Land of the Dead

By far, the worst of the Romero zombie genre of films. That is a harsh comment by me because I am totally biassed when it comes to zombie films. The original "Dawn of the Dead" is one of my favorite movies ever, and the remake of last summer was really fun too. "28 Days Later," "Night of the Living Dead," "Day of the Dead;" I could go on and on about how fun those flicks are. This one, although it had its moments, was dull and lacked any substance. None of the characters were interesting in the slightest, save for Charlie; the retarded (literally) side-kick with the scarred face and wicked aim. He was the only character with some interest attached. But sadly he wasn't used to his fullest potential. Actually, John Leguizamo's character was kind of fun too. The acting in all of Romero's past films have always been sub-par, which is actually part of the magic, and this one is not any different, although it is much better mostly because of some not so no-name stars.

      The story is basically this: a few years(?) have passed since "it all started," and one small band of zombie hunters, for a lack of a better term, cruises around the country eliminating zombies and picking up supplies. Meanwhile, one small section of a city is quarantined off for people to live a normal life. Two societies exist in the city. The rich inside the tower and the poor and sick on the street. Obviously these three different groups live in a symbiosis but all must come to a head. All the while the zombies are starting to learn simple tool usage and communication under the "leadership" of the main zombie, Big Daddy. Okay, that's basically it.

      The whole film seems like a rip-off of a Romero film and done poorly. It was the same old thing - people running and screaming, zombies shuffling towards them, somebody does something immensely stupid and gets attacked by the zombie that is right next to him, just out of frame. Although the zombies are starting to learn how to think and communicate a little in this one. It doesn't take a genius to know how to survive amongst them. I mean c'mon. You're in a dark boathouse all alone and supposed to be on the lookout for "stenches," as they're called, so how dumb do you have to be to put on head phones as loud as they will go and look down at the floor, knowing full well the world is crawling with flesh eating zombies who want to rip your intestines out for dinner? Think man, think! There are a number of what-ifs in this movie. More than I can count. The whole plot shouldn't even be happening. Everyone is holed up within a few city blocks sending out squads to get supplies from other abandoned cities instead of trying to hunt down all the zombies and start a culture that can grow instead of implode. But's a movie.

part of the "carnival" scene
      A few bright spots:  there are some new and interesting ways to rip a person apart. I liked that. Romero continues his tradition of gore gore GORE! The zombies are far better looking than any other of Romero's films now that he has the use of some computer animation. Not to mention the overall look of everything. The sets are sweet and the locales are always dark and atmospheric. Great cinematography. Two shots in particular. One, when the zombies slowly appear out of the water and fog...sweet. And two, a way overhead shot of a hundred or so zombies wandering the streets of a city perfectly spaced apart. They looked like ants around an ant-hill. Nothing super special, it just caught my eye and I thought it worth mentioning. Also, there's a scene in which the humans have themselves a little carnival using the zombies for different activities and sport much like the scene in A.I. with Haley Joel Osment as the robot. The scene was short lived though and should've been explored deeper. It was my favorite part of the movie.

      One of the things about Romero's zombie films is that they all have a sub-text layered not so subtley below the surface. Usually I try to avoid even commenting or caring about metaphorical message in a film. That is left for the film scholars; not your average joe movie patron. The first film, "Night of the Living Dead," was under scrutiny because it starred a black man in the lead, hero role; becoming somewhat of a landmark in civil rights. "Dawn of the Dead" explored the menace of consumerism, while "Day of the Dead" was discussed later regarding religion and a caste system. This film, was so obviously a political statement regarding the times of today. I'm not smart enough (or do I care enough) to figure out exatly what that message was, but it had to do with capitalism. The rich guy up in the tower controls the rich people, while the poor lived off of what they could in the streets below. I didn't understand the economy of this new society. One guy has tons of money, while nobody else has any. So what is the point of money if no one has any? Also, one of the antagonists is threatening to destroy the rich people's tower and mention "jihad" at least once. Another quote, "we don't negotiate with terrorists." Again, I'm not sure the message Romero was trying to get across, but it was obviously a political one.

"Big Daddy"
      In general, it's just not that good of a film. Hard-core zombie fans may like it, but I consider myself on the edge of being hard-core and I was not impressed. It was old material being reused with nothing special or impressive at all; and there wasn't much that was unpredictable - except the HORRIBLE ENDING! I admit I was a little overly excited, so of course a let down was inevitable, but it was worse than I thought. I did learn a few new tricks to add to my soon-to-be revisd zombie attack contingency plan (yes I have one). Another rare moment where I'll assign a rating to a movie: 2 out of 5...**sigh** I had hoped for so much more after 20 years George.

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