Pauls Dawn of the Dead Remake Review
“Dawn of the Dead” 2004
A review and analysis by Paul Annett
Obviously, this review contains minor spoilers.
Well, like several other reviewers before me I simply do not know where to start in reviewing this remake of Romero’s classic, Dawn of the Dead. How can I possibly compare this re-imagining to one of my favourite films of all time? A film that has inspired my writing, my imagination and my dreams. When I had caught a hint of a remake, last year, I guffawed at the very thought of it, I simply could not get over the shambles that I thought would be made of it. However, a year later, here I am now writing a review in a positive light of the film.
First of all, I believe that Dawn’04 should stand on its on merits, in my opinion it is definitely a strong enough film to do so. It doesn’t hit us with political subtext, or give us really in-depth characters that we truly feel for. Yet, it is still a fun, entertaining, popcorn churning film. From the start, the film is on a bullet train from start to finish, rarely letting up and keeping me on the edge of my seat, this relentless pace mirrors Snyder’s re-envisioning of Romero’s classic, slow and clumsy zombies. Unlike the original trilogy, the ghouls are faster, stronger and smarter too, yet never too smart as to be simply human. The thought of running zombies sends shivers down my spine every time, not because they scare me, but because they bring horrid thoughts of the abysmal “Return of the Living Dead”. However, Snyder has used these “runners” effectively and now, every single zombie is a real danger, rather than George’s “outnumber and encompass you” ghouls.
The acting throughout is very good, each actor and actress gave convincing roles as people trying to keep their heads together in a dire situation and compared to the original, the acting is definitely not as hammy. There are several cameos throughout the film made by “Peter” (A priest), “Roger” (A military commander) and “Blades” (A police sheriff), out of these three I believe that only “Roger” (Scott Reiniger) did not over-do his lines. The tagline and chilling message relayed by Peter in the original, “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth,” was made a laughing stock and lost its chill factor.
The main flaw of this modernisation is the fact that there are simply too many characters, which of course leads to too many under developed characters. We can instantly assume that most of these survivors will be made zombie fodder soon enough and rest assured, I did not care when the old lady got hers, or Mikhi Phifer got his, or… the list could go on and on. However, I did feel for the three main protagonists; Ana, Michael and Kenneth, and on a side note, Andy too. (The subplot between Kenneth and Andy was a real highlight and the residue memory of Andy was just chilling!)
On another “under developed” note, in George’s original “Dawn”, we are inundated with recognisable zombies, the nurse zombie, the baseball zombie, the nun zombie. We feel (to an extent) sorry for these characters and they are characters, in their own right. But, in “Dawn” ’04 the zombies are too quick for us to get know the horrible creatures. However, someone has pointed out that perhaps because of the speed of the film and the time frame, would characters get a chance to relax around one another and elaborate on past times? Another has suggested perhaps the zombies are a representation of us… living too fast and always in a hurry…
One topic that has plagued the zombie-fan world is the topic of running zombies. “They suck”, chimed many acolytes to George, however aren’t the running dead as believable as the walking dead? Yes, the walking dead may be creepier, their meandering, mournful and mundane presence creep the hell out of me, but that still doesn’t make them any more realistic! The following is my personal theory as to why they are more powerful and can run at breakneck speeds:
1) The reanimation time is shortened dramatically, therefore rigor mortis cannot have taken place/or as solidly as the original zombies.
2) Without a pain thresh-hold the human body could achieve a lot more, including running like Michael Johnson, or jumping like Michael Jordan.
It is as simple as that. And after all, it only fiction! The predatory roar that accompanies the flashing zombies suits them perfectly. I love the pathetic and chilling groaning noises made by Romero’s zombies, but would it suit these re-imagined creatures?
The montage of shots used during the credits were very good in my opinion, despite that most of them are simply archived rioting footage. However, it set the mood (if the first ten minutes hadn’t) and obviously were easily taken out of context. In saying this, I would have liked to see more specially filmed chat shows/clips detailing the fall of mankind.
Now, my second major gripe about the film. To be honest, the film truly loses pace and excitement during the “birthing” scenes. I felt that this was the low point of the film and that they were not as shocking as the film makers had hoped. I did not not like it because it was “distasteful”, I simply did not like it because well, it was slightly crap!
The ending, did they survive the island? Or, were they over ran by the zombie inhabitants? I like to think that they survived and escaped intact and un-zombified! And, Ving Rhames has supposedly let it slip that he has been asked to do a sequel. Whether this is a remake of G.A.R’s original “Day” script remains to be seen. But, I do hope that the helmer does his/her own thing. Anyway, the “training the zombie” plot of both “Day” versions sucked.
I certainly will be buying the DVD and seeing the film again this coming Friday (for the third time) and you can certainly bank on it that I will be first in the queue (again) to see any sequel made.
Roll on “Dawn’04”, roll on “Shaun of the Dead”, roll on “Dead Reckoning” (although, to be honest, the premise for this does not get my heart pumping… but we’ll soon see.)
You can give Paul your feedback on this fantastic review on the thread he started on the reviews forum http://www.moviesonline.ca/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=93 Feel free to also post your own reviews and we will continue to feature the best ones right here.