There are a few defining qualities that helped Zombieland stand out when it debuted in theatres back in 2009, including its use of “rules” t0 help humans survive the zombie apocalypse. As designed by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), these 33 Zombieland rules varied from practical (“Cardio” or “Limber Up”) to paranoid (“Beware of Bathrooms”) and were visually depicted in large block letters, splashed or dangled across the screen for maximum impact.
The rules persist in the ten-years-in-the-making sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, which picks up with the four protagonists from the first film as they embark on a new adventure that includes stops at the White House, Graceland and a hippie utopia nicknamed Babylon. While the rules for survival are less prevalent in the second film, there is a hilariously memorable sequence in which they are not only outlined, but contrasted with another character who thinks a lot like Columbus.
In Zombieland: Double Tap, Columbus, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), and Wichita (Emma Stone) take off in pursuit of Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who has hitched a ride with new character Berkeley (Avan Jogia) in an effort to meet other young people. The remaining three track her to Graceland, where they stop in on Nevada (Rosario Dawson), before coming face to face with their doppelgangers, Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch). The confrontation between the like-minded men becomes an opportunity for self-referential humour, particularly when Columbus and Flagstaff compare and contrast their respective rules for survival.
Many of Flagstaff’s rules directly mirror Columbus’, albeit with slightly altered word choices. Most notably, Flagstaff has adopted the term “Commandments” in place of rules, leaning into the notion that a religious devotion to the rules is required in order to survive. Like Columbus, Flagstaff’s Commandments include a focus on exercise, the use of plastic bags for food, a fear of going to the bathroom and an avoidance of perishable foods.
A significant difference is their #1 rule: whereas Columbus focuses on the need for cardio to help outrun the zombies (a point readily demonstrated in the climax of the film), Flagstaff has “teamwork” as his top priority. Considering the emphasis on family and sticking together that underlines the narrative of Double Tap, there’s little doubt that Columbus will incorporate Flagstaff’s first Commandment into his lexicon of rules moving forward.
One new addition to Columbus’ list is “Don’t be afraid to ask for help” (Rule 52), which comes into play in spectacular fashion when Albuquerque and Flagstaff elect to take on a group of zombies independently. Between this rule and an earlier revelation from new character Madison (Zoey Deutch), there is the suggestion that the list of rules has expanded to more than 70 in the interceding decade between the first film and the sequel, though very few of these new additions are elaborated on.
In some ways, Zombieland: Double Tap seems less interested in elaborating on the new rules. Instead, the sequel prioritizes the categorization of the zombies by name, including nicknames for dumb zombies (Homer), smart zombies (Hawkings), and stealth zombies (Ninjas). This, of course, makes sense given the introduction of new and improved, hard-to-kill zombies (the Terminator-themed T-800), who drive a substantial part of the film’s conflict. Still, one does have to wonder: what are all of those other rules that Columbus is forcing his companions to live by?!
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