‘World War Z’ Movie Review – Zombies Galore
Zombies, although created and popularized years ago, are just another one of Hollywood’s fads or “flavors of the week.” I have a soft spot (pun intended?) for zombies, so I don’t really like bashing them. Thanks to a resurgence over the past five (or so) years, zombies have proven to be a lucrative subgenre. With quantity comes lack of quality. You can see this in every single genre, though. Think about your favorite movie. Now think about its genre. There are plenty of misses within that genre that bring the whole thing down. However, I can’t really think of a zombie movie that has ruined it. Thankfully, with all the faults taken into account, Marc Forster’s (Quantum of Solace) World War Z continues the trend of quality.
Based on Max Brooks’ novel of the same name, Z takes place all across the globe as the world becomes infected with a deadly virus. The fast-acting virus turns society mad with zombies, spreading from town to town and country to country. With nobody safe, it becomes a mad-dash to survive.
Among the desperate survivors is Gerry (Brad Pitt), a retired United Nations investigator, and his family (led by Mireille Enos of AMC’s The Killing). The U.N. comes calling for him as one of the last hopes to save humanity before the zombies destroy mankind.
Yes, the movie actually uses the word “zombie” unlike AMC’s The Walking Dead – one of the catalysts for today’s zombie obsession – but it changes the zombie characteristics. More akin to 28 Days Later, the World War Z zombies are extremely athletic and, quite frankly, terrifying. If humanity was actually tested by these undead creatures, we’d be S.O.L.
As an aside, I find it interesting they took Brooks’ vision of zombies this way. I’ve never read World War Z, but I have read The Zombie Survival Guide (also by Brooks) and his description of zombies mirrors the classic definition: slow and brainless. Although the zombies were much different, I did see specific survival aspects straight out of the Survival Guide that I truly appreciated.
Forster takes a very summer blockbuster-y approach to the movie, making it all about extreme situations. It’s not as gritty as it is extraordinary. There are zombies piling on top of each other to build an undead ladder to penetrate gigantic walls. There are zombies taking down helicopters. At times, the film has what I call the 2012-effect, where unfathomably events are occurring all around the main characters and they are escaping by the hair on their chiny-chin-chin (or in Pitt’s case: his shaggy long hair).
Enough of these moments stacked up on top on each other and the thing becomes tiring. Like any movie, there are only so many moments the audience can take before it gets too ridiculous. With a premise involving zombies, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. However, the narrative becomes a little too grand by the end.
And this is where I’ll interject with my thoughts about zombie and apocalypse movies. As fun as these action sequences and set pieces are, the better stories to tell involve the actual survival. This is why The Walking Dead is so good. The story isn’t about finding the cause or the cure, it’s about surviving it. There are more opportunities to bring in human nature this way, too.
Still, Pitt is commendable in his performance; he’s an actor I often take for granted. Likewise, he is to thank for saving this project, which withstood some major production issues. You can tell the film had issues in the third act (which weren’t completely ironed out), but it was a “good enough” ending.
“Good enough” is unfortunately where I stand with Marc Forster’s World War Z. It’s a blockbuster, there’s no getting around it, and the story cares much more about the action sequences than anything else. That’s why there are huge narrative shortcuts (like being able to travel all around the world during a global apocalypse). With that being said, it’s too fun and entertaining to dismiss completely. Live on zombies!
World War Z released this weekend in 2D (where I saw it) and 3D. Check it out and give us your thoughts!
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