Directed By Ruben Fleischer
Starring – Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
The Plot – Columbus (Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Harrelson), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of their snarky makeshift family.
Rated R for bloody violence, adult language throughout, some drug and sexual content
– Production enhancements. With this being a sequel to a movie that made some serious bank, you knew that the bar had to be raised drastically higher for the sequel’s visual presentation, and satisfies it does. The camera movements are slicker, full of pulse-setting shaky-camera effects that don’t diminish or demean what’s depicted in frame, and the enticement of some long take sequences that move around our family of zombie slayers vividly paints the fun and urgency of slaying from every respective angle of character. In addition to this, the set design and make-up are a much needed upgrade, fleshing out an evident decomposition for our flesh-eaters that subtly gives depth to the distance between the two films without audibly elaborating this point. The variety of ambitious locations gives the film an inescapably higher stakes quality than the first film, all the while granting us more candid observations in globe-trotting storytelling that conveys this sickness on a grand scale.
– World building. Similar to where the first film introduced us to the rules of the hunt, “Double Tap” takes this one step further, extending the list in a way that plays into the experience of the group, all the while educating the audience on the changes inside of this world that has grown ten years before our very eyes. It’s also important for a post-apocalyptic film to convey this decaying sense within society that supplants realism within the effects of its environment, and paints this world as anything but the violent fantasy that two films have produced. Automobile deterioration and zombie classification are two such examples, which prove that Fleischer has very much provided stock and insight into this particular world, giving it a sense of progression even after the virus has taken over. It gives “Double Tap” a rich sense of realism that grounds the fantastical aspects of the film entirely, making it easier to understand the rules and logic of the process because of the way it draws comparisons to our world so seamlessly.
– Comic muscle. While not as consistent as the laughing power of the first “Zombieland”, the barrage of laughs at the hands of some cleverly inserted Easter eggs, as well as Tallahasse being Tallahasse is something that provided the fun that I seeked for this sequel that I was never expecting in the first place. There’s rarely a desire to play off of the nostalgia or familiarity of the first film, proving the intention that Fleischer makes for this film to stand on its own feet respectably, all the while providing the next series of clever quips for fans to quote for the next ten years. It competently maintains the comedy aspects of the film wonderfully, and gave me plenty of laughs to get through scenes that were otherwise running a bit too long for my taste with regards to the movie’s pacing.
– Creative kills. To satisfy the carnage candy nut in all of us, this film comes through in granting us no shortage of gore or innovative torture to put it at the forefront of zombie killing cinema. This is also where the production once again impresses us, as the computer generation for the bigger scale kills comes through in an effective believability that leaves the hollow dimensions of the first film sequences in the past where they rightfully belong. Without spoiling anything, my personal favorite comes at the hands of a spinning hay bailer tractor that results in one of the funniest aftershock results that I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Considering the characters are always fighting for Zombie Kill of the Year, you can bet that the bar constantly gets raised in a way that tops the previous kill, leading to an action packed finale that is visually unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a zombie movie.
– Delightful cast. The only exceptional work here is from newcomer Zoey Deutsch, who plays a bubbly blonde who has miraculously survived the apocalypse to this point. Her character did get on my nerves, but that was the intention of a professional like Deutsch, who pushes all of the right buttons to leave you sinisterly eager for her demise, all the while supporting Stone’s character further for the divide this woman has caused between her and Eisenberg. Beyond Zoey, the main cast all transform into their personalities seamlessly once more, and give us another 95 minute opportunity to soak up as much about their dysfunctional family dynamics as you can possibly yearn for. Harrelson’s seedy hillbilly Tallahassee is easily my favorite character once more, providing a combination of gut-busting one-liners and eye-rolling masogyny that we’ve come to expect from his legendary presence.
– Post credit stingers. Definitely make sure that you stay for the entire credits, as there are two sequences that not only provide a bit of clarity towards a familiar victim, but also paints a general outline for how this virus started in the first place. Is it the most satisfying answer in terms of logic? Absolutely not, but the fulfilment of an earlier Easter egg coming into play during what is arguably the best scene of the entire movie is something that crafts much needed borders for the outline of this general conflict. Unfortunately like Marvel, there is one good stinger and one pointless one, but for my money it was just great to see this familiar face, all the while poking fun at a fictional movie that thankfully never was.
– Lack of character growth. This film had a decade between the previous film, and yet none of the characters feel like they’ve grown or expanded in the slightest. I say this in regards to Eisenberg and Stone’s arcs in particular, because without this love triangle playing out on-screen, the movie doesn’t spend a single second alone with either of them, to capture a moment of wall-breaking psychology. In addition to this, Breslin’s character is basically nothing more than a teenage girl who wants a boy. That’s it. If you’re going to make a sequel picking up with the same collection of characters, at least make an attempt to provide us the audience with something important to draw to their respective characters. Without it, the characterization or lack thereof feels very much in-tuned with the very walking dead who chase them all around the globe. Disappointing to say the least.
– Social commentary. I don’t have a problem with incorporating a political stance to something as typically conventional as a zombie movie, but the film’s consistency at dropping the ball towards deeper themes and self-reflection for us the audience made it pointless to include in the first place. Throughout the film, there is an anything-but-subtle wink towards our current president, as well as the current war on firearms that seems everywhere in the news in current day Americana. However, the film lacks never takes the bait to pick a side in the issue, nor does it flesh it out as anything further than a one-off joke deposit. This was a real opportunity for the filmmakers to capitalize on an issue that plagues our own world, and use it for coherence in a world where everything has quite literally gone to hell, but unfortunately it’s nothing more than one of those clever fourth wall breaks used to sell a trailer, and nothing more.
– Repetitive structure. It’s very disappointing that a film with ten years to come up with something compelling settles for the same beats that its predecessor guided us through during the first film. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the similarities are as follows; group is together, members leave group, one member seeks something especially vital from their previous life, and ends up trapped because of it. Other members are left to save said person. These are just a few of the examples, and listing any other ones would be impossible without spoilers, so I will leave it at that. My point is separation is everything in a sequel, especially one as memorable as “Zombieland”, but this sequel plays it safe in giving fans of the franchise what they want, and as a result takes a familiarly predictable direction that is most certainly double-tapped.
– One question. MINOR SPOILERS. Early on in the second half, there’s a killing scene involving a character being gunned down. It makes it even more difficult to believe when this shot character then shows up a couple of scenes later, with no bullet or no explanation or alluding to what transpired between them in the woods. Not only does this make their confrontation essentially pointless from the previous scene, it also emits such an enormous screenplay hole moving forward that the story itself knows it can’t explain, and would rather use it to craft another laugh. It’s the constant unexplained question that I have yet to see explained by anyone who has seen the movie.
My Grade: 6/10 or C-