Watching the apocalypse never gets old—or so it goes in Hollywood. Two new big-movie trailers suggest the enduring entertainment value of global destruction, though the horror-comedy Zombieland (opens October 9) appears to tap the current zeitgeist with better humor than 2012 (opens November 13), the latest cataclysm-fest from Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day).
Emmerich’s three-minute clip is a familiar display of doomsday-ploitation, with collapsing highways and skyscrapers, an array of planes, trains, and automobiles hurling willy-nilly into the air, and crashing landmarks (conspicuously the Vatican and The White House, the latter uniquely pummeled by an aircraft carrier cresting on a tidal wave). There’s also the hackneyed young father (John Cusack) struggling to protect his cute family and self-serious melodramatics (Chiwetel Ejiofor’s government do-gooder cries, “People have the right to fight for their lives!”). While there may be some newly added parallels to Noah’s Ark and post-catastrophe survival in 2012, titled for the Mayan’s end-time prophesy, the movie looks so 1999.
Zombieland, on the other hand, with its post-ironic commentary—”epidemics, climate change and dwindling resources [are] the least of our problems”—has so much rollicking good fun stuffed into its frames, you might actually forget for 90 minutes that our planet is, actually, on the verge of disaster. The directorial debut of Ruben Fleischer, who made his name with quirky lo-fi music videos (namely, DJ Format’s “We Know Something You Don’t Know”), the film stars Woody Harrelson as a zombie killer who teams up with Jesse Eisenberg’s awkward teen (unintentionally spoofing his latest coming-of-ager Adventureland). The visual jokes may be edited too quickly in the 2-minute teaser to fully appreciate, but that should only create more excitement for the actual film. The clip’s final low-key joke is as priceless as it is prescient. After dispensing with a corpse, Eisenberg turns to his survivalist comrades, “Do you guys want some Purell?”