In the past decade or so, audiences have been devoured by hordes of zombie movies and TV-shows like “The Walking Dead.”
This subversive sub-genre that used to be defined by edgy indie productions has now received hundreds of millions of dollars in producing funds, casts and crews from the very “tippy-top of the A-list,” to quote the first installment. Most of the time, these gobs of cash do nothing but sterilize the gritty and zany aesthetic that were epitomized in inspiring films of the genre like “Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later.”
The original 2009 “Zombieland” marked the beginning of the popularization of the genre in general culture and was an incredibly fresh, funny and touching story that still holds up.
However, director Ruben Fleischer and actors Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin return to the genre after a ten-year hiatus. Unlike many others recently, they prove that even Academy Award-winning, and nominated, talents funded by millions of dollars can produce one of the funniest and most genuine zombie-films to date.
Ten years after Eisenberg’s Columbus and Harrelson’s Tallahassee saved Stone’s Wichita and Breslin’s Little Rock at the Pacific Playland theme park, the group has traversed the United States of Zombieland to arrive at the White House in Washington D. C.
This odd quartet of antisocial, zombie-slaying and meta punch-line delivering badasses become a battle-hardened family that cares for little more than each other. However, when their hardened personalities are forced to stay with each other in one location for an extended period of time without having to fight off a horde of the undead every day, they find a disease much worse than a modified form of Mad Cow disease: cabin fever and adolescence.
The group splits up, leaving all of the members dispersed throughout Zombieland to discover the familial bonds that end up uniting them more than their fears can divide them.
“Zombieland: Doubletap” is, ironically, one of the most life-filled films of the year.
Throughout their journey, Columbus, Wichita, Tallahassee and Little Rock come across other survivors who have figured out unique methods of survival in the apocalypse.The film wastes no potential for copious amounts of fun-filled and politically incorrect social commentary.
These new survivors introduce a whole new layer to the world of “Zombieland” and throw our returning characters into a series of riotously fun sequences that are sure to make fans of the original love this sequel, and are likely to win over more cautious viewers.
In the ten years that separated this sequel from the original, the cast has clearly done nothing but grow in ability and talent. All original cast members return, and it feels like they never left. If anything, the group’s chemistry together is better than it was in the original.
Additionally, Harrelson, Eisenberg, Breslin and Stone maintain their character mannerisms and advance them all with the maturing of their characters over the course of a decade. As meta and funny as this film is, all of the main characters ground the film through their realistic responses to their unrealistic circumstances.
This film is certainly an improvement over its predecessor when it comes to the film’s set design, cinematography and visual effects; these zombies are some of the best-looking undead to ever stumble and snarl across the silver screen.
Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung and Fleischer were clearly dedicated to advancing the quality of the cinematography in the sequel without sacrificing the indie-aesthetic that marks some of the most beloved films in the zombie-genre. No fancy editing or glossy camerawork is employed here. Instead, the careful viewer will notice the dedication to detail-oriented scene construction, especially in some thrilling one-shots.
However, where this film falters compared to the original is all in its writing. “Zombieland” was one of the most memorable films of the 2000s because of its then-unique focus on meta-humor in a story about totally different people making it work in a world overrun with the undead.
Now, audiences have grown somewhat accustomed to violent and meta movies like “Deadpool” and “Cabin in the Woods.” The formula used in “Zombieland: Doubletap” still works, it just isn’t as fresh as its predecessor. This especially shows in some, albeit humorous, sequences that were obviously written to extend the runtime beyond what the movie’s main narrative could support on its own.
Despite its familiar feel and some conventional writing, the talented cast and crew return to Zombieland and deliver a film about family. Filled with heart, meta-humor, “big guns,” social commentary and lots of rotting corpses, the film is well worth the price of admission.