The term reboot gets used very loosely, which is the case with the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. Instead of a the original 1978 movie getting a modern update (most of the old film’s storyline would work with current age sensibilities), the new one introduces a lot of characters, plenty of hanging elements, and lots of story content that pretty much leads nowhere. Instead of becoming a thinking man’s movie, the Dawn reboot is a clumsy trod through a zombie themed storyline. Which is decent enough for when you need to see a zombie movie, but nowhere near the notion of living up to the title it is paying homage to.
What is Dawn of the Dead?
This reboots follows the story of Ana, a nurse, and several other survivors as they make their way into a mall. There, they end up being forced to cooperate with the security guards who have made the mall as some sort of fort against the zombie invasion –with the mall being able to provide a wide range of necessities such as clothes, food, and weapons. The movie follows the struggles of the group in order to survive, as well as how they are learning to kill the zombies as well as getting through their own personal issues.
Too Many Elements
One of the worst moments in the movie is when a group of new survivors crash their way into the mall. While the scene is pretty interesting with all the zombies that try to follow them, the issue lies in the fact that this moment allows for a lot of new characters to enter into the mix. A full length film is not that long in terms of being able to provide a lot of characters enough time to shine, and with a lot of characters to juggle, viewers spend more than half time trying to remember who the new people are.
While the cast has its memorable members (such as Andy, the guy trapped in a gunstore across the lot from the mall), most of them are pretty much forgettable and do nothing to progress the story or the other characters further. As with plenty of zombie films, some of the new survivors are simply there to become zombie fodder or victims of their own clumsiness (like that one person on the bus who decides to wield a chainsaw but ends up killing himself).
Changing the Tone
The hard part about this movie is watching it while fully aware of the Romero original. So that means that the only way to truly enjoy this film is to forget about the original just a for a while and just watch a simple zombie movie without any expectations. This sadly, is the worst bit about the movie being a reboot –why bother being a reboot when all it does has nothing to do with the original film?
Other than the fact that this is a movie about survivors inside a shopping mall during the zombies, there is very little that is even similar in the two movies. For one, the huge volume of characters in the new one means the cast gets little to no development. Also, the characters in the original film were smarter –building fake walls, training to use the helicopter, and more. They may have had issues to deal with, but it did not hamper with their sensibilities.
The worst part is the ending of the reboot –which involves some found-footage style storytelling. While the original film was designed to be sad, the final cut shown to be viewers gave a potential of hope –with the survivors managing to take off in the helicopter. The new movie has the survivors managing to escape too, but the epilogue shows them in a lot of trouble and possibly an even worse situation than what they had in the mall.
It is easy to tell that a movie is not being done right when the original creator does not like it. Romero highly criticized the lack of focus on the zombies, as well as the fact that they were not long slow and shambling –the new movie directed by Zack Snyder featured zombies that could sprint and actively chase after people. Sure, it made the zombies more dangerous, but it also changed them from a slow and passive force into a more malicious entity.