Movie Review - Z for Zachariah

A film adaptation of a book doesn't have to adhere strictly to the book's plot or all of its characters. If filmmakers think they can come up with something better or something that will be greatly cinematic, then I'm not opposed, but writer Nissar Modi and director Craig Zobel who don't adhere strictly to the book also don't come up with something better than what was laid out in Robert C. O'Brien's 1974 book, published posthumously.

Even though this movie was made and screened prior, I watched this after watching the FOX series The Last Man on Earth, and essentially this movie is the same. It's simply more dramatic, whereas the series is vastly more comedic. Instead of the last man, this movie is about what looks like the last woman. If you followed the FOX series, the first season, then you know that he doesn't turn out to be the last man. He's lonely for companionship and contact until a woman arrives. The idea of procreation becomes paramount and then another woman arrives, and then it boils down to a love triangle in a post apocalyptic setting but absent the horror elements.

O'Brien's book, however, does have horror elements or at least it has intense and thrilling aspects. This movie removes those elements and aspects. There are no horrors. There are no thrills. Zobel's work here has reduced things to a straight-forward drama with a quasi-ambiguous ending but not really. O'Brien's book could have been an adult version of Blue Lagoon that instead of becoming romantic, it becomes more nightmarish as it goes along. This movie could have also been that nightmare realized but it's not.

Margot Robbie (Focus and The Wolf of Wall Street) stars as Anne, a survivor of a nuclear apocalypse that has wiped out most if not all of humanity. Radiation and radioactive materials have polluted the air and water. Anne is still alive because she lives in a valley within the mountains that acted like a natural pocket that protected her farm. People who were with her, her family, left to see if there were any others and they never came back, so now she's all alone with the exception of her dog.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave and American Gangster) co-stars as John Loomis, a government engineer who survived because he was in a bomb shelter underground. He also designed a hazmat suit or a high-tech suit not unlike one an astronaut would wear to protect him. John explored until he found Anne's farm. When he accidentally gets sick, Anne takes him in and nurses him back to health.

Chris Pine (Into the Woods and Star Trek) co-stars as Caleb, a guy who survived because he was underground too but in a mine somewhere. He didn't have a hazmat suit but somehow managed to make it to Anne's farm relatively unscathed. His arrival is rather late in the film, and his presence is only to fill out the love triangle or come between and divide Anne and John romantically, sexually and possibly spiritually.

It's even more obvious that Caleb's presence is superfluous if one learns that the character of Caleb doesn't exist at all in O'Brien's book. The novel only has Anne and John in what becomes a battle of wills. This movie has no battles of will or battles otherwise. At best, it has a few awkward moments but that's all.

I don't know if I appreciate this or not, but the movie goes out of its way not to demonize Ejifor's character, despite that being the book's route. It then presents Pine's character in a weird way but to have him seem attractive on a purely superficial and manipulative way, if only then to make Robbie's character seem stupid.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG - 13 for a scene of sexuality, partial nudity, and brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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