Ten years is a long time in Hollywood. Ten years ago, to this day Avatar was yet to be released to the unsuspecting masses, with Titanic still reigning supreme over the global box-office and debutant director Ruben Fleischer surprised the cinema-going public with Zombieland.
Made on a tiny budget of just over $20million, it went on to gross over $100million globally and received unanimous praise. A sequel was widely expected in the years that followed but never materialised. That’s probably down to a few things; one being Emma Stone’s meteoric rise to fame, Jesse Eisenberg starring in some of the biggest and most celebrated films of the decade that followed and Woody Harrelson, well, being Woody Harrelson (that’s not a dig, we love you Woody).
Fleischer meanwhile went on to direct 30 Minutes or Less, Gangster Squad and Venom among a couple of other projects. The time for a Zombieland sequel came and went with the film’s core fanbase hoping that one day they’d get what they desired.
That day is now here with the release of Zombieland: Double Tap. With a cast of returning characters and the original director at the helm, things certainly look promising from a technical point of view, but has the ship sailed on getting this franchise off the ground?
Zombie slayers Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus (Eisenberg), Wichita (Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) square off against a newly evolved strain of the undead as well as combatting their own personal demons in an effort to survive the ongoing zombie apocalypse.
Despite the popularity of the film’s actors since its predecessor, it’s nice to see all of the lead cast slot back into their roles seamlessly. Granted they’re a little older than we last remember them, and a little wiser too, but these characters still retain the charm and humour that made the last movie such a success.
Harrelson remains the standout and that’s mainly down to a nicely written script, penned by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham. Between them they’ve worked on films like Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, Ant-Man, Deadpool and its sequel and Life. That’s a pretty impressive roster of films it has to be said.
Eisenberg and Stone are also nicely written with a good character arc that means we get to see opposing sides to their roles. Unfortunately, Breslin is underused throughout, reduced to a part that feels much more like a support role. Of the new characters introduced, Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch are thinly written but reasonably entertaining.
The movie makes a big deal out of introducing some new breeds of zombie flesh-eaters, but doesn’t really do anything with them
Thankfully, the script remains a real highlight over the brisk 99-minute run-time with some genuine hilarity. The screenplay’s attempts at emotion work reasonably well but fall flat on a couple of occasions – the basis of the previous film was its humour and no surprises, this is where the sequel excels.
It’s a nice film to look at too. While some of the landscapes look a little too artificial, the sweeping shots of desolate buildings and roads add a sense of scale that was sometimes lacking last time around. The opening sequence inside the White House is great to watch and sets up the rest of the film well.
Zombieland: Double Tap works best when our band of characters is bouncing off each other and it’s a good job as the zombie action is fleeting. Some action pieces are well choregraphed but for a film about the world being overrun by the undead, there’s a distinct lack of them. The movie makes a big deal out of introducing some new breeds of zombie flesh-eaters, but doesn’t really do anything with them until the final act and that’s a bit of a shame.
Nevertheless, Zombieland: Double Tap remains easy-to-watch and likeable throughout with a cracking cast of characters. Unfortunately, the world has moved on from 2009 and zombie films, TV shows and books are ten-a-penny nowadays (something nicely referenced at the beginning of the film) and while Zombieland 2 does an awful lot right, in the end it’s a decent sequel to a great film, and nothing more than that.
Stick around for a post-credits sequence that follows on from the predecessors “greatest cameo ever”.