Dawn of the Dead (2004)

If you are a fan of my reviews, you know that I share the common opinion that movie remakes rarely do their respective originals any justice. But on rare occasions, one comes along and nearly matches up to its respective original. One such case is the 2004 remake of the George A. Romero classic Dawn of the Dead.

This film comes at you full force in the first few minutes. Everything happens so fast that it’s almost too overwhelming. One minute, Nurse Anna, the main character, is treating a patient for a mysterious disease transmitted through a bite. The next minute, the entire country is crawling with the virus, at least half the population having already been wiped out and it’s spreading too fast to be contained.

Of course it’s almost impossible for a movie to keep up this intensity for the duration. So after the story shifts to a nearby shopping mall (a tribute to the original), it slows down and focuses mainly on the interaction of the characters rather than the zombies themselves. More people enter the mall. This was, in my humble opinion, the weak spot. Obviously, a little character interaction is essential but if you spend too much time, it gets too far away from the main idea of the film. You introduce a lot of new characters and it gets confusing. The 1978 film had few main characters and was able to focus more on the situation.

Some people, including George Romero himself, commented about the zombies’ appearance in the 2004 film as compared to its 1978 counterpart, the main difference being how much faster they were in the remake than the original. In 1978, the zombies limped around and were not able to run after their victims while in 2004 this wasn’t the case. The undead didn’t have to rely on sneaking up to them. They could simply run after them. While Romero criticized director Zach Snyder for this difference, I believe it forced the survivors to react quicker and, therefore, made the storyline more exciting. Although this agility may have made the zombies appear more human, the special effects makeup more than made up for it.

To wrap, the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead may lack much George Romero’s originality and plotline style. But it clearly fills that void with a faster pace.

Cast: Sarah Polley as Ana, Ving Rhames as Kenneth, Jake Weber as Michael, Mekhi Phifer as Andre, and Michael Kelly as CJ.

Director: Zach Snyder

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