The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Z for Zachariah (Roadside Attractions)
Directed by Craig Zobel
WARNING: This review is just a rant. If you don’t want to hear me prattle on about perceived racism in an otherwise innocuous post-apocalyptic science fiction drama please don’t continue reading this. I’m not proud of it.
Z for Zachariah is the most subversive, racist, anti-intellectual piece of shit movie I have ever seen. And the northern, non-religious, African-American scientist who is at least twice the age of the last woman, dare I say white woman, on earth is threatened by an equally religious, age-appropriate sexy white boy who wanders into their makeshift family farm in the last living valley on earth, or at least America, or at least in driving distance. Not only does this crappy film hammer these religious themes over our heads, it feeds into this interracial angst that perfectly clarifies how aggressively racist Z for Zachariah turns out to be in the end. And make no mistake, I’m talking about the ending. So yes, I am going to spoil it. I’m going to spoil the whole damn thing. I’m gonna spoil the shit out of this movie. I know sometimes I say that and don’t mean it. I fucking mean it this time.
Z for Zachariah is nothing like the book. The character of Loomis from the book is divided into two characters. An older black scientists and a young white stranger. The title is taken from a book called A for Adam. A children’s book found in the library of the last woman on earth. In the original book she is a teenager. Here she’s a bit older. As a teenager she believes if A for Adam is the first man on earth. Z for Zechariah must be the last. In the book she is alone until a strange man comes along and treats her badly. In this movie, like I said, there are two men and neither one is a peach.
Margot Robbie plays the last teenage girl on earth. She lives in the last living valley, alive because it has its own eco-system, unaffected by the nuclear fallout. She is too hot to play this role by a factor of ten. At one point Loomis turns down sex with her. Which makes absolutely no sense except that the filmmakers know their American audience. A group who want to be angered thinking about interracial romance but would turn it off if it happens on-screen. No. Any sexualized contact between her and Loomis is overly aggressive and violent, like in the book. Except that here Caleb, the other Loomis, played by Chris Pine does have sex with her. The male character is split in two and they are an American demographic dichotomy. Religious, Intellectual and Racial opposites. One is Southern, the other Northern. It could not be hammered home any harder. Except if maybe one were wearing an Obama pin and the other had a Ronald Reagan tattoo.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Loomis the intellectual, northern, atheist, African-American scientist, who is, for all intents and purposes, the hero of the story, he fixes her generator and builds a hydro-electric pump. He saves her from her loneliness. Her savior, except for the fact that he’s black and an atheist and a scientist and an older man and of course trying to get with the white women. I know, I know, but the movie is just so heavy-handed with it. And that was never what the story was about. But we are given this false dilemma where he needs to tear down the church in order to build his hydro-electric power thingy. Which is no choice at all but the way it’s played like the bad scientist wants to destroy religion for progress. Or more accurately, it’s not played that way. It stays right on the fence like these are two equally viable choices. And that sort of ambiguity, in my opinion, would only serve to placate those who would think keeping the church standing is equal to having electricity, heat, light, refrigeration, etc.
I know some well-meaning people will watch the same movie and think I’m seeing things. I’m not. By the end the two men in this awkward love triangle; The good-looking southern boy and, the mean old church destroying black guy have spent most of the movie thinking about killing each other. This is shown in creepy looks and at one point they go hunting and each one, at some point during their outing, points their gun at the back of the other’s head. But it’s the open-ended resolution. Kind of like the fence straddling about the church. When Loomis comes back alone from the generator. Did he kill Caleb? Of course he must have. Not our Loomis. Or did he? And it’s more bullshit, because to someone with an already existent prejudice, there’s no mystery at all. He is everything they hate from before the movie started. A movie designed to foment racial animus and anti-intellectualism and northern hatred in those who already have the predilection.
I know racist shit in disguise when I see it. That’s what Z for Zachariah is. From the black guy wanting to tear down the church and have babies with the little white girl to him killing the good-looking white stranger. What the hell, man? But do you know what? If they would have simply shown him kill the guy. Make Loomis the bad guy that he is in the book. It wouldn’t be as racist as it is. It’s in its decision to leave the conclusion up to the fears of the viewer that makes it as evil as it turns out to be. It is the hatred that is already there that it aims to trigger. And that’s precisely why some won’t see this huge racist and anti-intellectual element of this film. But I did… wait. What does that say about me?
In short, Z for Zachariah is some racist crap.