Friday, June 21, 2013

World War Z (2013)

Let the debate between the fast-moving zombie versus the traditional, slow-moving zombie commence...

To be honest with you, the whole fast-moving zombie thing has never really bugged me.  Since zombies aren't real, you can pretty much do anything you want with them.  It don't care either way, and there are great examples of either type being effective and terrifying.  That wasn't what worried me about World War Z.  I was more concerned with how bad the CG looked, and that it was PG-13, leading me to think the movie would be very tame and pedestrian.  I also heard fans of the book were upset with the changes made to the point where some have said the only thing the book and film have in common are the title.  I haven't read the book, so I won't be commenting on that part though.  Fortunately, World War Z wasn't as bad as I feared, but it misses the mark about as much as it hits.

We meet Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) as he prepares for a regular day with the family.  Gerry's retired recently so he could spend more time with his wife (Mireille Enos) and kids.  Even though we don't see much of them, I liked this part as it did a good job of setting up the Lane's as a loving family, and gives you something to care about.  I am a little disappointed Mireille Enos wasn't given more to do though.  I'm a big fan of The Killing and thought World War Z might let a larger audience see what she can do, but most people are probably going to remember her as "Brad Pitt's wife from that zombie movie."

Shortly after, we see them sitting in traffic.  An explosion happens in the distance, and everyone's in a panic to escape what appears to be a rapidly growing wave of zombies attacking everything in their path.  They kind of reminded me of a Zerg swarm.  Gerry and his family narrowly escape the city and end up on a military vessel where we learn more about the zombie outbreak and how widespread it's become.

The military forces Gerry back into action, as he's the best as what he does.  What is he the best at, you ask?  Kicking ass?  Wrong!  Investigating stuff...for the UN!  Gerry goes from location to location in an effort to track down the source of the infection, or "Patient Zero".

What I liked about World War Z is that despite that most of the film to this point is pretty much exactly what you see in the trailer, it still managed to be very intense and thrilling.  WWZ wastes no time getting to the point.  We're barely five minutes into the film before the outbreak begins.  I also felt like the film was a realistic depiction of the early stages of a zombie invasion.  We see there's still a command structure and military force.  There's a pointed effort to find the cause and hopefully find a cure.  People make decisions that are much more pragmatic (there's a great example of this at the midway point), and you thankfully don't see a majority of the characters do stupid things once the shit hits the fan.  The cast does a good job of taking the material seriously, and the movie avoids any camp or silliness.

On the other hand I think striving for a PG-13 rating detracted from that realism.  When the outbreak happens, I'd expect to see people screaming and swearing their heads off, but I don't think I heard anyone swear.  Also, the movie is almost completely bloodless, which I find odd for a zombie film.  All points of impact are cut away from, and there are other times where you can see someone struggling against something that's off screen.  You can see gorier stuff each week on The Walking Dead.  Some might appreciate the lack of gore, but not seeing any blood when people are being bitten and hacked doesn't work for me.  I think the decisions director Marc Forster made at times seemed to be geared towards getting more people in the theater rather than making a zombie film strictly for fans of the genre. That isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it usually means you have to make some sacrifices, and I think those sacrifices hurt the film.

Finally, we get to the end, and it's very abrupt and unsatisfying.  I sat there thinking, "Really?  That's it?"  It felt like they didn't know how they wanted to end it.  I heard they did a large amount of reshoots to get us to the current ending, as well.  If this was the improved ending after all the reshoots, I can't imagine how bad the original ending was.  I'll be curious if there's an alternate cut when the Blu-Ray comes out.  For example, Matthew Fox has a bizarre cameo where you barely see his face on screen.  It makes he think he might have had a bigger role and was a casualty of all the reshoots.  I'm guessing having four writers didn't help with the ending (Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski).  I've heard there may have even been more writers involved that weren't credited.  That helps explain why it's so uneven.

The special effects didn't help either.  While not as bad as what the trailer made it look like, there were still lots of times I felt the zombies looked artificial and rubbery.  Even when standing around they moved as if they suffered from Tourette's, twitching and chomping their teeth.  This caused a lot uncomfortable laughter at times.  I suppose it helped break the tension a bit though.

World War Z is a mainstream zombie film, but I think that's part of what holds it back.  While it manages to entertain and keep a high level of tension, the rating keeps this a tame affair.  It's a shame as there are some smart and realistic ideas in there, but the ending leaves you disappointed and wish there had been more.  I'm right on the border of rental and matinee on this one.  It's not a bad film, but it's really going to depend on how much you want to see it.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars


  1. Good Review! Considering its potential it could have been much better. Way too mainstream to be anything great unfortunately.

    1. I would have been a little more forgiving of the film if had a better ending. Thanks, Erik!

  2. Good review Erik. It's a fun movie, but loses any chance of being a single bit of humane with a bad script like this.

    1. Thanks, Dan! I appreciated that they were able to keep a good amount of tension, but I came away from this just not caring much at all.