Rule #2: Double Tap. From Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus’ ingenious survival guide on how to survive a zombie apocalypse: to always ensure that your shot zombie victim stays dead by a second shot to the head. However, that notion is quickly thrown out of the window in this film as our team here deals with a new breed of zombie: faster, more agile, and more resilient to the bullets these humans have been using to survive since the first film.
More on that later in the plot description, but for those looking for a shorthanded review before I hand in my detailed take on the film at the end of this writeup: ‘Zombieland 2’ is plenty fun while it lasts, surpassing most of the risks posed by such a production coming back after a hiatus of ten years. Then again, if ‘Top Gun Maverick’ can come out 34 years later and still sound just as exciting, I really have no qualms with sequels that can uphold the integrity of the original, and in this case, just be as entertaining, if not more. Read on as we delve into a detailed breakdown of its plot and ending.
Picking up ten years after the events of the first film, the four survivors: Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock have adapted to surviving in a zombie infested USA, making their way to the White House where they then proceed to stay as a family of sorts. Following a few days of bliss, Wichita and Little Rock flee owing to the two growing overbearing towards them, and the duo survive for a month, continuing to stay in the White House. They encounter Madison, another survivor at the mall, who quickly seduces Columbus and sleeps with him.
The same night, Wichita returns to the white house to gather some weapons, and upon being discovered reports that Little Rock had fled again with a hippie, Berkeley, for Graceland, and that she was in considerably more danger than she imagined since Berkeley was a pacifist believing in non violence and thus bereft of weapons, and primarily due to a new mutated breed of zombies that were faster and more adapted to kills. The four then set out to find Little Rock and bring her home to safety, not knowing that she had sought refuge in a commune of hippies after leaving from Graceland.
The Ending, Explained
Like so many other sequels that got greenlit with an improved budget; nearly double in the case of ‘Double Tap’, this film too falls to the temptation of slightly overdoing its finale. This is also true for most ‘firsts’, since the very reason that they became such hits was that they probably didn’t have that much of a pressure to deliver. They were small, experimental, studio backed films that may or may not have worked, given everything, but their commercial success suddenly prompted the ‘seconds’ in the series as franchise building vehicles. However, that’s just the trade. Thankfully in this case, it doesn’t end up harming the end product too much by a very narrow margin.
Coming directly to the ending of the film, whence the group: Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Madison arrive at Babylon, and owing to the commune’s no guns policy, turn in their weapons to have them melted to form peace medallions. The group travels to the roof of the abandoned tower that the commune now uses as their base, where they reunite with Little Rock. Throughout the film, it is established that Little Rock is on the run since she finds it troublesome to fit within the family the four of them seemingly found at the end of the first film.
The two initially escape too, when Wichita finds Columbus might be getting too attached to her after proposing to her, and Little Rock finding Tallahassee to be an overbearing father figure, the need for whom she currently did not feel. As the group settles, Tallahassee sees Little Rock happy with people her own age, and decides to leave solo and head West, as he declares he had always wanted to.
On the way, he encounters the mutated zombies that Columbus terms ‘T-800’s from ‘Terminator 2’, owing to the greater effort it took to kill them. Tallahassee returns to warn the group of the swarm of T-800s approaching, attracted to the Babylon tower hearing the fireworks. With no weapons, Tallahassee and the group hatch a plan to hold them off. The first part of the plan involves luring them into an enclosed area and burning them by exploding a tank of biodiesel that the hippies had, followed by manually killing the survivors. The second part of the plan involved taking the fight to the terrace of the tower in case they got overwhelmed, and having the members of the commune stand in linear formations with makeshift shields, corralling the zombies off of the terrace, lured by Tallahassee himself.
The group go ahead with setting up the first plan, confining approaching zombies and exploding the biodiesel tank. However, they are simply outnumbered as a number of them survive the explosion and quickly move to attacking the group, who now only have melee weapons in tow. The four try to hold them off for as long as they can eventually resigning to their fate, just when Nevada turns up in the monster truck left behind by Albuquerque and Flagstaff and fends off the zombies, killing them with the truck and rescuing the group. Eventually, they too are overwhelmed and the truck overturns, leading the five of them to flee to the top of the tower, with the zombies being delayed by Tallahassee.
Once on the terrace, Tallahassee rushes past the survivors holding shields and leaps off of the building edge to hold on to a construction crane, hanging by it, while the zombie horde following him fall to their deaths off the building, in what Tallahassee remarks is the Zombie Kill of the Week. Sorry Tal, but we all know the real winner is the guy who lured zombies to a spot with the help of the mannequins and had the leaning tower of Pisa fall over them.
Noble as his stance were, it is hard to beat this one. Dangling by the crane, while Tallahassee attempts to come back, two more zombies appear and catch hold of Tallahassee’s leg in suspension, just when Little Rock shoots them with the same Colt 0.45 Tallahassee gifted her in the beginning of the movie at the white house, stating that it was the same Colt that Elvis Presley had gifted the then president, thus saving him as the two reconcile. Wichita accepts Colombus’ proposal of marriage, while Madison and Berkeley hook up. The next morning, the group along with Nevada leave Babylon, with Columbus musing how they had all found their home in each other, while wondering what their next destination should be.
‘Zombieland Double Tap’, simply stated, is fun while it lasts. Which is also why I hoped it lasted a little longer apart from a slightly muddled finale, since I barely remembered anything a few hours after stepping into the light. It’s a good thing then that the sequel retains most of the creative team from the first film too, who know the nerve of their audience who liked, if not loved the first one. Even when the script is at its lowest somewhere near the middle, you never feel it since the film comfortably piggybacks over the shoulders of its insanely talented cast, all boasting of at least an Academy Award nomination, and one win.
It is only surprising for me that after ten years of working together, each of the four top-billed, Harrelson (who is goofily having the time of his life playing the Western foul mouth), Eisenberg virtually as himself, an ever charming Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin seem oddly comfortable with each other, sharing nearly the same camaraderie that they did in the first ‘Zombieland’. Nearly.
The new additions to the cast, especially Rosario Dawson as Tallahassee’s match Nevada, and a scene-stealing, walking blonde-girl spoof Zoey Deutch as Madison work too, big time indeed. A short-lived running gag occurring somewhere past the halftime mark is when Tallahassee and Columbus encounter spitting images of themselves, each annoying the other more. It is genuinely funny writing like this that lights up an otherwise completely generic script, and there is some actual fun to be had from these in a film about a zombie apocalypse that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Thankfully, again, the film doesn’t waiver too much, utilising these characters as only part comic relief, quickly returning where its strengths lie. It’s more of the same, so if you liked the first one’s ingenuity, chances are you will end up liking this one too.
Read More: Does Zombieland Double Tap Have End Credits?