March 17, 2013

Why LAND OF THE DEAD sucked pt.5

[...Posted by Ted H]

Oh. My. God. A new writer? This means I can actually slack off a bit and not rush anything out the door? Fuck yeah, baby. Welcome Anthony to the asylum club blog trap err...asylum.

Can't tell the difference between us? Well one way you can tell is I'm the one who keeps bitching about a bad movie (though this is the last part) before I return to regularly scheduled apocalyptic stories...though both of us seem to be covering our own variant of the end of days...
................or there's the fact that I point myself out at the beginning of every post I do [...with this retarded style]

As stated, this is the final part of my LotD hate-fest. I had this ready for a while and just wanted it out, plus I'm typing this on a Thursday, knowing full well I won't be able to do much writing until at least Sunday night. So rather than try to pound something out for either MDZ of BGIv3, Ill just wrap this saga up and give myself more time to trudge through the slow parts I've written myself into.

For the record: I found that I hate this movie all the more ever since I took the time to nitpick everything wrong with it. Things that I previously didn't notice/care about came to light as I progressed and made me resent Romero all the more for it. It just made me bitter at how much of a missed opportunity this was. I never thought that I'd ever sympathize with Star Wars fans in any way, but this movie was Romero's Phantom Menace.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


[Why LAND OF THE DEAD sucked pt.5]

Part 5: Challenge Pissing 

The long awaited follow-up to Romeros Dead trilogy, to the point where it was originally titled as "Twilight of the Dead", Land of the Dead did anything but live up to the hype. Hell, the only smart move at the end of the day seemed to be the re-title.

 Could this movie be salvaged? Tough call cuz I went back and watched the opening again. It presents a decent premise at the onset but it trips over itself with needless bullshit. Take away Dead Reckoning and you get a bit more even fight and reason to be fearful in the opening. While not vital, it would be a big fucking plus if Charlie wasn't a retard. If you want to keep him distinguished with the way his face was, fine, but making him retarded was overkill. Again, microcosm; trying too hard to get a theme and struggle across that it ends up looking dumb and pretentious.

 Let's make Charlie, not a retard, but maybe a bit more grizzled. His face looking like shit could signify the fact that he and Riley have been through a lot together during the zombie apocalypse without getting into too much detail. It also makes him more competent sounding. The movie makes him out to be somewhat important, when he was about as useful as the fat guy later on. He is to this movie what Jar-Jar was to the Star Wars prequels.

 As for Fiddlers Green, if you're going to present something seemingly invincible and then show how it falls, you need to give a more plausible downfall. The chain link fence falling in under 30 seconds? The river having absolutely no fortifications? The armed soldiers and Nazi security having absolutely no screen time after the undead breach FG, thus inferring that they had no prepared response in the event of zombies? Complete rubbish. Fiddlers Green was presented as a well established haven from the zombie apocalypse, and yet the zombies didn't even need to be halfway intelligent to infiltrate; any decent sized horde would waltz right through.

 Give us plausible cracks in the foundation of FG! Maybe the system keeping the electric fences working is slowly breaking down and you just don't have the resources to keep it up forever. How bout something happens to the river; it raises too high and starts breaking down the surrounding defenses (that should be in place) or it lowers granting easier access for outside threats. And if you're feeling daring enough: The never ending hordes of zombies are constantly outside the gates and the manpower required to keep them at bay forever is dwindling as are the supplies required for them to do their jobs.

 Hell, I mentioned earlier that Safe Haven was the less stupid variant of Fiddlers Green. For that place, it's protected on all sides by giant walls comprised of debris. The long term issue for that is there is no safe or intelligent way to perform the necessary maintenance on the walls from the outside. The defenses were constructed in a hurry as a last bastion for humanity at the onset of the zombie apocalypse. The penalty for such a desperate job is it slowly rots from the outside with no adequate way to repair.

 Safe Haven having a defense that is breaking down, and can only be patched and never really fixed, allows me (the author) to introduce zombie related tension to the city in a way that doesn't require any hand waving or the audience to have any suspension of disbelief.

 But you can change all that and still have one thing dragging down this movie in a big way. Let's go back to the central conflict in this movie, the main issue driving the humans. Cholo is threatening to shoot missiles at the Green and Riley is leading the charge to stop him because a lot of POOR people might get hurt. You know what's missing from that last sentence? Any mention of the living fucking dead!

