Theatrical Review: World War Z

A global pandemic has just started to spread worldwide at an incredible rate turning any human who is stuck by it into a mindless flesh-eating zombie. Former UN investigator, Gerry Lane is with his family on the streets of Philadelphia when he first comes into contact and soon, Gerry is drafted back into action by those who now run the government. Gerry’s task; find the root of the problem and bring something back that can be used as a possible vaccine or cure.

That’s the premise of World War Z the latest movie from uber-star and producer Brad Pitt adapted from the best-selling novel from writer Max Brooks. Well, let’s say the term “adapted” isn’t exactly right here. Now I haven’t read Brooks’ book, by I certainly know it by reputation and know a few things about how he tells his story. If you’re coming into this and hoping that you’re going to see some sort of adaptation, you’d be better off to look at another movie that more faithfully adapted it’s source. From everything that I’ve gathered, this movie basically uses the title and some general ideas and then flies off in it’s own direction, all to really become an action movie franchise for Pitt.

The production of World War Z has been wrought with problems and I think it shows on the screen. Most of the problems have been around the script and it’s lack of a resolution that would be satisfying, but it’s also run into production overruns as well as reported disagreements between Pitt and director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace). The movie was originally supposed to come out at Christmas of 2012, but got pushed back to hopefully solve it’s problems and unfortunately, from my point of view, it didn’t. Writer Damon Lindelof was brought in to craft a whole new back third of the film and give it some resolution of sorts of getting Gerry Lane back with his family, which in turn caused the production to scrap an entire battle sequence with Gerry leading forces into Russia to stop the zombie horde. This resolution is certainly there, but it feels abrupt and entirely out of place with the rest of the film as it’s been set up. What you get through the first two thirds are these extravagantly large action scenes that almost cry for more of the same in it’s resolution but you get something that’s much more smaller and actually more fitting to a movie like say, 28 Days Later. It doesn’t just stop there though, because, at least to me, it felt like there were other parts missing from this, including some scenes that I’ve seen in the trailer that didn’t make it into the final cut.

And speaking of the trailers, if you’ve seen them, you’ve already seen some of the film’s biggest moments and in most cases in a condensed form that already lays out the first two thirds of the film, there’s really nothing there for you to see further, though I do admit that a sequence that takes place entirely aboard an airplane does get better filled out, but that’s about it. They look great, I’ll certainly give the movie that, but there’s very little in the way of suspense. And if you’re a fan of classic zombie movies and are hoping to at least get some sort of horror element here, well it’s been very much soft-pedaled all to make this more appealing to a wider audience with a PG-13 rating.

If you’re going to see this, it’s more than likely for at least one of two things; Brad Pitt and the Zombies. Well, it already is softened with it’s zombies and so that leaves us with Pitt. Pitt does a good job with what he has here and certainly can play the role of action hero convincingly, I just wish he’d had something better to work with. I’ve heard some remark about actress Mireille Enos (who plays Lane’s wife, Karin) as being somewhat plain in comparison to her leading man. I tend to think this is entirely by design and made to make PItt seem more attainable to the female audience. The overall support in the movie is certainly serviceable, but there’s nothing that will really stand out.

To say World War Z was a disappointment is an understatement. Pitt’s certainly fine in the part, and action scenes aren’t bad, but you’ve seen them all in the trailers and there’s not much more to add to them. It’s troubled production leaves the film with a back third that feels like it’s for an entirely different movie and there’s little to no suspense at all in the movie until that back third and by then, I at least just didn’t care. If you’re wanting to see a good zombie thriller, bypass World War Z and watch George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead again- or even watch Zack Snyder’s re-make of Dawn or Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later or AMC’s The Walking Dead, any of them will give you a far more satisfying experience.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

23. June 2013 by Darren Goodhart
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