Zack Snyder re-invents the late George Romero’s masterpiece in a mess of a remake that starts off very strong, gives up trying to make sense mid-way, and them limps to the finish line as fast as it can. Snyder and James Gunn’s script never takes time to slow down and breathe, jumping from one action scene to the next, from one musical laced montage to the next, and from one weak moment of tension to the next. Characters are stale and barely developed, and the script never hides that these people are meant as cannon fodder and nothing else. Worse, the script is clumsily paced, the overall film is tonally uneven, and often times the horror element is an afterthought.
Sarah Polley is Ana, a nurse who is oblivious to the world crumbling around her. After a long shift at the hospital, she awakens one morning horrified to witness her neighbor attack and murder her husband. After he awakens and turns on her, she narrowly escapes and flees. In an instant she’s thrust in to the apocalypse where the dead have suddenly risen and are tearing down society, hungry for human flesh. Attached to a group of survivors, they flee to a deserted mall and hide out inside, forming an uneasy truce with one another, hoping to wait out the end of the world as the dead consume humanity all around them. With Gunn’s amateurish script, and Snyder sneaking in his heavy handed political beliefs, “Dawn 2004” is an objectivist post-9/11 nightmare, with the zombies remolded as darting, biting undead suicide bombers.
“Dawn of the Dead” has very little sympathy for the weaker individuals, painting the emotionally distraught characters as annoying and shrill, while those that are made for survival are not at all what you’d call heroes. One scene even finds our characters playfully executing the shambling dead to pass the time because: why the hell not? Even the more nobler people like Officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames) and Security Guard CJ (Michael Kelly) are turned in to gun toting warriors that don’t so much defend the mall they’re trapped in for the sake of nobility, but mainly because they kind of have to. Only when Kenneth realizes he’s screwed does he turn around and decide to squat alongside his fellow survivors. Tom Savini even has a cameo as a rough and tumble sheriff executing the dead and maintaining his post in his town, not because it’s right, but because the weaker more mundane individual isn’t going to do it.
“Dawn of the Dead” 2004 is a movie that weakens with every repeated viewing, packed to the brim with god awful dialogue, plot holes, humongous gaps in logic, terrible performances, and is centered on perhaps the most incompetent nurse in film history. Gunn’s script doesn’t so much present interesting characters and unique sub-plots so much as jumps from scenario to scenario, failing to competently flesh out even its most charismatic supporting characters. It’s a relief that James Gunn managed to evolve in to a very strong director and craftsman of characters over the years. He’s come such a long way since 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” an oddly compelling mess of an action horror movie that seems oddly built for folks that don’t like zombie movies very much. At least we get to see how much of a scene stealer Ty Burrell could be before his break out role in “Modern Family.”
The two disc version comes with the Theatrical version, which is the most watched version with considerable cuts. There’s “Take a Chance on Me: An Interview with Actor Ty Burrell” an interview with brilliant character actor Ty Burrell who discusses his role in the film as Steve, with candid humility, and how he originally auditioned for the role of Michael, as played by Jake Weber in the final film. There’s also discussion with how Ty added his own comic flair to Steve. “Gunn for Hire: An Interview with Writer James Gunn” is an interview with James Gunn and how he became a part of the film, his pitch for the story and lack thereof, and how his script differed from the original classic film. “Punk, Rock & Zombie” is an interview with actor Jake Weber, who plays Michael in the movie.
He discusses his audition for Steve and how he was ultimately cast as Michael. Weber’s humility and soft spoken attitude make him a natural fit for the nice guy in the group. “Killing Time at the Mall: The Special Effects of Dawn of the Dead” is an interview with Special Effects Makeup Artists David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson, Anderson discusses his preparations for the various zombie designs, and how he and his wife tailored the special effects for the film. There’s a slew of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman. Finally there’s the theatrical trailer and photo gallery.
Disc Two features the Unrated, Uncensored version of “Dawn” with more scenes included amounting to nine minutes total that gives the film much more coherence, in the end. If you have to see the movie, see this version. The features are from previous releases. There’s an audio commentary with director Snyder and Newman, both of whom indulge in insight and details on filming. There’s a brief introduction by director Snyder, and “Splitting Heads: Anatomy of Exploding Heads,” with special effects supervisor David Anderson who shows us how he created the head explosions and head shots. “Attack of the Living Dead” is a look at the lesser known zombies in the movie, and how the actors got in to their parts, as well as how their body casts were made, and their unique looks.
“Raising the Dead” has Snyder and Anderson discussing how they made the dead for the film. “Andy’s Lost Tape” is better than whole movie, as we get a video diary from the ill fated Andy, the gun shop owner and how he managed to last through the zombie apocalypse and eventually go mad from the carnage. “Special Report: Zombie Invasion” sheds some light on the epidemic in Wisconsin, and how it spread nation wide. It’s a fun mock news report. “Undead and Loving It: A Mockumentary” is with director Snyder and producer Newman who discuss working with “real” zombies and how their work ethic helped the filming. “Drawing the Dead” is a look at the story boarding for the film, framing the sequences, and how they affected the final film. Finally, there’s your basic storyboard comparison.