Thoughts on Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

First things first: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) is worth a watch. With ten years’ acting experience and character familiarity on their shoulders, the four leads turn in better performances than last time, even if some (Emma Stone’s Wichita and Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee) are better than others (Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus and Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock—you can’t really blame Breslin, as the script treats her character as a MacGuffin most of the time). Speaking of the script, by Dave Callaham, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick, now that there’s less need to spend time on worldbuilding and forming character dynamics, this second installment can get right to the conflicts and character arcs and zombie-bashing setpieces. And that’s where it falters.

Here’s the thing: The jokes are quite a bit better this time around, even accounting for the fact that about a third of them only make sense if you’ve seen the first Zombieland (2009). But if you take the film as a serious work of art, then you can’t help noticing that half the conflicts derive from unresolved psychological issues glossed over by the Pollyanna ending of the first film, the character arcs are still papered over this time around without significant resolution, and the action scenes are (with one indoor exception) run-of-the-mill confusing-exciting thanks to the incoherent staging and editing (the latter by editors Chris Patterson and Dirk Westervelt) that so many action films today rely on to save time and money.

Perhaps the gravest error by director Ruben Fleischer is that he takes the middle road in terms of quantity of carnage. He doesn’t understand that there’s an inherent satisfaction to seeing not just dozens or scores but hundreds of zombies getting mowed down in the same continuous shot, the same satisfaction that propels tower defense videogames. Instead, he chooses to double down on the slow-motion gore of individual kills while merely suggesting, with a few quick shots (by Chung-hoon Chung), the scenes of large-scale eradication. Or maybe he was limited by his budget. After all, there’s no tank in this one (production design by Martin Whist).

The plot is still pretty illogical, if less glaringly so. Stay for the mid- and post-credits scenes.

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