Film reviews are a weird concept. Not entirely similar to film criticism, yet it can’t be entirely different. You can write hundreds of words reviewing a film, yet they really only need a question and a one-word answer: Should I watch this movie? yes/no. That’s all it boils down to. And with this, the answer is yes, with a but. If you liked the first one (as I did, I loved it in fact. One of my favourite zombie movies), you’ll like this, if you disliked it, this won’t change your mind on the franchise. It has some issues of course. The Abigail Breslin sub-plot is essential to the progression of the film, in fact, it’s pretty essential to everything in the film happening, but that doesn’t mean it’s exciting. The dullest parts are the film are when it’s focusing on her story arc. I’m not sure why, I think it’s because out of all the new characters introduced, the one in that section is the most boring. Not only because he’s a pacifist (this film is known for having great zombie deaths, and his pacifism pretty much tells you that is not going to happen in his moments) but also because it’s sorely underdeveloped. You don’t get much information on how he’s managed to survive this long, whether he’s always been like that or not. There could have been a really interesting back story where he was happily killing zombies and in a moment of madness killed someone who it turned out wasn’t a zombie. That would have solved the issue of not having any kills and it would have made the character more compelling.
Another issue is at times it feels like the characters are still getting to know each other, the character relationships don’t feel like they’ve all been together for 10 years. There’s almost zero development from the end of the last film to the beginning of this one. Nothing has happened off-screen in terms of how they treat each other, and it’s a bit weird and makes you realise these aren’t real people, they’re characters in a movie.
There’s a moment at the start where they introduce three new kinds of zombies (Ninjas, Homers, and Hawkings), these classifications don’t end up meaning much in the end and are really only there to set up another classification later in the film. We get a few Homers (really stupid zombies) in the film, but I feel we don’t get enough Hawkings (very smart ones) or Ninjas (silent and quick). That could have been used to set up some good horror scenes, and it’s a shame that it feels like they didn’t really use them.
Now onto the plus side; the chemistry between the cast is still great and is a great example of a studio taking advantage of catching lightning in a bottle in terms of actors. When you have something like that it can be a mistake to bring a new person in. It’s why I was slightly concerned with how heavily featured Zoey Deutch was in the trailers, especially as her character seemed pretty one-note and like her main reason to exist was to drive the plot forward by putting them in danger with her stupidity. Thankfully she slots in beautifully. Plus she’s not stupid, not really. She would have been 14 when the zombie outbreak occurred, so most of her formative years were spent hiding in a freezer. As such she’s stuck in a state of arrested development alongside long-term isolation (the film hints that she was at the same place the infection started, so she has been in the same place, alone, for 10 years). Her character meshes well with the other characters too, allowing them to get some great comedic lines in. Rosario Dawson also slots in brilliantly, albeit for nowhere near as long.
So to answer the question about whether you should see it, you definitely should. It’s exactly what you think it is, and exactly what it needs to be. It even features an opening scene set to Metallica like the first one. Now if another one is made, lets hope it’s not 10 years later again. Oh, and make sure you stay for the mid-credits scene where Bill Murray kills zombies whilst just walking around being Bill Murray.