Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Land of the Dead
After work today I went and saw George A Romero's new zombie movie Land of the Dead. It's no secret I've been looking forward to this one, so was it worth the wait? Let's find out! >>> No it wasn't.
The movie was a big disappointment. Maybe the problem was that I was sober. Usually when I watch a zombie movie, I'm drunk, or at least well on the way. What happened here? Let's find out!
The movie begins and there are zombies everywhere. Why are there zombies everywhere? It's a mystery. OK, let's accept that there are zombies everywhere. Maybe in Romero's movies there was never an explanation for the zombies. Is it a big deal? Well, people are making a big deal about how Romero makes smart zombie movies with all sorts of sociological and cultural and political references, but if it's so smart would it be too much to ask for even a half-assed reason for the zombies? No, it wouldn't.
Anyway, in the movie there is a big luxurious high-rise residential building (Fiddler's Green) that Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) has taken over and is ruling. Only rich fashion-conscious idiots live there, lower class people are only allowed to be servants there or deliver stuff and quickly take their poor asses away again at high speed.
The outsider characters the movie focuses on launch missions in a big armoured truck. The missions are to get food and other supplies to bring back to Fiddler's Green. The leader of this bunch is Riley (Simon Baker). He visits some wild and crazy nightclub where they are using zombies for entertainment. Two zombies are shackled and people can go up next to them to have their photo taken. Another zombie is chained up and people take turns shooting him with a paintball gun. Those scenes were pretty good because that's probably what people would really find to do with zombies after they got over the initial horror. But then, at this nightclub, Riley sees that a girl has been thrown into a cage with two zombies and people are betting on which zombie will get to eat her. Riley is disgusted and pulls out his gun, shoots the zombies, saving the girl, but causing a riot in the nightclub. The girl is called Slack (Asia Argento) and she then joins up with Riley's gang. There's also another outsider guy called Cholo (John Leguizamo) and he desperately wants to get into Fiddler's Green by saving up the money Kaufman owes him for his supply raids into the zombie zone.
One more character we see a lot of is Charlie who is kind of slow but a crack shot with a gun and so Riley has sort of taken him under his wing, to use a corny phrase. Actually, Charlie got stuck in a fire and it was Riley who pulled him out of it, so that's the story of why they are pals. Charlie has a pretty lame line he uses a lot, modified each time by the situation. Because his face is half burnt up he looks a bit of a mess, so he will say, "Bad dreams? Look at me. You can tell I have bad dreams" or "A drink? Look at me. You can tell I need a drink." It seems kind of funny when it's written down, but in the movie those lines were lame.
One of the jokes with zombies has always been that they move so slowly, you can easily get away by doing nothing more than walking at a normal pace. That handicap was begging to be rectified, and so it was with the 2003 movie 28 Days Later which introduced *turbo zombies*. Those bastards sprinted everywhere, never seeming to get tired, which served to make the zombies much more terrifying.
Land of the Dead doesn't use turbo zombies, but it tackles the problem of zombies being unintelligent - incapable of creative thought, simple eating machines that stagger around moaning and bumping into walls and not being able to figure out how to open a door - by having a smart *leader* zombie called Big Daddy. This zombie actually starts learning stuff, like how to use a machine gun, and he teaches the other zombies to use weapons. Is it a big deal? Maybe. I guess. But it's not handled very well in the movie, so it's not as terrifying as those turbo zombies.
Another thing I noticed was with the dialogue. Romero came up with some quotable quotes but stuck them in there clumsily, like when one of Kaufman's underlings mentions something about trouble, Kaufman says, "In a world where the dead are returning to life, the word "trouble" loses much of its meaning." That might read like a pretty good quote, but the way it's delivered in the movie is lame and awkward, and that's just one example of the awful dialogue. Oh well. It's a zombie movie. But again I point out that people seem to be making such a big deal about how smart this one is. It's really not.
Well, what about the actors? Sadly, at no point did Asia Argento take her clothes off, and I challenge ANYBODY to deny that this was Dennis Hopper's most forgettable performance.
Watch out! Here comes a *spoiler* alert! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
At the end, Riley tells his pals not to shoot the zombie leader Big Daddy and his zombie pals because they are only trying to live their life, or some dumb reasoning like that. Hello. These are ZOMBIES that survive by eating HUMAN FLESH. If you let them live they will try to eat more human flesh, which is only possible if they attack non-zombies. Why the hell would you let them live? Can anybody explain the logic here? Am I missing something here?
Anyway. Maybe I hyped myself up too much for this one. Maybe I'll watch it again in a year's time and really enjoy it (although it seems unlikely). Maybe beer would make all the difference.
The audience in the theatre were well-behaved except for the guy and his girlfriend who came in late and, yes, sat right behind me. They loudly chattered like schoolgirls for about five minutes before coming to their senses and realising they were in a movie theatre with people who had better things to do than listen to their inane comments and observations.