Last weekend I saw both Zombieland and Capitalism: A Love Story. Two very different movies, right? That’s what I thought going in. But as I later reflected on them, it occurred to me that they had more in common than one would think. So, if you’re still undecided about whether you should see one or both of these movies, allow me to submit this comparison of the two films for your consideration. WARNING: There might be a few spoilers below. Plus, you may disagree with certain aspects of Michael Moore’s political philosophy, as well as the worldview of Zombieland. But anyone who wants to see a movie featuring zombies or Michael Moore is bound to enjoy a good politics/horror story.
Zombieland Plot: In this horror comedy a mysterious virus has turned people into zombies after they’re bitten, and zombies have now taken over the world. Humans are few in number and must do whatever it takes to survive.
Capitalism Plot: This documentary film argues that capitalism has turned people into greedy monsters that have taken over the country. Although being in the majority, the working class must do whatever it takes to survive.
Zombieland Hero: Tallahassee (played by Woody Harrelson)
Tallahassee is a loner who hates zombies and enjoys killing them for sport. Dressed in a cowboy hat, snake-print jacket, and boots, Woody Harrelson is hilarious in this role, which is one of the highlights of the film.
Capitalism Hero: Michael Moore (played by Michael Moore)
Michael Moore is a lone documentary filmmaker who is obsessed with mocking the right wing and exposing corporate corruption. He takes on capitalism and claims it is evil. Sporting his trademark ball cap, jacket, and sneakers, Moore is not necessarily hilarious in this film, but he does provide a few chuckles.
Tallahassee’s Entourage: Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin)
Tallahassee runs into a loveable loser named Columbus and offers him a ride. Then they meet two sisters, Wichita and Little Rock, who provide plenty of trouble. The characters hide their true identities from each other and refer to each other only by the names of the cities that they’re from.
Moore’s Entourage: Unseen camera guy
Moore’s faithful sidekick is never seen and rarely acknowledged except for when he is kicked out of a large financial corporation, along with his fearless leader.
Tallahassee’s Enemy: Zombies
Tallahassee hates zombies and receives great pleasure out of killing them. At first the motive for his hatred is unknown, but it is later revealed as the film progresses, adding a layer to this potentially one-dimensional character.
Moore’s Enemy: Capitalism … and Republicans
Moore hates capitalism, or at least he thinks he does, and refers to is as an evil system of taking more so than giving. His definition of capitalism is rather confusing because he sides with companies that are still rather capitalistic. And, in all honesty, Moore himself is benefiting from the system of capitalism as a filmmaker. In truth, Moore actually hates corporate and government corruption, which has abused capitalism, and not capitalism itself.
Tallahassee’s Weapon of Choice: Big guns, baseball bats, gardening shears, banjos, etc.
Pretty much if you can swing it around or shoot something out of it, then Tallahassee can use it to slay zombies. It’s obvious that in order to keep things interesting as a self-proclaimed zombie killer, you need to be creative in your use of equipment and methods.
Moore’s Weapon of Choice: “Spreading the Wealth” and snarky George W. jokes
Moore’s weapon against the “evil” of capitalism is something that many of his more conservative or libertarian viewers will call “socialism.” Moore never actually uses the term “socialism,” but he strongly implies it by using terms such as “spread the wealth,” “universal healthcare,” and an Obama quote regarding how some people will have to share more of their “pie” (this is followed up by a Republican politician saying he doesn’t want to share his pie). Moore also uses scenes from last year’s presidential campaign where Palin and McCain both attacked Obama for being a socialist, to which Moore responds, “Is that so bad?” And what would a Michael Moore film be without some immature (though arguably justified) George W. jokes? While discussing the decline of the economy, Moore shows clips of Bush “dancing” and making “silly” public appearances, implying the president’s ignorance to the situation. He also refers to Bush as Chicken Little during an edited version of the president’s televised warning about the economy, where the White House is crumbling behind him, a thunderstorm wreaks havoc, and a cartoon man runs by screaming in fear.
