World War Z: good ol’ fun with the undead


Let’s call this review fashionably late. World War Z came out in June, and now it’s in that awkward phase of no longer being in discount theaters, but not quite to the point of DVD release (although I think it’s going to be released in a couple weeks). After it disappeared from theater lineups, I’d given up the idea of seeing it on the big screen until my local theater came up with a nifty little idea: why not show World War Z AND Star Trek Into Darkness as a double feature and only charge for one? How could I resist?

I was curious to see how the creators would go about making World War Z. It’s very loosely based on a novel of the same title by Max Brooks (who, fun fact, is the son of Mel Brooks), but the book is composed entirely of interviews. Books like these can have a tough time transitioning to film, and this film proves that—though not because it’s bad. It’s actually pretty fun. But from what I understand, it’s nothing like the novel, which discusses the ten-year history of a zombie war, diving into everything from technology and military tactics to politics and economics. The film, however, is your typical zombie adventure, starting at the beginning of a mysterious outbreak and following one man who is apparently our sole hope for survival. A decent piece of entertainment, sure, but lacking the depth and intelligence I’d hoped to see.

Synopsis: “United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.” Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.

The Good: Lots of action and adventure. The film doesn’t waste any time getting right to the nitty gritty. Within the first ten minutes, boom! We have zombies. And boy, does that virus take off fast. Within minutes the streets of Philadelphia are teeming with the rabid undead. The plot moves pretty smoothly from one point to another, and Gerry (Brad Pitt) is a kind and clever protagonist to follow. We watch him hop from one zombie-filled adventure to another, all the while hoping he’ll be reunited with his wife (Mireille Enos) and two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove). Pitt makes Gerry relatable and instills him with a strength that is just so…Brad Pitt. Honestly, I don’t think the film would be half as good without him. He is the calm in the zombie storm, and we like him for it. The central goal in the film is for Gerry to trace the source of the initial infection and to try to find a cure. Most zombie films hone in on how one particular area is dealing with the catastrophe, but here we get to see things through a wider lens. We watch Gerry chase breadcrumbs in various countries, and it’s nice to get a taste of how the rest of the world is handling the zombocalypse. Favorite scene: Gerry eventually finds his way to a facility where he may have come up with a zombie repellant. To test it, he injects himself with the repellant, opens the door, stares down a zombie awaiting him outside, and…well, I won’t say. But it’s a good, tense scene, and what immediately follows is even cooler.

The Bad: Though the film gives us glimpses at how the zombocalypse affects the world, I had hoped for a more in-depth look. As I said, the novel is as much an intelligent exploration of the people of the world as it is an examination of the apocalypse, so it would’ve been fascinating if the film had gone further with that. I can see why the creators didn’t go that route—it would’ve been an entirely different film that probably wouldn’t have drawn crowds, but it could’ve been so interesting. Also, even though Gerry is a great character, we really don’t get to know anybody else very well. We’re with Gerry’s family for a while, but the only other character we’re with for a significant amount of time is Gerry’s accidentally acquired travel buddy, Segen (Daniella Kertesz), and all we know about her is that she’s an Israeli soldier and one tough chick. However, at the end of the movie she just kind of disappears. In fact, I could say the same for a few characters (for anyone who’s seen it, what the heck happened to Tommy?). A little character development for the rest of the cast wouldn’t hurt. And as for the ending…well, was anybody else a little confused? I refuse to give anything away, but the film ends kind of abruptly and leaves you with some questions. It’s a little dissatisfying. Least favorite scene: Sometimes, movies make it way too obvious when something bad is about to happen. Here’s the scene in World War Z: People are singing. Loudly. Zombies stir. Gerry looks tense. Something bad and kind of ridiculous happens. C’mon people. Are we really going to belt a tune during the zombocalypse?

To Sum It Up: This is a good, fun film that could’ve been great and unique. The zombie apocalypse has been addressed primarily (if not entirely) in horrors, adventures, and comedies—films purely meant to entertain. The novel sets up a ton of potential for an interesting, intelligent examination of this fictional disaster, but Hollywood opted for the popcorn flick route. World War Z does thoroughly entertain, but I can’t help pondering what could have been. Oh well.

My Grade: B

6 thoughts on “World War Z: good ol’ fun with the undead

  1. Reviewed this a while back and we pretty much agree on this one too. 🙂 I LOVED the book and, yes, the film is nothing like it. It’s so different that I don’t understand why they even bothered using the same title. However, I still thought the film was decent enough as long as you make yourself completely forget about the book if you’ve read it & see it as a separate thing.

  2. It’s fun, but it’s also very stupid. And now that I just finished the book, I’m even more pissed about how much good source material they absolutely wasted. Nice review.

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