Reviewing movies because I like to.
‘World War Z’ is an ambitious and thrilling zombie epic that provides plenty of adventure and surprise despite suffering from a simplistic episodic structure and zero character development.
Zombies have become the ‘it’ monster of our generation. Forget the vampire and werewolf antics of the ‘Twilight’ films and its imitators; they don’t have squat on a cultural phenomenon that echoes societies contemporary concerns regarding social unrest, anarchy and the complete loss of social order. Sound like I am thinking too much into it? Think again. Since George Romero single handedly invented the whole genre with the release of ‘The Night of the Living Dead’ in 1968, this is a genre, like a sharp sci-fi film, that can provide a fabulous basis for social commentary. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was concerning race relations in the 60’s, ‘Dawn of the Dead’; a scathing remark on consumerism and ‘Land of the Dead’; an examination of Bush era politics and class divide. You would be surprised how the mindless consumption of human remains by the undead is such an effective method of philosophical observation.
George Romero knew this with those aforementioned films and so does Max Brooks. This is a name that has become synonymous with zombie enthusiasts, having written the well-received zombie novels ‘Zombie Survival Guide’ and ‘World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War’. This is where the movie review starts to come in. The makers of this film adaptation did not seem to agree with what Romero and Brooks knew. They have removed the political and social elements present in the book and made it more of a straightforward action thriller.
‘Quantum of Solace’ director Marc Forster gets the job of managing the chaos. Not just on screen, but behind the cameras as well. Or so the rumour goes. Even so, rumours or not, ‘World War Z’ never feels like a film which had a turbulent production; despite an episodic structure that lacked a certain sophistication in the writing department. If you had your cynical hat on, you could very easily see it as Brad Pitt rather unimaginatively going from A to B to C while evading the hungry dead. Forster directs ‘World War Z’ in a much more comprehensible style than the dire ‘Quantum of Solace’ and he never allows the film to slow down for a second. Within 10 minutes, zombies are swarming cities and Brad Pitt has no choice but to travel the globe in search for the origin of the virus; with the hopes of finding a cure. We go on an exotic world tour to many exciting locations such as Philadelphia, New York, Jerusalem and…Cardiff? Yep, unusually but quite entertainingly un-climatic, the finale of the film does in fact take place in no other than Wales; where Peter Capaldi, in a piece of poetic coincidence, plays a character credited as W.H.O Doctor.
Horror enthusiasts and B-movie genre geeks were the only people who ever saw zombie movies and anyone who appreciates the films of Romero will understand how far the genre has come. It’s taken as long as one of the undead for the genre to be picked up by the mainstream; but here we are. It has become so popular and mainstream that Brad Pitt stars in one! – one of the biggest stars in the world.
This induction into the mainstream ethos has not rendered the genre unchanged. The most significant modification has been the introduction of what can be only known as “running zombies”. There are Romero zombies and the sprinting ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake zombies. ‘World War Z’ takes the running zombie craze onto a whole new level. It would be a mistake to think these things were dead. They move faster than anything that has a heartbeat and have a prolific predisposition to rugby tackle anything in sight. Including walls. They’re unlike any zombies seen on your screen before and may actually have you soiling yourself in their sheer ruthlessness.
With the film trying to appeal to a wide audience, there is a deplorably limited use of blood. This does not work in the context of a zombie film. Gore goes with the territory. ‘World War Z’ is essentially zombies for dummies and anyone who knows the genre will feel that. Nevertheless, this is not for us sad fans, it is for the younger generation and the people who are going the cinema to watch ‘Avengers Assemble’.
Therefore, inevitably, with modern technological developments and current cinemagoer tastes, we get CGI zombie hordes. The CGI is perceptible more than it should be but the effect of seeing an ant like colony of zombies invade a walled city makes you appreciate the tools in which it was made possible. There is some genuine shock factor and unique surprises in store. The invasion of Jerusalem being at the forefront of my mind. Us zombie fanboys have always dreamed of seeing a sequence like this.
There is an international vibe to ‘World War Z’ and not just because of the zombie world tour we travel on. It feels like a project of many contributors. There were four or five production logos at the start of the film and, apparently, the project has had a number of different writers, editors and even cinematographers. It had gone over-budget and undergone many re-shoots, including a complete re-working of the ending. It sounds conflicted and bad for the overall project but you would not notice when watching the final product. Especially if you did not know of the woes behind the camera. ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ both had disastrous productions and those are two of the greatest movies of all time (in my humble opinion).
The film is a missed opportunity for something with real bite, instead of a project that has a bit of chomp and limited flesh. At it’s core, this is the American hero saving the world story again, but if you can get past that cliché sentiment; ‘World War Z’ can provide you with the perfect mix of thrills and excitement. As long as you have your brain turned off.
Rating = B
Memorable quote: “Mother nature is a serial killer. No one’s better, or more creative”