World War Z
Reviewed by Kemper
3 out of 5 undead stars
I’m scratching my head as to why
Hollywood even bothered buying the rights to
the World War Z novel by Max Brooks because the film version bears so little
resemblance to the original that there really wasn’t any reason to call it an
adaptation. Since it’s written as the collected accounts from many people all
over the world after the zombie war, it seemed like making some kind of Ken
Burns style faux-documentary would be the way to go, but instead they went with
the more traditional structure of a single movie star as the hero.
If they didn’t want to use the style that made the book unique, then why even associate the two? It’s not like a movie featuring Brad Pitt fighting zombies would be a tough sell so it seems odd that they’d risk alienating fans by making a movie that doesn’t use the elements that made the book stand out. Reports of extensive reshooting with a revised script after the film was supposed to be done weren’t inspiring a lot of confidence either. However despite these issues, the movie is actually pretty good. Go figure.
The zombie outbreak is worldwide and the living people are losing the fight. Communication is breaking down and entire nations are being quickly overwhelmed. The best guess is that a virus is to blame and finding its origin is the key to stopping the zombies. The only clue is an email that came from a
military base in South Korea
before everything went to hell, and Gerry is recruited to go with a young
doctor (Elyes Gabel) and a team of soldiers to track the source of the
virus. Gerry’s mission takes him around
the world, and the zombies are a constant danger everywhere he goes.
Zombie movies usually focus on a small group of people dealing with the threat and while the breakdown of society is a constant factor, this is the first time we’ve had a big budget movie trying to show the scope of what that would be like. World War Z succeeds in this for the most part with big action sequences during Gerry’s travels that highlight the panic and chaos.
One thing that really sells the threat is how the zombies are done. The movie uses the fast type instead of the more traditional slow ones, and they attack in swarms. These zombies come at their victims with snapping teeth and will throw themselves off a building to get at someone. They’re genuinely scary and when hordes of them start to overrun a location, it’s easy to believe that even the various military forces can’t hold them off for long.
Pitt’s performance also helps anchor the movie in a recognizable reality. Gerry’s background in various hotspots makes it credible that he knows how to work his way through a collapsing world without making him seem like an unbelievable bad-ass, and since he only went on the mission because his family would be kicked off the ship if he didn’t, it makes him a reluctant hero we can relate to.
Unfortunately, the movie lets down a bit in the last act when we go from the large scale segments in places like Jerusalem to Gerry playing a cat-and-mouse game in a laboratory complex that’s infested with zombies. It’s a tense segment, but it’s anti-climatic after we’ve seen wholesale carnage around the globe. Reducing the ending to just Gerry and a few others in a confined space feels much less ambitious than the rest of the film, and I wonder if the extra filming had to limit the scope for time and money reasons. It’s also odd that the zombies can suddenly tell that any random noise is made by living people and not the undead when they’re bumping into walls and squawking all over the building.