Movie Review – World War Z

Ok let’s just get this out of the way first before we discuss the movie.  World War Z is in no way shape or form anything like the Max Brooks book of the same name.  Those hoping to see a National Geographic-esque documentary about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse and mankind reeling from the Z attack, will be utterly crushed under a horde of zombies.  If you can come to terms with the fact that the latest zombie blockbuster is just that, a zombie blockbuster that shares the same name with the book, you will find an enjoyable, action packed summer movie that you can just check your brain at the door.  With that said, let’s shamble (or in the movies case, sprint) on through the squishy insides of director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Machine Gun Preacher, Stranger Than Fiction) and star Brad Pitt’s attempt to give the zombie genre a big screen, summer blockbuster.

Z 1a

So the movie isn’t true to the book, which makes me sad since the book is a perfect chronicling of the aftermath of a global attack by the zombies.  You have a journalist traveling the world, interviewing different regions and cultures about what they experienced during the outbreak and even digging into the mythos of the zombies to find out where they originated from.  World War Z the movie I guess still keeps the globetrotting aspect, but that is where it diverges.  Instead of a Ken Burn’s like documentary, we get hyper fast, super aggressive zombie movie that is relentless in the action department, but a stale human interest story in the end.

Brad Pitt plays a United Nations investigator named Gerry Lane, who escaped the initial, early outbreak with his family in tow and living aboard a military warship for refuge.  He is asked to go investigate the origins of the zombie outbreak, traveling to South Korea, Israel, and a W.H.O research center.  Along his travels, he witnesses the extent of the zombie hordes overrunning airports and impressively laying siege to a walled off city in Israel.  It’s a struggle to overcome and survive the vast hordes of zombies, only to search for a cure before humanity becomes a meal to them.

I have two sides of the coin to this movie, one in which praises the refreshing jolt of action and sense of global destruction that the movie presents, but also the changing of the zombie lore we have come to know.  There lies the other side of the coin, one in which this movie could have dropped the zombie charade and just have been a global pandemic style movie like Contagion, but with fast moving infected.

Z 1c

At the heart of the movie is the toll that the, now quotation word “zombies”, have inflicted on the planet.  The movie opens up with a kick in the ass with a mass hysteria turn slaughter in the streets as Gerry and his family have to keep moving to avoid the “zombies” have turning them.  It’s a fantastic way to open up the movie, leaving the audience in an early state of shock.  It moves so quickly that you become disoriented and have to recoup once the character find a little solace.  I like Marc has done in terms of keeping the pace quick and action energetic.  These “zombies” are ridiculously fast, to the point where they are Usian Bolt levels of fast, but they all move together, like a river of infected bodies.  They crash along sides of buildings, never stopping for a moment and seem like a tsunami of fear.  This is what gets you pumped for the action; this is the unstoppable, terrifying force looks like.  It isn’t so much a “zombie” movie that focuses on a small group of survivors, but rather you are watching thousands of survivors trying to find a safe haven amongst an unending mass of infected.

That’s what makes this movie interesting, because we are seeing global chaos instead of the tried and true method of survivors shacking up in a mall.  We get a much bleaker and larger picture of the destruction path, but that is also where the movie fails to really make a connection.  World War Z is more so focused the struggles of one guy trying to find a way to the stop the “zombie” apocalypse.  Sure we need that focal point of a singular characters journey to save the world, but they try and make some form of human connection here and there and it doesn’t feel genuine, just tacked on.  The moments when he is contacting his family onboard the ship just feel like something they have to do to remind the audience that, “hey, he has a family remember?”  This shifting of the gear from Thriller to Drama doesn’t do the movie justice, especially with the fast pace the movie has.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to see Brad Pitt given an opportunity to act and be emotional during a couple of scenes instead of just getting exercise by running away from a wave of “zombies”, but it certainly reverses the chaotic nature of the film to a tacked on drama with a family that is only shown in brief moments.

Now to address the “zombie” issue I had earlier.  Given the word has a certain connotation with many fans of the zombie genre and our current barrage of zombie shows/movies/comics, why even bother calling the infected in the movie zombies at all?  When I think zombies, I think of a slow moving horde of decaying flesh, gnarled teeth, spindly fingers and visceral images of disembodiment.  I think of a group of slow moving doom bringers that attack en masse, slow mind you, and just overwhelming the remnants of  humanity with numbers.  This movie uses the word “zombie” to describe the infected humans that somehow move like Olympic sprinters and have the agility of Spiderman.  They don’t act like zombies, but more like the infected from 28 Days Later.  Forster could have easily just made this a Contagion/28 Days Later style movie without having to deal with the fallout from zombie genre fans.  It honestly, wouldn’t have hurt the movie since you still get the rabid action and violence without having that lingering, pessimistic voice telling you that “these aren’t true zombies”.

Z 1b

Whether you will let that little nagging debate about zombies versus virally infected beings affect your enjoyment of the movie is up to you.  I just wanted to open up the dialogue a bit on that subject.  For me, I could have done without the word “zombies” being thrown around in the movie considering the movie leading us to the ending and possible cure for the plague.  It is a good twist in the sense of how they come to a cure, somewhat saving the “zombie term” debate for the back burner.  On its merits alone, despite all the negative news of the production, scheduled reshoots, and rewrites that plagued the movie; the end product is something to be admired.

Forster does an admirable job bring a global apocalypse to the big screen.  The action sequences are relentless and absolutely thrilling, the “zombies” were terrifying to witness when running through the streets, and Pitt brought along some moments of levity to the proceedings.  Whether he was running form the hordes of dead to slowly stalking through the hallways of a bio-lab, there is never a moment in the movie where tension doesn’t follow immediately.  Sure the humanistic connections are lacking and feel tacked on with the family dynamic, but the movie is just too large scale to bring it all to a focus.  For me the ending felt soft and didn’t vibe well with the entire tone of the movie, but I don’t think there was going to be a solid way to properly end it.

For the true zombies fans out there hoping for a blockbuster horror movie, they will be displeased with the PG-13 rating.  That’s right folks, PG-13 means little to no blood, no mass piling of mutilated bodies and no bloody gore that comes the usual zombie snacking and attacking.  Hell if the makers of the movie went all the way with an R rating, I might have gotten even more of a kick out of this movie.  Instead, you get a neutered version of what a zombie movie should be and probably will find more gore in an episode of The Walking Dead than this.  Still, it’s a different beast altogether and definitely shakes us from getting fatigued with the constant barrage zombie shows/movies.  At face value, this is a great, global sized action flick with stunning action sequences and some thrilling, tense moments.  It’s a good popcorn flick that you can certainly check your brain at the door since no zombies will be snacking on it.  There are some short-comings, but those are just there to be nitpicky on and I can divorce myself from the fact that this isn’t the “World War Z” I remember reading about.

Man, I just really wanted to see entire zombies feeding grounds of city sized portions, but oh well.

Rating: 4 fast moving infected out of 5.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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