‘Zombieland’ Slays Undead, Ghost of What Came Before Still Haunts
By Liz Shannon Miller
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The pilot of Zombieland enters the scene with one huge advantage and one huge disadvantage, both of which are the same thing: the 2009 film that serves as a prequel to the series.
Thanks to the movie, Zombieland, is spared the need for massive amounts of exposition (though an amusing cold open does introduce one of the primary characters in pre-zombie times), and instead jumps right into the adventures of Tallahassee (Kirk Ward), Columbus (Tyler Ross), Wichita (Maiara Walsh) and Little Rock (Izabela Vidovic), who have decided to try and find other survivors, and maybe make a home for themselves.
That means there’s plenty of time for zombie-slaying, relationship drama and Tallahassee’s crude rants and asides, not to mention the introduction of a new character. To guide the survivors through the zombie hellscape, the pilot adds the voice-only character of Detroit, who communicates with them via (the product-placement?) OnStar in-car assistance service, and features some fun details and post-modern twists.
However, the film’s original cast, especially Jesse Eisenberg (the original Columbus) and Woody Harrelson (the original Tallahassee), haunt the pilot like ghosts, despite the best efforts of Ross and Ward (Ward does have a lot of fun with the role). Also, even if it’s been a couple of years since you’ve seen the film, some of the reused tropes, like Columbus’s on-screen rules for surviving the apocalypse, feel like copycat jokes rather than original elements.
Audiences still seem to have an appetite for zombie stories — the key for Zombieland, in connecting with them, will be to find its own voice, and not feel like an echo of what came before.