by Coop Cooper
One of my favorite online comic strips theoatmeal.com released a humorous Venn diagram this week called “What the ‘World War Z’ movie has in common with the book.” The answer: “It’s titled ‘World War Z’.” That’s a pretty fair assessment and although I think the film is rotten on its own merits, I cannot write this review without explaining why the book is important in this case.
Max Brooks (son of the legendary Mel Brooks) wrote an in-depth analysis of what a post-zombie apocalypse world would look like if humans had survived it. It features a journalist who trots around the globe collecting stories – a chapter per-story – from people who survived the outbreak and how they may have contributed to saving the world. It also explains how the world had to change in order to live in a post-zombie world should it ever happen again. It was a brilliant, compelling best-seller and would’ve made a great episodic HBO series.
In the film version, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family get caught completely off-guard in a sudden zombie outbreak in Philadelphia. In this film, the zombies are superhumanly fast, strong, with enhanced senses and a bite that infects within twelve seconds (no one gets ‘eaten’, the zombies bite ONCE and move on). Since Pitt is a high-ranking UN investigator, he and his family are airlifted out of Philly to a U.S. Navy flotilla in the Atlantic. Lane is called into action as one of the few professionals capable of negotiating hostile territory within questionable political parameters. In order to ensure his family’s safety, he is coerced into escorting a team to find the source of the infection so a cure can be found. As he jets from country to country, the situation becomes increasingly grim as he narrowly escapes (over and over again) the spreading zombie hoards. Meanwhile the film comes to a screeching halt several times to show us what his family (safe on the boat!) is going through.
The “World War Z” movie is for people who like action movies but don’t really like horror. It’s nearly bloodless and serves as a remedial zombie movie for the johnny-come-latelys who didn’t get into the zombie craze until they saw “The Walking Dead” TV show or any of the unimaginative zombie films that have been hastily thrown together in the last few years. The reason why these zombies are so popular is because it’s like a game for the viewers… They watch at these films and imagine their survival instincts might fare better than those of the characters in the film. It’s interesting to challenge your imagination to figure out how you might survive a zombie outbreak. This film, in addition to being inept, sucks all of the fun right out of it. Even in the “28 Days Later” film franchise the fast-moving ‘infected’ had weaknesses like an aversion to sunlight and could starve to death, not to mention their bite infected in only about 30 seconds. “World War Z” zombies have no such weaknesses. They also swarm like Army ants and use each other as bridges or ladders to get past impossible obstacles like 300 foot-high walls. Pretty dumb since even non-zombie Cirque du Soleil acrobats couldn’t manage that.
These zombies are virulent, powerful and fast to a cartoonish degree. Did you see the scene in “World War Z” previews where the zombie outbreak happens on a plane? That’s because a single zombie ran down the jetliner as it was taking off, attached itself to the landing gear and tore its way into the fuselage. I’m not kidding. You don’t get to see this happen, but the film insinuates it’s the only way it could have happened. The zombies also shriek like “Jurassic Park” velociraptors, twitch and convulse like Michael Jackson dancing the “Thriller” and the constantly clack their teeth like Pac-Man chomping after a fleeing ghost. Anytime a human and zombie were separated by glass barrier, it resulted in unintentional laughter due to the zombie’s over-the-top mannerisms. They were embarrassing and whomever choreographed their movements should never be allowed to work in the business again.
The ending doesn’t even make sense as Lane’s solution to the zombie problem should have produced a different conclusion for his character. However, the matter is glossed over, leaving a gigantic hole in the plot, possibly to allow the film to have the standard, cliched, Hollywood action movie ending. Speaking of which, this film was originally meant to premiere in 2012 but the studio spent an extra 40 million reshooting it (mostly the ending) after the first cut sent the studio execs into a panic. If that first cut was bad with only a 150 million dollar budget, I’d like to see it because I can’t imagine how it could be much worse than the ending they decided to go with.
It’s a tense, suspenseful, PG-13 film from beginning to end with a lot of cheap, jump-scares and it stars Brad Pitt. That’s enough to keep most people satisfied whether they like zombies or not. As for me, I think it sets a poor precedent that Hollywood can take a fantastic book, destroy it and build a completely inept movie out of its name and a loosely-interpreted premise. Who am I kidding? They have done it many times and will continue to do so. If this movie is successful, I can kiss any idea of that faithfully-adapted HBO series sometime in the future. Heaven forbid we offend the fans loyal to the material in the Brad Pitt movie.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars