Movie Review: Z for Zacharia

Post-apocalypse is one of my favorite genres. The appeal is the idea survivors of a catastrophe regress to a backwards state of civilization. Knowledge and basic human rights are eroded, giving way to anarchy and rebirth. In Metro: Last Light, communism makes a comeback in the Moscow Metro as well as fascism. The theme of recrudescence speaks volumes to the cost of genocide and war. The more people die, the farther we go back, wiping away hundreds of years of progress. It was not until I spent a month playing Fallout 4 I discovered a wealth of apocalyptic literature. A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Postman, and Damnation Alley are a few books I acquired and read when I can. Another I found was Z for Zacharia after I heard about the film adaptation. Though I have not read it, was it a good movie that stands on its own?

Following a nondescript nuclear disaster, Ann, played by Margot Robbie, is left alone on her family farm in a valley with a natural resistance to fallout. While scavenging for food, she comes across the first human she has seen in a long time named John, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Later they are joined by Chris Pine’s Caleb, a drifter whose intentions are unclear.

The title is a reference to a book Ann read as a child that uses Biblical names for the A-B-Cs. According to some research I did on the novel, Ann thought if A was for Adam, the first human, then Zechariah must be the last. It is a pretty simple concept that brings to mind religious undertones. There is also the idea of the valley as Eden and Ann and John are an Adam/Eve parallel.

If only that were the case because Zacharia is a boring soap opera about three people getting into drama and it just happens to take place after a nuclear holocaust. Some apocalypse stories make use religious elements in relation to the world restarting, but here the end of the world is an inconvenience. The love triangle of Ann, John, and Caleb is the focus and if you have seen any romance ever, you know what happens. There is nothing else to it, like how In the Heart of the Sea had nothing that made Moby Dick interesting.

Z for Zacharia is at least a passable romantic drama set against a backdrop of the post-apocalypse. In the process of writing this review I struggled to find anything worth talking about because it simply is not there. I cannot even work up the energy to talk about the decent performances. It only made me want to watch other movies that do the genre justice. I might pick up the book if it is better.

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