Based on the book by Max Brooks, World War Z aims to offer a fresh look at the zombie apocalypse. So what are we dealing with? The slow walking dead or 28 days later fast undead? World War Z’s undead are as fast as zombies get and only one man can stop them…..Brad Pitt (Long haired edition)…. One might even call them ZOOMBIES.
Movie fans are probably aware of the production nightmare that this movie was plagued with. Numerous rewrites and reshoots as well as going over budget seemingly doomed this production. Fear not (or do) because they got it done and have stitched together a competent zombie movie that has breaths of fresh air from the tired undead that we’ve been bombarded with in both TV/Movies/Video Games.
Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a retired United Nations employee, who is called back into action as the zombie apocalypse plagues humanity. It’s nice to see Pitt in a genre role finally. Pitt’s presence (and hair) makes the movie more captivating than it has any right to be. World War Z is a great example of putting someone beautiful and talented in front of a camera and shockingly people will care about whatever is happening. Had it starred someone less talented or charismatic I don’t think people would care as much for this character and his family.
The story delivers right away as we’re thrown into the apocalypse with Gerry Lane as he travels from location to location trying to figure out how to stop this outbreak from spreading even further. Gerry isn’t written as anything special. He’s just a normal guy who uses common sense to figure stuff out which is lazy characterization…. The action propelling the plot is related to the Zombies taking over each location but the similar fashion that they take over leaves the action repetitive and less involving each time. In each location Director Marc Forster is able to muster up enough horror and thrills during the stop’n’go plot to cover up the script’s deficiencies and make it moderately involving.
Rather than a horror zombie movie, this is a zombie action movie. Think military vs. zombies. This is a fresh idea but it gets tiresome to see zombies being shot at over and over and over and over (see what I mean). These fast twitching bad CGI flesh eaters run in giant packs as they attack humans. After you’re bitten you have 10 seconds until you turn into the undead, a rule that adds something interesting to the zombie mythos. It plays well with the film’s video game feel with Brad Pitt as our avatar and each location as a new level.
The first two thirds are bogged down with set pieces that are far too big and turn what could’ve been tense scenarios with moral questions into generic action set pieces. Forster does manage to create some scary and thrilling moments that are built through simple cause and effect. Editing is what saves the movie from being an absolute mess.
The PG-13 rating leaves the movie lacking in some sequences that could have been more impactful with an R rating. Blood and Gore could have made this a viscerally thrilling movie and furthered the horror element.
While the earlier locations are just set ups for giant action sequences, this finale is a carefully crafted and well executed exercise in tension. Watching Brad Pitt and others sneak through a hospital as zombies lurk near is as tense as any summer movie scene this year. What makes this sequence so great is that not only is it directed with purpose, but it also weaves in plot, morals, and action that is engaging and threatening. It’s edge of your seat entertainment that you won’t find in most blockbusters. This final 30 minutes is exactly what I wanted from this movie! It elevates this from a mediocre blockbuster to an enjoyable one.
I’m gonna take a guess and say that this finale was a rewrite that they had to go back and re-film. It feels like it’s from a totally different zombie movie (a better one). It encapsulates and builds upon everything that works well in the movie’s earlier bloated action. Funnily, the finale clearly has the smallest budget of all the action sequences which just goes to show that throwing money on the screen doesn’t make a good movie.
World War Z is a mess of a movie that has a third act that showing the potential of what it could’ve been. Brad Pitt’s presence gives the lead character and film a certain gravitas that most other actor’s just don’t have. The suspense sequences inside of the big action set pieces at each major location have a video game feeling that draws the viewer in through simple cause and effect mechanics. These are exciting moments hidden inside mindless zombie action. The plotting and action gets repetitive and tiresome, but the finale has gears that aren’t in the earlier sections and make it worth a theater viewing. This is a decent entry into the genre and hopefully the sequel will smooth the flaws and focused on what worked in the third act. World War Z lacks the bite of the best in the Zombie genre but it rallies in the finale to be a fun summer flick that’s sure to raise your blood pressure.