 Take the missiles away and maybe we can save this thing. Maybe the driving force now can be that Cholo stole the tank and is holding the tank itself hostage. Maybe make it so that without the tank, the humans no longer have their trusty trump card against the zombies and any future (and already risky) ventures into the zombie wastelands for supplies become all the more dire and perhaps now impossible without Dead Reckoning. That may make a little sense, and at least put a little bit of the spotlight back on the zombies in this zombie movie.

 Now obviously something needs doing about the biggest gripe I have with this movie: The RICH and the POOR theme bullshit. I can maybe swallow the notion that there would be people who still honor the dollar in the zombie apocalypse, but my earlier question still stands: How are any of those RICH people making money? We see people running around and enjoying themselves in that mall, spending money and shit, but where is their revenue coming from?

 You want to have people be of a higher status in the zombie apocalypse? Then those people better be doing something to earn that status. I'm talking about doctors, farmers, military tacticians, construction and scientists. People who have valuable skills for a post-apocalyptic setting could reap the higher status of their skills. People with useless skills: retail, lawyers, certain politicians and sports can all take their useless trades and chill out as the poor class. Notice how those group types, when compared against social norms, are now jumbled? I know, right?

This restructured social ladder would also harbor less resentment all around. People will treat the farmers and doctors with higher respect because they are offering indispensable knowledge and skills for the undead world. Lawyers will be looked down upon mostly because hey, who gives a fuck now? You want to be of a higher status? Learn how to grow and process grain or maybe learn how to properly plan and construct a building. There will be no stigma of being "the wrong kind" because the only wrong kind is "useless" and only effort, not money or heritage, will change that.

 The evolution garbage that I am expected to swallow doesn't need much explaining at this point as to why it's just plain wrong. But if one insists that it remain, then this movie can still work despite the ill advised concept. It just requires that most if not all of my earlier suggestions be implemented.

 Can we make a better version?
The challenge: Make an improved pitch for the bad movie. I'm not allowed to add new characters or change too much about existing ones. I can ignore some characters, or at least downgrade them to minor characters who have no bearing on the story. The location and elements within must also have minimal tweaking.

 A better version of LotD would work like this:

The city of survivors at Fiddlers Green have to contend with the fact that all their defenses from the outside zombies are breaking down. There are two prevailing opinions over what to do now. Some think that it's time to flee and find a new refuge. Others believe that nowhere else would be safe and they might as well double down of FG and at least die trying to defend it.

 We can introduce Riley and Cholo through this conflict. Riley can lead team "Get the hell out of dodge" while Cholo can lead team "We're dead no matter where we go-might as well stay!" The only thing keeping Riley and company around is the question over what to do with Dead Reckoning. If the group splinters, then whichever group doesn't get Dead Reckoning will be fucked; the ones that stay will be hard pressed to defend Fiddlers Green long without it, while those who leave would have a tough time lasting in case there's a major problem. So unless Riley and Cholo can decide upon a solution for everyone, then people will die.

 Then we learn that the "evolved" zombies have been biding their time and have decided to strike now, when FG is at its most vulnerable. Not only that, but in the ensuing chaos, they've compromised the area where Dead Reckoning is kept, effectively cutting it off from the humans. At this point the human v human drama can be "Who can get to Dead Reckoning first?" Team Cholo wants to get it first so he can try to fight off the zombies and keep FG under human control. Team Riley wants to get it first so he and his friends can all get out and survive out in the zombie wastelands. I know this effectively makes Riley the "bad guy" here but I'm only working off the established character motivations presented by Romero; Riley wants to go to Canada, and Cholo wants to make a better life for himself in FG. Yeah Riley returns to save the day in Romeros version, but in my version all his friends are with him at the onset.

 What about Big Daddy you ask? He can be included. Hell, he can be the biggest zombie threat in the movie, but not the leader. He can be allowed to "learn" to shoot a gun all in the name of making him more dangerous. This could also lead up to a final confrontation with him and Riley. It would offer a payoff to all the buildup of Big Daddy and Riley as separate forces. Because I couldn't have been the only person who felt ripped that Big Daddy never had to face off against Cholo or Riley.

