Zombieland released in theaters in 2009. This is ten years ago now, as Zombieland: Double Tap gears up to bring audiences back to the laugh-heavy, blood-filled apocalyptic world occupied by the unlikely family of Tallahassee, Wichita, Columbus, and Littlle Rock. Not only does the original cast return but director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are back on board to make surer the decade-later sequel packs the right punch of action and comedy but it came with a challenge. Reese and Wernick have proved to be the kings of pop culture references with their work on Deadpool but in Zombieland's world, pop culture died 10 years ago. So, not only was the creative team burdened with keeping their comedic references dated to ten years ago but they also have to recapture the original's tone while simultaneously offering up a fresh adventure.
"I think keeping everything pre-apocalyptic is key," Fleischer tells ComicBook.com. In the time since the last Zombieland movie, Fleischer went on to helm several films, including Sony and Marvel's Venom. There's no shortage of big time experience with this crew. "I think Zoey Deutch's character, Madison, is the best example of that because she's stuck in this frozen kind of limbo of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Juicy couture, Von Dutch era," he said. "She's probably the most time stamped of all the characters. But I found joy in putting that challenge upon ourselves where we had to keep everything as if time had stopped in 2009."
Of course, the film is not without references to titles or celebrities from the real world. "I found that that to be a really fun challenge, knowing that we couldn't refer to anything post-2009. I'm not a fan of winky jokes, even though we have one with The Walking Dead in there," Fleischer told ComicBook.com. "I felt they needed some acknowledgement." An issue of The Walking Dead comics squeaked into the film -- but it was an issue from 2006, three years prior to Zombieland's end of the world and four years prior to the comic becoming a hit TV show.
For the writers of Deadpool, a fourth-wall shattering self-aware anti-hero who loves to talk about current events, Zombieland: Double Tap forced them to dig into a different corner of their comedic arsenal. "You're trapped in time, right, which is great for writers," Reese said. "As we age, we don't have to worry about keeping up with the lingo of the kids! We did make some jokes that I think go over the heads of some younger people, like Madison says... she walks up to the recreational vehicle, the RV, and says, 'I partied with Three Doors Down in one of these.' I think anyone young doesn't remember the band Three Doors Down. We thought that was funny."
"We do find ourselves leaning into those jokes and then we also tried some speculative jokes where our characters are kind of talking about a future that never happened, but may have actually transpired in a strange way," Reese went on. "Like the Uber conversation that Madison has where she essentially invents Uber and all the others poo poo it. So, even though it actually did come to pass exactly as she's predicting, anyway. It's fun to play with pop culture and then presents a unique challenge."
In ComicBook.com's five-star review of Zombieland: Double Tap, one of the compliments goes out to Double Tap's ability to follow the original's formula while also offering enough unique content for an enjoyable experience that doesn't feel repetitive.
"We wanted to make it familiar enough for the fans who love the first one, make the family, our core foursome who are so brilliant and lovable," Wernick said. "Then, introduce new characters as well along the journey and make them just as fun and interesting and multi-dimensional as our core cast. It is always a challenge with a sequel as you, again, want to make it familiar, but not too familiar. You want to give the audience a story that they can latch onto. Ten years passes from the first to the second really gave us an opportunity to do that story and have this Little Rock leaving the nest and breaking free and wanting to grow up and be amongst people her age."
Zombieland: Double Tap is now playing in theaters.