By Megan Bianco
Right at the end of summer, when the blockbuster season is over and Oscar season is a month away, comes Craig Zobel and Nissar Modi’s adaptation of Robert C. O’Brien’s classic novel “Z for Zachariah.” Unlike the dystopian atmosphere seen in “The Hunger Games” or “The Maze Runner,” “Z” is a quiet sci-fi drama centered on what we assume are the last three living humans on Earth. The film has raised some eyebrows from the book’s fans as it is apparently hardly anything like the original plot.
In a post-apocalyptic world—(seemingly somewhere around Virginia)—Ann Burden (Margot Robbie) and her dog discover another living being in the form of scientist John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Together they discover resources to not only survive, but to help repopulate the planet. Just as the two are discovering they are attracted to one another, a third person shows up, Caleb (Chris Pine). Ann sees him as a new friend and helper, while John is less trusting.
As someone who hasn’t read O’Brien’s book, I can’t comment on how the changes hurt or help the film version. What I do understand is that the second male character was completely written for the screen, whereas Ann and Loomis are the only characters on the page. Screenwriter Modi choosing to make not only a love triangle, but also a faith vs. science theme, with John being the practical one opposite Ann’s and Caleb’s spirituality.
Robbie, currently one of the most exciting faces in Hollywood, is an interesting choice for the lead role. In the novel Ann is apparently a 16-year-old girl, while Robbie doesn’t look a day under her 25 years of age. In some scenes this is obvious from Ann’s overt naivety, but for the most part, Robbie does well as the girl between two men and rebuilding the planet.
Ejiofor and Pine are also fine in their roles, and Tim Orr supplies some beautiful cinematography of West Virginia and New Zealand, the movie’s two filming locations. “Z for Zachariah“ is director Zobel’s first feature since his critically acclaimed sleeper hit “Compliance” three years earlier. Despite the movie stars this time around, he creates a very slow and calm environment. Book fans may or may not like the new take on the tale, but for those who are interested in a good character study with a tiny, talented cast, “Z for Zachariah“ might be the film to start your September.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.