Land of the Dead Review
Written by: Daniel
The world is besieged by an plague that is spread through the feeding habits of its' victims. Zombies bite people, who in turn change to zombies and attack more people until almost everyone is walking around with an appetite for flesh.
Interesting premise, zombies are. They open the door to a story that can take place just about anywhere, to anyone, at any point in time. As a viewer, one can play along with the fantasy of "What would I do in this situation". Perhaps this is why fans of George A. Romero are hooked on his films.
Romero continues his "DEAD" franchise with LAND OF THE DEAD along the same lines as the previous installments, but the film lacks the cherished character development and slower paced reflection moments of the others, and continues the "zombies are evolving" theme that began in 1985's DAY OF THE DEAD. It's not a bad movie, in fact, it's a damn good one, but it's just not in the same knockout category of the rest.
Here's a rundown. A group of survivors have lived through several years of the zombie crisis by forming together and fortifying a city called "Fiddler's Green". Inside the city's electrified fences and guarded bridges, residents are categorized into the haves and the have-nots. While the select reside in luxurious apartments within the skyscrapers, the less fortunate masses are thrown the leftovers.
In order to continue his fat-cat ways, the head honcho (Dennis Hopper's character Kaufman) employs a rag-tag group of soldiers who drive around in armored vehicles, the Dead Reckoning being the mothership, in order to salvage remaining goods and supplies from the vast, zombie ridden landscape outside the protected zone. The film focuses on Cholo (John Leguezamo) and the Dead Reckonings captain Riley (Simon Baker). Both men are done wrong by Kaufman, and their circumstances lead them on separate journies of vengence.
From here Cholo turns bad, steals the Dead Reckoning, and threatens to blow up the city while Riley is forced to go capture the vehicle back from him. Riley teams up with his most loyal compatriot, Charlie, and a new friend by the name of Slack. After loads of wonderful gore and violence, along with some clevar comedic moments, the final showdown between Riley and Cholo ends up being a prelude to the real battle... the evolving zombies have infiltrated the city and are attacking the citizens!
The problems with this film are not technical, rather, they come from the film feeling rushed and overcooked. Just over an hour and a half, the film neglects the soft moments of previous films where the cast gets a break from running around and killing things. During this time, we get to see their emotions, we become closer to their stresses, concerns, desperation. LAND OF THE DEAD doesn't take the time to breath, and for that reason, the film lacks the soul Romero fans were expecting.
Another problem with the film are the evolving zombies. Big Daddy, the main zombie, yells too much, thinks too fast, moves too quickly, and teaches the other zombies things. He will hold another zombies hand and show him how to do something, and the zombie will learn the motion! This is borderline insulting to hard core zombie fans, but Romero wanted it. Bub, from DAY OF THE DEAD, was a smart zombie that learned to speak, shave, speak on the telephone, and shoot a gun, mourn the loss of his master,however, Bub still appeared to be somewhat brain damaged and disabled. Big Daddy, on the other hand, grunts and groans like a fully functioning pissed off human being who is just pretending to be a zombie as a joke on the other zombies... kind of like Jane Goodall walking around like an ape so that she will be accepted and be able to walk freely amoung the wild animals. I didn't like Big Daddy, and I blame him for screwing up the film the same way I blame Jar-Jar for ruining PHANTOM MENACE.
Overall, the film is well directed and it's a very fun movie. I didn't get into it the way I did the other films, but that may change in time once it grows on me. If anything, this is Romero's zombie return to the big screen, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Looking forward to the directors cut DVD, as well as any sequels that may be coming soon. Just leave out the Big Daddies and give us some time to get to know the characters next time!