“In a world where the dead are returning to life, the word “trouble” loses much of its meaning.”
Land of the Dead is often looked at as the start of the decline of Romero’s Dead series, and though this definitely feels like a different film, the word “decline” is much too harsh. Land is definitely more of a modern zombie film than the last three, but that makes sense because Romero had twenty years between his last zombie film; he has grown as a filmmaker, and the genre itself changed so much by this point that it only makes sense that Land feels different. I’d argue that this is more of a generic action film than the last three, and lacks a bit of depth that fans of this series are used to, but it’s still a good film, and a great zombie movie.
Land of the Dead takes place “some time” after the end of Day, and is the largest film of the series to date. The action takes place in the city of Pittsburgh instead of a single house, mall, or bunker, and that gives Romero a lot more room to have fun with the action pieces, which gives it this larger, more action movie feel. Like before, we’re following around a new group of people, but this time it’s more about the taking down of a tyrannical leader that runs the city, while dealing with this zombie apocalypse happening around them. Our group of survivors are also coming to realize that these zombies are evolving, and getting smarter, which is a great step up from the facts we learned about them in Day of the Dead.
These elements that tie the movies together are so strong that it makes watching through these in such close proximity a real treat. Also, the continued degradation of the zombies through the films is fun to see. Because we’re now in the mid-2000s with this series, it’s inevitable that we get some digital effects, but, fortunately, those are kept limited and the real winner is – again – the practical effects by Greg Nicotero. It’s clear when Romero uses practical versus digital, and though some of the digital just doesn’t hold up, like a headless preacher, in particular, it doesn’t really detract from the film much at all. The practical effects are strong enough to make up for it.
Though Land doesn’t seem to have as much depth as the first three outings in this series, and is a bit more forgettable because the characters are more generic, it’s still a fun movie, and absolutely worth your time. So is it technically lesser than what we’ve seen so far? Yes. But that’s not saying much when you’re comparing it to three of the greatest zombie films ever made.