Saturday, July 09, 2005

Land of the Dead d. George A. Romero, 2005

There's a good deal to like about Romero's political allegory, Land of the Dead. The use of fireworks, for instance, as a way to distract the zombies in order to kill them. See, the zombies are stand-ins for you & I; they represent the patriotic citizens of the United States of America, the working-class. The zombie-killers - those not undead whose modus operandi is the eradication of the zombies - stand as mannequins for the gov't and social-elite. The humor here is impossible to miss: the government, attempting to subdue the working-class citizens, uses blinding explosions of light to pacify the masses. And then they chops the masses' heads off. A zombie film whose impetus is something more than fright and gore is refreshing, which makes it such a shame that Land of the Dead veers off in so many wrong directions.

For one, the ideology is banal. Citizens as zombies is a good analogue, but it's also insulting to those of us that do think critically about our political scape. The film is clearly aimed at the conservative right while siding with the liberal left, but this is problematic in two ways. 1) Those that the film criticizes are likely to miss the point or, if they get it, to be offended and stubbornly oppose any validity of the original point. Which isn't helping anyone. 2) Those that the film considers "friendlies" are placed in a position of supposed superiority or implied inferiority, left with the recourse of laughing at those that don't get it or assuming they are included in zombie-sphere. Which also isn't helping anyone. Land of the Dead, then, is a dividing line, separating those who see the film into two already tiresome groups: red & blue.

Secondly, the allegory is muddled. We the people are represented not only by the zombies (which the more I think about - us as bloodthirsty imbeciles - the more I am offended), but also by the destitute that occupy the zombie-free cities. A man by the name of Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) rules the zombieless world, and in that world a hierarchy has been established. He's the president, he's G.W. His close friends are the cabinet, his militant coterie is the C.I.A., and the allegory works itself all the way down to the governmental droogs. Now: multiple analogues for one idea is sloppy allegory any way you cut it, so to have the citizens represented by two different entities (zombies, wayward destitutes) is hardly precise. Of course, they could represent a divided America - broadly, republicans & democrats - but then why would the zombies be attacking the president and why would the president anathematize his own constituency? Moreover, the zombie-killers themselves are a divided lot, with the main characters (a renegade quorum of killer-elites) present only as walking plot devices - allegorical anomalies entirely.

Add to these a bizarre ending and no real substance other than current political system = bad and you're left with a flat, insipid film. Land of the Dead is laudable for attempting to be more than a typical zombie film, but still a failure in its attempt.

Friday, July 01, 2005

the no movie watching blues

My summer job sucks for this reason: it's sapped my movie-watching energy in toto. 6 movies in June? A mere chicken wing tossed at the altar of the movie gods; a paltry stead for my usual sacrificial lamb of 30 or so. Crap. Take heart: reviews of Land of the Dead and Howl's Moving Castle forthcoming.