Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't Zombies Have Anywhere Else To Hang Out?

Most people that know me know there are two things I find entertaining, video games and zombies. Specifically zombies in film, comics or video games. I've tried zombie literature but after about thirty pages of "uhwahhh", "grrrrrr" and "br-a-i-i-i-nssss" I tend to lose interest. Zombie vocabulary is a little too limited to allow them to write books, and they're horrible typists, fingers keep getting stuck between the keys and popping off. The exception being Max Brooks amazing World War Z, and the Zombie Survival Guide of course, but he's not a zombie....yet.
So a mix of zombies and video games usually leaves me giddy, but when I see my favorite things cheapened by senseless lawsuits, well lets just say I get a little dead inside. (pun intended for those keeping score)
New Line Cinema and the MKR Group, current rights holders to George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead are claiming copyright infringement against Japanese game publisher Capcom citing the video game Dead Rising rips them off.
Let me lay the similarities out for the uninitiated. Both properties have zombies. Both properties have humans. Both properties have a shopping mall.
That's about it.
Dawn of the Dead (the original) is a film about four desperate people trying to survive an unimaginable apocalyptic situation of unknown origins by taking refuge in a shopping mall.
Dead Rising is a video game on the XBox 360 system about a photojournalist trapped in a shopping mall for three days who uncovers a plot to zombify the world. There's a much bigger story to Dead Rising that involves the governments attempt to mass produce beef, but you get the idea.
Where Dawn of the Deads violence was unforgiving and brutal, Dead Rising is almost comical. Anything in the mall can be used as a weapon including giant Lego heads, golf balls and the ever trusty chainsaw.
Dawn of the Dead has a feeling of despair and solitude. Dead Rising has a new person to save around every corner, and the most dangerous foes are living humans driven mad by their situation.
While it is clear that Dead Rising is influenced by Dawn of the Dead, they have about as much in common as Godzilla 2000, Cloverfield and Ghostbusters. At least those three were the same medium.
I think I should also mention, Dead Rising has been available since 2006 and included a disclaimer on the cover "This game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead".
I have to wonder why New Line doesn't go after the wholly enjoyable Hong Kong comedy horror film Biozombie which also features humans battling zombies in a shopping mall. Oh yeah, they're not as ilthyfay ichray as Capcom.
Capcom has since fired a preemptive strike and are seeking a declaratory judgment that the idea of humans battling zombies in a shopping mall cannot be protected under copyright standards.
Now, considering George Romero got completely screwed in allowing Night of the Living Dead to fall into public domain. I'm all for giving the man his due. However, George has nothing to do with this lawsuit. I wish the folks at New Line could see how this kind of action cheapens the whole franchise and could adversely affect Diary of the Dead which was released in a limited run today. If anything George should countersue New Line, and while he's at it endorse Dead Rising, and go after Atari for the horrible licensed Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlers Green game.
While I can't imagine New Line winning this waste of legal resources, the action may be enough to delay work on Dead Rising 2, which I imagine will take place nowhere near a shopping mall.
Dead Rising is currently available as an XBox 360 Platinum Hit for a budget price.
The original Dawn of the Dead is available in several formats including a pristine blu-ray edition and as angry as I am with New Line, if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
This weekend I'm driving 90 minutes north to see Diary of the Dead......I hope to review on Monday.
Have a nice weekend all.

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