It ain’t easy taking a popular cult film and adapting it into a successful TV series (emphasis on successful), but the advent of alternative digital platforms such as Netflix and Hulu are opening up more possibilities. Enter Amazon and it’s Zombieland series pilot. The series comes from Zombieland screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and stars Tyler Ross (Milkshake) as Columbus, Maiara Walsh (Switched at Birth) as Wichita, Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays) as Little Rock, and Kirk Ward (Fully Loaded) as Tallahassee. Reese and Wernick are hoping for a 13-episode first season, but if this pilot is any indication, then they’ll be struggling to abide by Rule #33: Keep Hope Alive. Hit the jump for my review.
Let me just say upfront that I’m a fan of the original film and was looking forward to seeing Reese and Wernick’s take in series form. What follows is a review of the pilot that was produced and not the pilot I necessarily wanted to see; I’ll just say that the creators may have been better served by crafting all new characters to live in their world rather than trying to recast the movie roles. Moving on.
Zombieland starts off with a somewhat fresh approach to introducing newcomers to a world in which the zombie epidemic has just kicked off. Two middle-class office workers gripe about their “first world problems” as undead horrors take place in the background just a stone’s throw beyond their workplace windows. The variety of zombie kills is every bit as creative as AMC’s The Walking Dead but the tone is much lighter and frivolous, something that’s carried over from the film. Also carried over is the character of Tallahassee, who is introduced in this very first scene. Ward attempts to channel Woody Harrelson’s performance – and even ties in a Twinkie comment – but ultimately comes off as a caricature. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the rest of the main cast, though Ross’ narration sounds strikingly similar to that of Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus.
It’s not just the movie foursome that survives the apocalypse in the series pilot, however. We watch as the gang travels around L.A. in search of other survivors in order to start a community. They’re guided by newcomer Detroit (voiced by Kendra Fountain), a former OnStar operator who acts as their eye in the sky and a love interest for Tallahassee. As with all of the dialogue and stilted exposition in this half-hour pilot, it just feels a bit too forced.
On the fun side of things, Zombieland does incorporate the movie’s rules and Zombie Kill of the Week fairly well. One zombie is flattened by a giant rolling 76 gas station ball; another is taken out by a well-placed over-the-shoulder shot by Tallahassee. The pilot might actually feature more human deaths than undead kills since every survivor the group encounters happens to suffer a grisly end. This causes our intrepid quartet to make their way east in search of a new community … with stops in Vegas and Detroit along the way, of course.
The character relationships may feel forced and lacking in the chemistry department, but the production quality is pretty solid. They don’t have a movie budget by any means but the post-apocalyptic world feels properly disheveled and devoid of life. The make-up is acceptable for a low-budget zom-com and the effects clearly receive the bulk of the budget. There are also a few good gags and one-liners scattered throughout the opening trial episode. Unfortunately it’s not enough to hook me into future viewings. I’ve got nothing invested in these rehashed characters and the post-apocalyptic relationship storyline did nothing for me. Pilot episodes have notoriously difficult job of establishing tone and character for an entire series, so I’ll give Zombieland the benefit of the doubt on that front. Luckily, you can check the pilot out for yourself for free at Amazon and rate it to let them know whether or not it should continue to a full season. As for my opinion…