Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer
Directed by Zack Snyder
Rated R: Violence, Gore, Language, Some Sensuality
The film begins as we slowly begin to see the zombie apocalypse develop and get a first person reaction from Ann (Sarah Polley) and well as a montage to let us know this is a worldwide event. Our entourage of characters are able find shelter at the local shopping mall. There are some hostilities with the people already at the mall, but this is smoothed over rather quickly for the sake of narrative convenience. They wait around, do some things, and then before you know it, they escape from the mall and make their way out into a very bleak world.
We don’t get so much of a protagonist or lead characters so much as we see some people who spend more time onscreen than others. In the original film had only four lead characters and got to know them and see them change with the situations, and because we knew them, there was some considerable tension as to whether or not they would live or die. In the remake we have at the height of the head count, seventeen characters, none of which we get to know beyond which of them is good with a gun, which one of them can stitch up injuries and which one of them is the jerk that’ll most likely abandon the group and get eaten by karma zombies. By the end I couldn’t even remember half of their character’s names.
With that being said there are some interesting ideas that are tossed around during the course of this movie. One subplot involves Ving Rhames using signboards to communicate with “Andy”, a guy who has secured himself on the roof of a gun store across the street. “He may as well be on the moon.” Ving says. It’s a rather chilling line at that, knowing that because of the undead army between them, he cannot help this man in need. The two men develop a friendship through the exchange of information and display emotional reactions to relaying of bad news. In my opinion, it’s the best part of the movie. There is also a rather gruesome scene involving a pregnant woman giving birth to a zombie baby that ranks as shocking on the emotional scale.
Despite the fact that the movie starts by focusing on Ann and reaction to the surrounding chaos she isn’t a leader or a real protagonist. As a nurse she just slaps on Band-Aids, while the other women are either elderly, in labor, or putting out so that we can see some truly pointless sex scenes. The duty of “group leader” shifts between Ving Rhames’ police officer character and “Michael” (Jack of all trades, master of none!) to handle all the dangerous situations, as that is the duty of men. I can’t help but remember “Night of the Living Dead” and the original “Dawn of the Dead” and how revolutionary it was that the black guy was in charge and could help get the survivors organized. In the very beginning we see Ann looked down upon by a doctor concerned only with his tee time because of her position as a nurse. This film could have been about Ann using her field experience as a medic to step up and lead, to show that theres more to her than what people give her credit for or what people see and feels like a missed moment of opportunity.
There are a handful of montage sequences, but none of them capture the feelings that the montages of the original did of the escapist fantasy of a shopping spree or of the futility and boredom of living in such an isolated and comfortable existence. There really isn’t any social commentary or message in this movie like there was in the original. So much of the film is just waiting around for something exciting to happen.
The zombies in this movie (curiously enough they are never called “zombies” at any point in the remake) are fast and furious, raging and raving as they crave for human flesh, much like those infected by the Rage virus in “28 Days Later”. These zombies look and feel more like wild animals than people with the way they ran, growled and were covered in blood. It really didn’t register in my mind that they were once people and it diminished both the threat of attack and the fear of what they represented.
While I respect the remake for trying out some new ideas rather than trying to carbon copy the original, ultimately it doesn’t go far enough to establish itself as something unique or different. The characters just hang around the mall waiting for something exciting to happen and I felt very much the same way watching the film itself.
3 out of 5. Typical. Falls short of what it could have been.
(Embedded trailer unavailable)