Director: Marc Forster Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan, J. Michael Stracyznski, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, Max Brooks Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos Running Time: 116 Minutes Year: 2013
World War Z has so much to overcome before its audience even enter the theatre. It’s a situation which repeats more often that not, especially in the information age of the ole interweb. Films open with a barrage of expectation attached. In the case of World War Z, the background surrounding its plagued production has become the centre of its own mammoth spectacle. As well as taking its central idea from a much loved novel, these ingredients make features such as this easy pickings for critical vultures.
Does it rise to the challenge of its goals? Yes and no. Tackling an epidemic on such a global scale is perfect fodder for a summer blockbuster. It strives to outsmart your typical no-brainer popcorn flicks but simply takes on too much. When your story takes its hero across the world to multiple locations, there’s no time to waste and every scene needs purpose. That purpose should always maintain a strong loyalty to theme. World War Z wavers on exactly what it’s trying to be. Is it Independence Day with zombies? Or is it a claustrophobic thriller with a penchant for blood?
“World War Z wavers on exactly what it’s trying to be. Is it Independence Day with zombies? Or is it a claustrophobic thriller with a penchant for blood?”
One kind nod to the undead canon is in the monsters responsible for the mass panic. The finger is firmly given to The Walking Dead‘s biters, who amble at zimmer speed. World War Z‘s turbo zombies zip along corridors, belt across streets and they even scale frickin’ walls they’re so fast. They’re so impatient, the infection can’t even wait a minute before it takes hold of its host. Letting the speed of the flesh eaters determine the timing of shots was a bold move. Most of the action you crave flies by so quickly you’ve no idea what’s happening as it’s happening on screen.
Through Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), the story unravels, as he must desert his brood in order to track down how exactly a zombie pandemic has seized control of the planet. The opening and closing twenty minutes each boast the best sequences by far. What would be an interesting exercise is to line them up one after the other, as the tone sways wildly throughout. There’s no contentment for a particular style, World War Z wants them all – big explosions in a cluttered metropolis and tight-knit terror in limited locations. It’s as if midway through production, director Marc Forster changed his mind and chose to take the film down a different path. It’s not unwelcome, as this is where the most gripping sequences will have you holding your breath and urging on Gerry and his expendable sidekicks.
This sudden change in direction is no doubt due to the re-shot ending. After the original screenings at the studio were met with furrowed brows and looks of “What the hell?” a team of new writers were brought on board to script a brand new ending….which does not go unnoticed.
Luckily, Pitt anchors the film with a subtle performance that could easily have been flashy and pumped-up full of bravado. He makes the best of his character, who doesn’t have a prominent voice in the source novel, except as a vicarious vessel for the story. He doesn’t stray far from that role here, rarely allowed a moment to exhale a blip of personality before he’s back on a plane bound for somewhere ghastly.
A number of titanic-sized plot holes undermine any authority the film had in gaining the audience’s trust. Countries not sharing their knowledge of effective survival tactics infuriates as it’s obvious as soon as Lane arrives at his destinations what is about to unfold. And what of Lane? An ex-UN worker who takes about a minute of convincing to abandon his family, goes galavanting around the world on a mission that seems to have been organised by someone’s Grandma. It’s shoddy plotting, forced against the grain of how humans actually behave. The final Eureka moment is a clever one, but emerges from entirely the wrong character.
There is enjoyment to be had, if you forgive the silliness of story, the disposable supporting characters (The Killing‘s Mireille Enos is utterly wasted) and an ending which points to one predictable outcome.
World War Z is a Frankenstein of a flick. There’s parts attached here and there, welded on at jarring angles to craft a disgusting monster, which we sadly never see in its totality.
[vsw id=”Md6Dvxdr0AQ” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]