 So the movie can climax with Riley getting to Dead Reckoning first, but Cholo manages to convince him to stay long enough to help the remaining people trapped in the city so that everyone can escape together or some shit. Maybe Riley got infected during his face off against Big Daddy and now he had a change in his short term perspective. Saving all those people he previously thought so little of could be his defining moment and actually give him a bit of a character arc (as opposed to "I don't want to be here, bitch bitch bitch, Canada"). The movie can end with all the survivors driving off to an uncertain future. Their hopes are bleak because they clearly are not well enough equipped and won't last very long even with Dead Reckoning. Kind of a downer, but hey, that's zombie movies for you.

 This is much better for three reasons: 1) Notice how I never mentioned Kaufman, the whore or the retard? They're dumb characters and have nothing to offer my better movie. 2) It keeps the zombies as the central threat. There's still plenty of human on human drama, but it always takes place under the overarching threat of the undead attack. And it also leads to my third point. 3) It keeps the zombie threat on our "heroes" throughout. Everyone in Night had the constant threat of the undead on top of them. Dawn had a few notable "Oh shit, what are we gonna do about all these zombies?" moments. And Day had the one notable part at the end, and through that the characters at least earned their happy ending.

 Tell me one point in Land where Riley was truly vulnerable to the undead? At all times he was either accompanied by well armed backup, or inside Dead Reckoning. The closest he came to being in any real danger was when he and the bull fighter were looking for ammo, and all those zombies were too busy eating to be any threat. The worst the whore got was when the midget had her thrown at two zombies for sport, so that doesn't count. The worst the retard got was for a jump scare. And all Cholo got was the one ninja zombie.

 In no point in Land of the Dead were any major characters in any real danger, unless the script called for ninja zombies. In doing so, Romero swung and missed at the cornerstone of fear of the genre that he himself popularized. If Night of the Living Dead took place in a fallout shelter instead of the farmhouse, then that would be fucking stupid, and Romero would never get the chance to make any other movies. The best scare involving zombies is the notion that nowhere is ever really safe. No matter where you are or well fortified and protected you are, the dead will eventually find a way in and kill you. Dead Reckoning, essentially, was Romeros way of including an "always safe" place for the main characters.

 A major misstep in this movie was the inclusion of Dead Reckoning. How breaking was this tank? Along with "Twilight of the Dead" another early title for this movie was to simply name it "Dead Reckoning." That's right, not only did Dead Reckoning take the focus of the zombie movie away from the zombies, but it almost took the title away from them too. My guess as to why he changed the title from that was to ensure more people would buy tickets, because at the end of the day fans will line up for this movie based on its title. "Oh snap, [Blank] of the Dead directed by THE George Romero? Shut up and take my money!" Don't believe me? I refer you to the two movies that follow.

 As implausible as it sounds though, maybe it isn't too unrealistic to say that people would be able to construct that kind of vehicle in the zombie apocalypse. What I am saying though is that the only way to make a zombie movie engaging with the tank involved is to compromise the tank or at least compromise the humans ability to properly utilize it. Force them to remember just how hard life can be when you don't have your trump card to use against the zombies.

 I guess what I'm trying to say here is: a zombie movie where the main characters have no real reason to fear the zombies is a really stupid movie. Dead Reckoning was a dumb idea.

 Land of the Dead featured some...interesting concepts, but shit all over itself in the delivery. I'd like to think my five-part bitch fest might have some sort of impact in a world where crappy movies by established directors are allowed, but I am far too late for that. Maybe if I didn't spend the next year after first seeing this movie in denial about its awfulness...maybe. But since that movie, Romero has in turn shit out two more movies that I am led to believe, like this one, happens in the same universe as the original trilogy.

 To this day I still haven't forced myself to watch Survival of the Dead. I might if I make myself do a write up for it like this movie, but that would require me to first endure Diary of the Dead, and like a root canal, I am just not looking forward to doing that. For now I am content to know that I have said my piece about this singular tragedy of a movie. Lord knows there are far worse zombie movies out there, but this one was made by a man who should know better, and claims to be a follow-up to three movies it could never hold a candle to. To let this slip by would be to say I don't care. And I just can't allow that because I do care. Otherwise I wouldn't have written 10,000 words explaining why.

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