In 2003, relatively unknown director, Zack Snyder was given the the chance to create a remake of one of the most influential films of all time: George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
Filming from June to September 2003, many fans were hesitant of this film. Why remake such a classic thats already had multiple recuts and changes? However, many were pleasantly surprised when the film released on March 19, 2004 by Universal Studios, acquiring a 75% approval rating from 187 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Made on a $26 million dollar budget, Dawn of the Dead, exceeded expectations grossing an accumulated $102.3 million dollars worldwide.
I saw this movie for the first time about six years ago. I purchased it at my local used movie store, CD Warehouse, and eagerly took it home to watch. As you’ll come to find over the next week, Zack Snyder is one of my favorite filmmakers. While every single one of his films have flaws, he still brings a unique perspective to established IPs and characters. I don’t care what you think about him as a filmmaker, that’s your opinion, so here is mine.
Zack Snyder is heavily underrated.
But, as this review progresses, you’ll understand that I haven’t always thought like this.
As I mentioned above, I was eager to watch the film. I was high off of his 2013 outing, Man of Steel, and I desperately longed for more. At the time, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was just on the horizon, and what better way to prepare than watching his previous work.
I was left – unimpressed.
In his directorial debut, Zack Snyder displays a complete understanding of the technical aspects of film. His shots were interesting, the coloring was unique, and his style was starting to leak through. However, the story left more to be desired. In the original, there was a much smaller cast, giving the viewers more time to connect to the characters. Yet, Snyder doesn’t give us that. Instead, we are greeted to multiple characters with fairly similar personalities, played by actors many aren’t familiar with, and all this combined makes a case for forgettable characters. Which is FUNDAMENTAL to the zombie genre.
Ask yourself this, why was The Walking Dead so successful? Answer: THE CHARACTERS. For example, the moment I jumped ship was when Glenn died. Why bother continuing a show when your favorite character died? I know an abundance of people who followed suit and as the years pass the ratings lowered, drastically. The Walking Dead has struggled in recent times because they threw away their audience with killing off likeable characters and introducing boring ones. A similar show with this situation is Game of Thrones. But, where The Walking Dead walked, Game of Thrones RAN. Season after season they were able to introduce characters that resonated with audiences and managed to keep them engaged.
In addition to the poor character development in Dawn of the Dead, there is a bland story. Although it progresses at a swift pace, there is no meat to the bones. We move from action beat to action beat with small character beats sprinkled throughout.
I said earlier that the color pallete for the film was unique, and I meant that, but not exactly in a good way. The film uses yellows that are saturated to the point of nauseum. Every shot feels disgusting, which could work since it’s a zombie film, yet in my opinion it doesn’t. It feels as if the world is a dreamscape, that the film feels so drastic in tone. Most other zombie films use a dreary blue that builds a somber tone.
The performances range from over the top to on point, which is to be expected with a cast this large. The real stand out is Ving Rhames who goes from tough police officer to caring friend. He is given pretty much the only arc throughout the film and while it could have been used more effectively, it does enough.
Everything else in the film does it’s job well enough, the vfx is really great, the score is noticeable, the editing can be exhausting at points but usually hones itself back when needed, and the action is fun.
Upon my rewatch of the film I found myself bored and on my phone every so often. It struggled to keep my attention, even when there was blood and guts flying across the screen.
If you are a zombie fanatic or a die hard Snyder fan, I’d say give it a shot. But, you aren’t missing much if you don’t.