Directed by: Marc Forster || Produced by: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Ian Bryce
Screenplay by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof || Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox
Music by: Marco Beltrami || Cinematography: Ben Seresin || Editing by: Roger Barton, Matt Chesse || Country: United Kingdom, United States || Language: English
Running Time: 116 minutes
Zombie films are some of my favorite types of cinematic narratives. The subgenre has tested the limits of the post-apocalyptic backdrop, venturing into various genres such as horror (Night of the Living Dead , Dawn of the Dead , 28 Days Later ), comedy (Shaun of the Dead , Zombieland ), and action (Dawn of the Dead , the Resident Evil series [2002-2012]), forming endless cocktails of cinematic undead-fun for the masses.
For me, the pinnacle of the concept has always been Danny Boyle’s fantastic 28 Days Later. That movie, more than any other (yes, even George A. Romero’s campfests), tapped into the cerebral cortex of post-apoclyptica and the fear of the mob, both of which are keystones of zombie mythology. Boyle’s horror masterpiece has long been the benchmark against which I have judged all other narratives of the undead myth, the panic-crazed infection, and the unhallowed beauty of a world “returned to normality.”
With the new World War Z (WWZ) movie, there was a range of pressures that either piled on or alleviated stakes for more quality filmmaking in the zombie cannon, depending on who you asked. On the one hand, it’s been years since a good zombie film has been released (no, the Resident Evil flicks don’t count), but on the other hand, the movie is based on Max Brooks’ popular horror novel of the same name, made famous for its unorthodox structure and sprawling, global focus on the idea of a zombie pandemic.
If you’re in the mood for generic blockbuster action with limited undead-appeal, you’ll probably enjoy parts of Marc Forster’s film-adaptation. The movie features several impressive set-pieces that take advantage of breathless pacing and impressive action-cinematography. If, however, you are looking forward to an ambitious motion picture-realization of the left-field storytelling of the famed source material, you are going to be disappointed. WWZ’s disjointed narrative, tame zombie-violence, and forgettable characters make this movie feel like the unfinished, unfocused, and unworthy adventure that it is.
Though their epic scale is appreciated, all the set-pieces and exotic locales feel jumbled and seemingly thrown together at random. The script attempts to build narrative tension by painting WWZ as a globe-trotting detective story, a pandemic mystery where Pitt’s protagonist must travel the world to find a solution to the global crisis. However, the way story is structured feels sloppy, indecisive, and confusing. The pacing sucks, the details of exactly how the zombie pandemic unfolds are confusing and uninteresting, and the overarching mystery theme falls flat because the characters are so bland. The lack of any buildup towards a climax is also distracting; the narrative ends abruptly without any acceleration in pacing, raising of stakes, or notable character drama whatsoever.
Anyone who followed WWZ’s development knows of the multiple script rewrites and reshoots the movie went through before production finally wrapped. It’s a bad sign when you can see traces of the narrative’s indecisiveness and lack of any clear thesis in the finished product. The screenwriters never quite knew what to do with Max Brook’s unorthodox concept and it shows.
In the end, we are left to wait yet again for another worthy zombie narrative. I had mixed feelings about WWZ’s film incarnation after such a long, tumultuous production period, and by the end of it all, I was still let down. No matter how “highbrow” Brad Pitt’s star-demeanor may be, it can’t save the movie from the fact that its protagonist and supporting characters are colorless, boring, and function as little more than zombie-food. Despite the impressive technical features of some of the film’s exotic set-pieces, none of its technical aspects can make up for how generic, disjointed, and uninteresting the detective story feels as a whole.
If you want to turn off your brain to enjoy tame, watered-down PG-13 zombies run after an oddly groomed heartthrob, then you’ll get enough entertainment out of WWZ for it to be worth your while. All other serious film-goers and zombie aficionados look elsewhere, though.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: World War Z is a tame, unassured zombie flick that lacks the grit and humanity to go along with its impressive action scenes. The violence and zombie antagonists feel silly, the story is flimsy and incoherent, and every character is a cardboard-cutout.
— However… some cool set-pieces shot in various exotic locations take advantage of the computer-generated zombie FX.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? Zombies smash their heads into glass with no blood. Zombies bite people with no blood. Limbs are removed off-screen, so there’s no blood! What’s the point of making a freaking zombie-movie without blood ‘n gore? That’s like making an action movie with no blood squibs or brutal finishing moves or… oh. Ohhh…