As you can tell by my review, I wasn’t a big fan of last year’s Crackle-exclusive movie Dead Rising: Watchtower, which as you might guess from its name, is set within Capcom’s Dead Rising series. The film, while containing plenty of nods to the games off which it is based, was plagued by a nonsensical story, unlikeable characters, and an overt focus on impractical crafted weaponry which clashed with the film’s attempts at genuine drama. However, it would seem Watchtower performed well enough to greenlight a sequel, so here we are with Dead Rising: Endgame, a movie which makes some slight improvements over its predecessor, but which is still very much a low-quality zombie flick trying to skate along on the popularity of the Dead Rising name.
Before I go any further into this review, I should note that in the Dead Rising games, zombies act much in the same way as they do in other media: they contain only basic motor skills and cognitive functions, shambling around slowly and often stumbling and falling if they fail to grab their intended target. This is an established fact which has remained consistent over the several different Dead Rising games which have been released. You’d think it would also remain consistent in Endgame, but you’d be wrong.
Much as was the case with Watchtower, the writers for Endgame either have a very poor grasp on how zombies are supposed to behave, or they thought viewers would be too dumb to notice the difference. The way in which zombies are “supposed” to act may seem like a silly hill to die on, but if you’re used to more high-quality efforts such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, seeing how zombies behave in Endgame can be jarring to say the least.
Endgame’s very first opening scene is an excellent case and point. We see a little girl walking much as a normal person would walk out into the middle of the street while holding a teddy bear in her hand. She bends down, picks up a ball, and inspects it before turning her head, thus revealing through her disfigured face that she is in fact a zombie. Nothing about her demeanor or posture screams “zombie” (her mouth is closed, and she even has a scared look on her face), showing just how little work was put into accurately conveying that this is indeed a zombie movie.
Here We Go Again…
Endgame’s story picks up a few years after the conclusion of Watchtower, with East Mission, Oregon (the fictional location from the first film) having now become a zombie quarantine zone which is cordoned off by the military. Of course, the *real* reason the military has put East Mission under lockdown is so that the villainous General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert) can move forward with his mysterious “Project Afterlife” endeavor unhindered. Meanwhile, intrepid reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalf), along with his producer Jill Eikland (Jessica Harmon) and hacker girlfriend Sandra Lowe (Marie Avgeropoulos), works to uncover Lyons’ nefarious plans and put a stop to them.
Meanwhile, Chase is also plagued by the apparent death of his former producer Jordan Blair (Keegan Connor Tracey), though we already know from the movie’s marketing materials that Jordan is in fact still alive, which robs her eventual Endgame return of any dramatic weight.
Much as in Watchtower, none of Endgame’s characters are given much depth, not even Watchtower’s returning faces (Carter, Blair, and Lyons), which makes it hard to understand their motivations or sympathize with their causes. The fact that a large majority of Endgame’s dialogue is just clichéd nonsense or unnecessary explanations meant to drive the paper-thin plot forward doesn’t help much either.
Also, if you were planning on watching Endgame because of the new character Rand who is played by popular character actor Billy Zane, or the cameo of Dead Rising 2 protagonist Chuck Green (played by Victor Webster in Endgame), don’t bother. Rand’s total amount of screentime adds up to about five or so minutes, and Webster’s Chuck Greene (who looks nothing like he does in the games) shows up literally just as the movie is ending.
And speaking of Endgame’s ending, it feels very rushed and unsatisfying, purposefully leaving certain story threads unresolved despite its ominous and final-sounding “Endgame” subtext, making it painfully obvious that a third film is being planned.
What Could Have Been
The real tragedy behind my distaste for Endgame is that it actually contains faint glimmers of what could have been a pretty awesome movie. If the movie’s writers cared more about developing a cohesive plot and less about working in as many dumb one-liners and gratuitous scenes of violence as they could, the general framework of unsung heroes fighting against a corrupt military presence amidst a zombie outbreak is actually pretty compelling.
Plus, some of the film’s action scenes (particular a scene involving Chase, an escalator, and a bunch of zombies) are well-choreographed, even if they mainly serve as an obligatory means for showing off the results of Chase and co.’s weapon-crafting endeavors (endeavors which, just like in Watchtower, are nothing more than a jarringly out-of-place reference to later Dead Rising games).
I would say that Endgame is slightly more digestible than Watchtower, if only because it cuts out a lot of Watchtower’s unnecessary zaniness and confounding character actions, but it’s still one hot mess of a zombie movie which doesn’t do justice to the highly entertaining Dead Rising video game series.
Much like Watchtower, Endgame can be watched for free on the Crackle movie-streaming service as long as you don’t mind dealing with frequent ad breaks, but unless you don’t mind seeing the Dead Rising series marred by clichéd acting, a nonsensical plot, and characters who are hard to root for, you’re better off skipping Dead Rising: Endgame.