considered Leon as an "influential and badass hero", praising his composure and raw endurance.[93] Tom's Hardware placed the character among the best protagonists in video games, lauding him in particular for his coolness and resolve in the face of all the frightening circumstances that surround him.[94]

Leon's appearance in Resident Evil 4 has generally received positive reviews. In the book Immersion, Narrative, and Gender Crisis in Survival Horror Video Games, Andrei Nae described Leon's persona as a hypermasculine persona similar to Ethan Tomas from Condemned: Criminal Origins.[95] According to PlayStation Universe's Mike Harradence, "we've seen Kennedy transition from a likeable, wet-behind-the-ears, love-sick puppy to a wise-cracking, super smooth government agent."[36] GamesRadar described Leon's design as "David Bowie piloting the Memphis Belle", stating that, while it was appealing, the hairstyle required modifications for encounters in the games.[96] Complex commented on "his sarcastic and moody attitude", adding that, while Leon "stepped it up in the series by maturing and becoming a true hero", they "enjoyed the game more when Leon didn't speak."[97] In Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian criticized Leon's continuous journey to save Ashley.[98][95]

In addition to their various settings and how the remake was authentic to them, Michael McWhertor of Polygon has praised Leon in the remake of Resident Evil 2 and said that "the character feels like a human being and moves like a contemporary video game action hero".[99] Cass Marshall described Leon as a "sexy side of its star".[100] Yet according to Ravi Sinha of GamingBolt, the character's revised design is among the worst in video games, and the creators ought to have stuck with his original appearance.[101] GameSpot's Kurt Indovina said the game's remake improved Leon's personality, as he now seemed more human.[102] On the remake of Resident Evil 4, Ana Diaz from Polygon reported that Leon's sex appeal represents the fetishization of the character's looks; this comment was shared on TikTok.[103]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bardhan, Ashley (April 6, 2023). "These Resident Evil 4 Remake Fans Let Leon Get Hurt So He Moans". Kotaku. Retrieved April 6, 2023.
  • Bardhan, Ashley (April 14, 2023). "25 Years Of Leon Kennedy's Evolution In Resident Evil". Kotaku. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  • Culp, Jeniffer (July 12, 2023). "How to be as hot as Leon Kennedy in RE4, using makeup". Polygon. Retrieved July 13, 2023.

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