I have to preface this review by stating that I actually enjoy this movie far above what the rating for it actually says. I understand that no, "Land Of The Dead" is not a great film per-say, nor is it George A Romero's best effort, but there is just something about its charmed almost graphic novel ridiculousness that gets me where it counts. I'm entertained, that's for sure.
"Land Of The Dead" details a post apocalyptic viewpoint of the world after the dead have risen and taken the rest of humanity into an almost hostage like situation. Our hero Riley, his faithful right hand man, and his team of scouts and looters, find themselves working in a modern day city in a world of zombies. They loot for their riches the little suburbs and towns outside of their makeshift city fort. Unfortunately, just as Riley is about to head out north on his own (one more day to retirement bud!) a group of organized slightly smarter zombies decide to ransack the city all the while as a power play between a military goon and the head hauncho of the city comes to a head. Looks like Riley might have to postpone his little trip.
Here's the deal with "Land Of The Dead". It's like this odd two headed beast when you watch it. One head is this awesome side of the film, where there is a great social commentary about humanity and the way that society is layered, there is some striking visual material thrown in, and there are some great characters. All of these things make this movie a great addition to Romero's film series. There is the amazing scene where the zombies cross the river that visually is stacked and even the chemistry between Baker and Leguizamo as the two military guys whom have two separate agendas comes in nicely.There is definitely a nice look to the film too with its nice budget and how it was used.
But then there is this other head to the beast. One where the film's flaws are just as glaringly obvious as its high points. The film feels insanely rushed story wise. The characters tend to be left as 2D figures. And of course, unless you are attuned to Romero's style, there is a cheesiness to the way things are done that can throw you off. For example, the entire sequence in the gambling parlor with the midget that runs it can be taken completely in a non-serious manner where it just seems ludicrous rather than as it should be with its commentary to the way society is. Throw onto that a story that needed about a half hour or so more of detail work about the significance of the vehicle Dead Reckoning and perhaps some more about the resistance against Kaufman and this one could have cooked a bit more. It would have also been nice to get a bit more character development for all of the characters (or any for Asia Argento's poorly drawn and pieced together female lead) to really bring together the wonderful chemistry that the cast has in this film.
Despite all its massive flaws, "Land Of The Dead" has some great things going for it and I believe the film to still be rather underrated in the scheme of things. The ideology and flow from this film from the predecessors in the series is practically beautiful and its odd graphic novel approach to its post apocalyptic vision of the future holds a lot of water when one thinks about it. Too bad some its story is flat and the characters fall under scrutiny. I still enjoy the charm of the film quite a bit and its a rather nice element to add to the already insanely good series.
BONUS RANT: Throughout the film (especially on the multiple viewings of it) I kind of craved that the film should have been done in black in white. The graphic novel like look and overall feeling of the film could have been nicely accompanied with this kind of move by the director. The film is already done in a desaturated color palate (which makes the more colorful sight of the gambling area and giant tower of rich folk more prominent in its society commentary) but I still wanted it to be in black and white. I thought it could have added a little odd spice to the mix. Maybe that's just food for thought.
Written By Matt Reifschneider