Movie Review | Zombieland
Movie summary: A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America. (IMDb)
It took me a while to give Zombieland a go when it first came out, with the movie coming across at the time as US, and lesser, version of Shaun of the Dead. The thing is, I'd say the comparison still stands, but this movie is by no means 'lesser'.
And, to be fair, the comparison between the two movies only really comes from the meshing of comedy and zombie movies, with a central romance to act as a third pillar shoring the movies up. Both films try for different tones and certainly different characters to make them both worth a watch.
The characters are really what make both movies special, although my favourite if the lot is probably Woody Harrelson's Tallahassee. It's tough to describe his character thanks to how complex he is, which is pretty incredible for a movie like Zombieland.
You could simplify things and say that he's a jerk with a heart of gold, but that neither explains why he acts like a jerk in the first place and nor does he have a heart of gold, instead gradually opening up across the movie's duration.
Honestly, the reason Tallahassee stands out is that he's definitely larger than life, but never unrealistically so, with there always being a funny moment to undercut his bombast, or a more human moment to realise that he's really putting on an act and not actually like he behaves.
This is also my favourite Jesse Eisenberg performance too, despite how great he also was in The Social Network. He's playing an awkward, stereotypically-geeky type as Columbus, but his character isn't quite that shallow either, with some clear lines that he will not allowed to be crossed too.
Emma Stone is also fantastic as Wichita, and it's very easy to see why someone like Columbus would fall for her so fast. She's virtually a femme fatale for most of the movie, but - much like Tallahassee - she opens up considerably by the time Zombieland is over.
Rounding out the quartet is Abigail Breslin as Little Rock, who arguably gets less development or depth than the others, because - as flashbacks show - she's been subverting people's expectations of her before the end of the world happened anyway. While I can't fault her performance at all, there's a certain something lacking in Little Rock's character that just holds her back half a step from the others.
I don't think it's really any particular fault of the writing, more a necessary drawback to that type of character full-stop. I think if you were to try and make Little Rock more complex, it'd be a completely different movie and it would probably require the character being aged up considerably.
Outside of Little Rock, the writing is rock-solid, coming from the writers of both Deadpool movies, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Back when they were announced as the writers for the Merc with a Mouth, I knew they'd be fine precisely because of how this movie acted as an almost perfect test run for that type of film.
Superpowers aside, there's a lot of shared substance between Zombieland and Deadpool, including fourth-wall breaking with Columbus acting as narrator for the audience here, and even Tallahassee talking to the camera at one point.
Much like Deadpool, it all feels entirely appropriate to the movie's tone and premise, acting as one of the main differences between Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. The latter might have sly winks at the audience, the former doesn't even think about being subtle about it.
My only real criticism is about how generic everything looks - although I'm not really sure that's the right word. Zombieland just isn't a particularly interesting film from a visual standpoint outside of the group destroying a store and the finale at an abandoned amusement park.
It's lucky then that the characters and those playing them are just so damned good. There's a sequel coming out in 2019 which will mark a decade since this movie was released and the visuals are the only part of Zombieland that I think require any kind of improvement - as far as anything else goes, I'll be very, very happy with more of the same.
Zombieland is a really great film centred by fantastic performances from the central foursome. It's funny and sweet while being filled with blood and gore - a dirtier and rougher US equivalent to Shaun of the Dead. It's really, really funny and I can't wait for the sequel.