Tallahassee’s Goals: 1. To earn “Zombie Kill of the Week,” 2. To find the ever elusive Twinkies
Again it all comes down to creativity and enthusiasm, which are always key ingredients in successfully achieving any goal. Tallahassee has some stiff competition for “Zombie Kill of the Week,” and Twinkies are becoming hard to find since there is an expiration date (who knew?) and the world’s supply is now limited. These character traits provide from some great comedic scenes and dialogue.
Moore’s Goal: 1. To share the wealth, 2. To reach the hearts and minds of America’s working class to revolt against the wealthy and take a stand against injustice
Throughout the film Moore encourages people to take a stand against corporate and governmental corruption and revolt against the wealthy. His philosophy is that the wealthy may have all of the money, but everyone has one vote each, which means the poor outnumber the wealthy and hold the power to create change. According to Moore, this concept scares the wealthy…a lot. He cites examples such as the Chicago’s Republic Windows and Doors factory where laid-off employees held a sit-in strike until they received their compensation. This was one of the strongest segments of the entire film.
Zombieland: Typically in horror films where people are combating the undead and supernatural, religion is called upon for back up. Holy water is used on the demon-possessed, crosses are used against vampires, and churches are safe havens found on holy ground, but in Zombieland there is no mention of God or religion. Guns are the answer…or the occasional piece of gardening equipment. Humans must rely on themselves, and not God, to survive.
Capitalism: In his battle against capitalism, Moore uses Catholicism to back up his mission. He separately presents two Catholic priests and a bishop with a question: What would Jesus think of capitalism? All three of these men adamantly believe that Jesus would condemn it. Moore then uses clips from the 1950s to show and condemn how capitalism was promoted as abiding with God’s laws and the Bible. Overall, Moore does not rely on religion or God for answers. Instead, he relies on the government and the wealthy to provide for the survival of others.
The Final Tally
Zombieland: The writing by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is smart and tight, and the performances are well executed. Woody Harrelson owns the screen, and the chemistry between the actors is engaging. The quiet points between the zombie-killing action is actually where the movie truly shines.
Capitalism: Moore is very effective in using the tricks of his trade to get his message across. He uses editing, music, video clips, and humor to effectively enhance his points while entertaining his audience. He does a good job of showing the injustice and pain caused by corporate corruption and greed. Although many will disagree with his political views, he does raise important issues, such as corporations taking out life insurance policies on their employees and the close ties between Wall Street and the White House. I also appreciated how he raised the question of “what Jesus would think” of capitalism, which is great for discussion. Finally, it was enjoyable to watch Moore attempt to retrieve the bailout money from the financial institutions while putting up crime scene tape around their corporate offices.
Zombieland: The plot is rather simple, the details behind the zombie virus are vague, and there’s no resolution to the zombie problem. But honestly, I don’t care, and you won’t either. These are just minor details that would complicate an uncomplicated film. Some ethnic diversity in the cast, which is predominantly White, would’ve also made the film appealing to a wider audience.
Capitalism: Moore needs to clearly define what he thinks capitalism and democracy are. For some, he may come across as a hypocrite, since he is bashing a system that has contributed to his privileged lifestyle as a successful filmmaker. He also never effectively proves that capitalism doesn’t work. Instead he speaks out against corporate and governmental corruption. His subject matter is too broad to cover in a two hour film, and he needs to narrow his focus. He should leave his political views at the door and just report on the issues from all sides, which would make the film more compelling. Sometimes the documentary turns into a mock-umentary of certain politicians, which is supposed to be funny but more often comes across as mean-spirited and juvenile.
And the Winner Is …
Zombies are mindless creatures preying on the innocent to satisfy their insatiable hunger for human flesh. Moore sees capitalists and Republicans as brainless, greedy creatures preying on the innocent, hard-working middle class to satisfy their insatiable hunger for wealth and money. Humans are the victims in both scenarios and are technically the villains as well, since zombies were once humans.
For sheer fun, the zombies have the edge. But both films are worth seeing.
If you saw one or both of these movies (or even if you didn’t), we’d like to hear what you think. Post your reviews below.