Zombieland 2 is finally here--after a decade-long wait, the gang is back. Did you check it out in theaters yet? What did you think? Air your thoughts right here in the comments.
The original Zombieland came out during a different time--a period of ancient history known as 2009. The sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, is set to hit theaters ten years later to the date--October 18, 2019, the ten-year anniversary of the original's release. It features the same core ensemble as the original: Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and Wichita (Emma Stone).
But just because it's been a decade in real time since this foursome was last together chasing Twinkies and bashing undead skulls with banjos doesn't mean ten years have passed in the series' fictional apocalyptic world. Luckily, we got the opportunity to chat recently with Zombieland 2's director, Ruben Fleischer, and writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, and we asked them how much time has passed since the original--and what that means for the characters.
In the movie itself, it's never explicitly stated how much time has passed since the events of the original. The most reliable marker we have for the passage of time in the series is Abigail Breslin's character Little Rock, who's grown from a young girl (Breslin was 13 years old in 2009) to a young woman who might be anywhere from 16 years old to her early twenties.
But there are other markers of the passage of time besides Little Rock's age. "We want to leave it a little vaguer in the movie," Reese told GameSpot. "You get the sense that years have passed. You look at that White House [covered in plant growth], and definitely, years have passed."
"And you look at Abby and you realize she's no longer a 12 year old girl, she's a grown, young lady," Wernick added.
But although they left it deliberately vague, both writers agree that it hasn't been a full ten years in-universe. "[Five years] feels a little more right than a full 10," Reese said, adding that a full ten years would have felt too long for these characters to be together. After ten years, it becomes even more implausible that Columbus and Wichita haven't had any kids, for example.
"That felt to us like, that's time that passes that you kind of want to know, well, what happened to this family in those 10 years? What were they doing?" Wernick explained. "Five years, you feel like, OK, yeah."
One thing you have to keep in mind is that they started working on this script basically a decade ago, when the original movie was still new.
"It took a long time to get the script right," director Ruben Fleischer told GameSpot. "And so, I think, originally [Little Rock] might have been 17 [in the sequel]...But yeah, it's never stated, so it's just kind of whatever you want it to be."
Fleischer said they used references like Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us and the History Channel series Life After People to determine how the world would look at this point in their apocalypse--roads overgrown, buildings crumbling, that sort of thing.
But the other big marker of the passage of time is how the characters themselves have changed.
"[Little Rock] wanting to leave the nest and have her own experiences was the biggest change in characters," Fleischer said.
"We also wanted to take certain things that were associated with certain characters and say something about their characters," Reese said. "So, Tallahassee gives Little Rock a gun. Shooting and guns are a big part of that relationship in the previous movie, but that was 10 years ago. Now he's giving her a gun and she's like, 'Yeah, another gun, great.' You realize their relationship's maybe in a rut. It's stalled and she wants to move on. She wants to get out of the nest."
One other thing that's changed: Zombieland's humor. Make no mistake, the sequel has plenty of callbacks and references to the original. But the filmmakers were careful not to rehash the same old jokes throughout the entire movie. For example, Double Tap features almost no references to Twinkies--Tallahassee's obsession in the original--besides a brief shot of a car's grill ornament.
"We didn't want to have Twinkies be a whole thing again because after 10 years, there would be no more Twinkies, first off--they don't last that long," Reese explained. "They actually do go stale reasonably quickly. I only know this because I used to eat them a lot--I still do occasionally."
"But then, Columbus is still drinking Mountain Dew Code Red, so we did little homages," he added.
Read next: Zombie Movies Will Be Around "Forever," Says Zombieland Double Tap Writer
"There are little Easter eggs," Wernick agreed. "But the idea was that, when you rely too heavily on the first movie for a second movie, then you feel like you're treading the same ground."
Fleischer shared that there was at least one other Twinkies-related joke in the movie at one point, but he cut it because it wasn't up to snuff.
"We were all really precious about not wanting to do anything that we felt would tarnish the first film," the director explained. "The bar was very high, and so I think we were all really nervous about doing the second one, because sequels often don't live up to the original.
"But I think we're all pretty proud of the fact that this one is a worthy sequel to the original."
Zombieland: Double Tap hit theaters Friday, October 18. In the meantime, we revisited the original Zombieland recently--check out the 30 Easter eggs, references, and fun facts you might have missed in the original.
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