Zombieland (2009) was a movie full of charisma. Our narrator introduced us to his neurotic ‘rules of survival’ with sassy overlay text, and the cast fired bullets and quips as they mono-maniacally powered through the zombie apocalypse in their individual, broken ways.
There aren’t any spoilers for the original here, but the sequel assumes you understand the relationships between the four primary characters. Since a lot of the humor comes from playing with these established relationships, it’s certainly a good idea to check out the original first. You won’t get any of the Bill Murray jokes if you haven’t seen the original, either.
In Zombieland: Double Tap it’s 2019(ish), in a parallel world where Trump was never president. The script is well aware that time has passed us by while the characters, though older, are moving through a world frozen in time – unlike most zombie movies, this is a world where zombie movies existed and none of the heroes are clueless about what that means. At one point early in the movie, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) sits up in bed, incredulously flipping through an issue of The Walking Dead, exclaiming how unrealistic it is. Later, a new survivor, ditzy Madison (Zoey Deutch, teeth-grindingly stereotypical but endearingly vapid), muses about inventing some kind of service where strangers could drive strangers around for money. Challenged about the risks, she adds maybe if they tried to murder you you could give them, like, 1 out of 5 stars? Zombieland is a world where the iPhone barely existed, and it’s sobering to see how much has changed in ten years.
Zombieland: Double Tap is not a gritty survival-horror zombie flick – there’s a nod to the high value of cars that aren’t broken, but there’s always a working car around to pimp up. There’s plenty of ammo to go around when we’re after some solid action scenes, and none when the tension needs to wind up.
No one ever worries too much about drinking irreplaceable liquor, or where the next meal is coming from, while still being wowed by relics of the before-times. The previous movie’s hunt for the last Twinkie, and by extension the concept of ‘irreplaceable good things’, doesn’t feature much at all. We’ve established our universe now, and so the focus is on solid laughs and a great cast. Having well-established characters from the first movie saves us a lot of time, as the group road trips across the country to find Little Rock after she (understandably) gets frustrated at being treated like a kid by her self-appointed father figure Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and runs off with a stoner pacifist musician from Berkeley (Avan Jogia).
Around the middle of the movie they encounter alternate versions of Columbus and Tallahassee in the form of Luke Wilson’s Albuquerque and Thomas Middleditch‘s Flagstaff (who has a list of commandments for Zombieland, unlike Columbus’s rules (but it’s not a competition, but I’m surprised you put Cardio at #1 because it’s #23 for me – you get the idea)). They provide another amusing interlude but it doesn’t really contribute a huge amount to the narrative other than to set up some props for the ending.
One weakness of Zombieland: Double Tap is that it throws a few new zombie types at us at the very start (Homers, Hawkings and Ninjas) but never really does anything with them, other than play the occasional Homer for a laugh. It‘s a forgotten Chekov’s gun, and could’ve easily been left on the cutting room floor, as none of these smart or fast zombies show up in any meaningful way. Maybe there are a few extended scenes in our future? Opening the movie with a zombie that can figure out how to open retinal scan doors, and a different one that rushes through the shadows to pounce on victims like Left 4 Dead’s Hunter, really sets expectations that are never fulfilled. Does it matter? We’re having a great time laughing at the setups, so no, but it is a little bit of sloppy writing in a mostly focused movie.
So should you go see it? you’re not watching this for a tight narrative arc or realistic survival: this is a comedy-action flick about finding your family, and so it’s the characters that make this work. Zombieland: Double Tap brings a strong performance by the cast, snappy dialogue, amusing visuals (with the occasional Zombie kill of the week narrator interjection over the top) and a romping good time. With a stronger ending than the first movie, this is an excellent sequel.
Zombieland: Double Tap shoots into cinemas across Australia October 17th