Zombieland Thoughts Plus A Quick Comparison to The Road
by Alex Billington
September 25, 2009
I just saw Ruben Fleischer's Zombieland for my second time down here at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX. It's a great zombie comedy with lots of good comedy and lots of flesh eating zombies. But as I was sitting there watching it, I started to realize that it has a lot of similarities to John Hillcoat's The Road, which I saw a few weeks back at the Telluride Film Festival (read my review). And instead of just reviewing Zombieland normally (as Brandon will be doing that anyway), I thought I'd look at the comparisons between Zombieland and The Road, just for fun. So without further ado, let's get right into it, but beware there will be spoilers!
First off, both films are, at their very base levels, post-apocalyptic features about a small group of survivors who are traveling along a road to get to a destination that they believe is different than the world they're in - a sanctuary of sorts. I mean, that is a huge similarity! And check this out - in Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, they never explain what caused the world to be the way it is (bleak, grey, very dead, like it was nuked). In Zombieland they don't really say either (there is no medical experiment gone wrong), just that someone ate a bad bit of food from a rest stop. Both movies start out set in that kind of unexplained post-apocalyptic world.
Here's where I get a bit more into spoiler territory, so watch out. In Zombieland, the zombies are flesh eating mad people who hungrily chase down non-infected humans whenever they find them. In The Road, the other survivors are cannibals (essentially, flesh eaters as well) who chase down other humans when they find them (for food). The Road is all about a father and his son who are traveling south along the US coast down barren, empty roads. At first, Zombieland also has two people, Columbus and Tallahassee (who are in kind of father/son), who travel down empty roads heading wherever life takes them. Now you starting to see how similar they are?
Another interesting similarity is less story based and more casting based, I guess I'd say. Both films have a surprising special "celebrity" cameo in their later half (probably around the start of third act/end of the second - in both of them!). I won't dare spoil either, but the other interesting thing about both of these cameos is that this celebrity usually comes in and imparts some of sort if important wisdom to the survivors, whether they know it or not. Most people won't even recognize the actor in The Road at first, although the one in Zombieland is instantly recognizable (I won't say who it is). But both of the cameos will certainly be remembered!
Lastly, I won't give away too much, but the endings have a thematic similarity that I should mention as well. If you've read McCarthy's The Road, you'll know that it's a lot about trust. Throughout their travels, the father and the son don't make friends with anyone, for fear of what might happen. Zombieland addresses similar issues of trust amongst the four survivors it follows as well. And in each film, it's not until the end that we see them realize that it's a little bit of trust that is actually necessary to survive even beyond the people that they originally thought were the only people they could trust (get it?). And both of them end in a way that feels like we only saw just a segment, or one episode, in these people's struggle for survival (e.g. their entire life in this post-apocalyptic world).
I know, I know, I'm probably just reading into thisway too much. But it was just a thought in my mind as I was watching Zombieland and I thought I'd put this out there for everyone to read. I know The Road won't be out in theaters until November and Zombieland doesn't hit until early October, but this is a comparison I just had to make. Both are great and both are worth seeing, I'll say that for sure. And when you actually sit down and watch them, both films are quite different from each other. One is a good comedy, the other is a gloomy, depressing, dark drama. Similar or not, they're both movies I will not be forgetting anytime soon.