Yeah, we’ve seen zombies before. We’ve seen them as scary, gross, and funny. There’s only so many ways you can see a guy get his arms ripped off before it becomes cliche. It seems we’ve seen zombies so much in recent movies that they just aren’t what they used to be. Maybe its the fact that the typical zombie movie is flawed such that the characters in the movie who aren’t zombies are pretty much characterized to be just like zombies; single-minded blood-thirsty killing machines. Zombieland is thankfully different; it investigates the human side of a zombie invasion. It cares less about how the zombies got there and more about what keeps the few people left alive from going crazy and turning into metaphorical zombies themselves. Sure, it is a laugh riot, a blood bath, and you might even say romance/coming-of-age story, but underneath all of this is a message about hope. A hope that even when things are really flubbed up you can always move on, get stronger, and grow. A message that applies perfectly to today’s world, a world rampant with metaphorical zombies.
Synopsis: In a world overrun by killer zombies, only a few survivors remain. These survivors are alive only thanks to their unique abilities to adapt to the times and do whatever it takes to keep going. As a result, the future of humanity is completely devoid of trust among man, simply because no one wants to care about someone else only to see said person get their head gnawed off by a zombie. Everyone is fending for themselves and the only common basis of unity is killin’ zombies. Among the survivors is Columbus (most characters names are never revealed, instead they are named after the places they are heading or from where they came), a college student who has only survived due to his neurotic tendencies and his strict adherence to a list of criteria necessary to surviving the zombie invasion. Columbus eventually meets Tallahassee, a middle aged man who, beyond his obsession with finding an unspoiled Twinkie, has a hobby of finding new and interesting ways to kill zombies. When Columbus and Tallahassee are taken advantage of by two girls, Wichita and Little Rock, events unfold that leave them wondering whether life can go on once again as it did before the invasion, or if nothing will ever be the same again.
Acting: Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland), is hilarious and convincing in his innocence and obsessive tendencies. He is perfectly out of place amongst the terror going on around him to the point that not only do you feel sorry for him, but you also laugh at his misfortunes. Picture Michael Cera in TV’s Arrested Development. Tallahassee is played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson (Semi-Pro). His character is tough at the right times, soft at the right times, invincible as well as vulnerable. In other words, human. Finally, Witchita and Little Rock are played by Emma Stone (The Rocker) and Abigale Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). Both of them are inconsistant in their performances throughout the movie. Unlike Eisenberg and Harrelson, their sincerity and the ways in which the invasion has effected their lives is difficult to pin down. I think this is more as a result of flaws in the ways their characters are written than through performance. (22/25)
Plot/Script: The plot has one or two good twists but is basically something you’ve seen before in bits and parts in other movies. It doesn’t help that some parts are way too predictable, not to mention that the entire movie follows a familiar full-circle theme. On the bright side, Zombieland doesn’t take itself too seriously, so much of the zombie-derived predictability is less of an issue because the film is playing off of the cliche. However, the film slows down considerably after starting off full-throttle. The end especially is lacking because not only could you see it coming, but it is not build up properly. It feels like an end that came out of convenience rather than real effort to conclude the story, evidence of lazy writing. Humor is consistent throughout though, and is enough to keep you interested along with the development of the characters. (19/25)
Direction: This is director Ruben Feischer’s motion-picture debut, so I can’t comment on his style, but the movie does have a unique feel. Primarily, the movie is driven by Columbus’ internal 1st-person monologue, displayed to the audience with the use of voice overs throughout much of the movie. Usually I am against using voice overs in a movie because it is a cheap (read cutting the corners) way of characterization, and usually only appears in the movie so that the audience can be force-fed why what is happening onscreen actually makes sense. This is not the case here. The voice overs are necessary and central to both the plot and comedy. It makes sense that if someone was alone in the world as much as Columbus is that he would have a lot of time to think to himself. Similarly, voice overs act as an explanation to the events taking place onscreen as there is no formal intro to explain how everything started. Finally, Feischer makes use of Tarantino-esq in-movie text to make points and most specifically to add comedy. However, the end is a let down in the directional department too. The voice overs continue, but like I said before, lazy writing gets more apparent as time goes on and the dialogue falls into the habit of repeating what is going on onscreen and force-feeding the audience. The onscreen text gets more sparse too as the film goes on, but again both of these issues could be writing issues. (20/25)
Special Effects/Music/X-Factor: This movie is as gory as any other zombie movie, and you’ll even find yourself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all at times. However, I have to say that the gore is tastefully done, kudos to the director, who turns the camera away during some of the most gruesome parts. Besides gore, other special effects are well done. Apocalyptic America is as barren and desolate as you thought it would be. I really enjoyed the music in this movie, it fits well and was never too aggressive or annoying. The focus on being human rather than trying not to become a zombie is the real X-factor here, along with all the quirks that make it funny and original. (25/25)
What Kept Me Watching It: The movie finds a way to distance itself from the rest of the zombie-movie genre with entertaining characters that are refreshingly human, hilarious quirks, and enough action and suspense to keep you entertained.
What Killed It: The movie does not end as well nor in the same manner as it begins, it is pretty gory, and suffers from some script/writing issues.
Summary: What might happen if an edgy Sam Raimi made a zombie movie.
Final Rating: (86/100) = B