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The story of how World War Z was made is a lot more harrowing and
suspenseful than the film itself. After going way over-budget and
enduing a complete revision and reshoot of the final act, WWZ wasn't
exactly set up for success. Ultimately the movie is completely
forgettable and uneven, but not offensively bad or objectively terrible
in any sense. What struck me about it was how much of a wasted
opportunity it was, given how interesting and entertaining the source
Having read the book World War Z, I could tell from the trailers for this movie that it wouldn't exactly be a faithful adaptation. I thought that the most interesting aspects of the book were its exploration of how the Zombie plague affected social and political structures across the world. Anything like that is completely ignored in the film, but I can at least understand how the filmmakers thought that those aspects wouldn't work in a single feature length movie. What I can't understand is how the filmmakers seemingly ignored the book's most obviously cinematic content. The book features a lot of setpiece action scenes, and to be fair, many of these involve world cities falling to zombie infestation and the movie does do enough to cover this. However, the book's immense battle scenes - the meat of the titular Zombie War, such as the Battle of Yonkers, nuclear war between Pakistan and Iran, Chinese civil war and massive formation combat against zombies - are completely absent. I was very surprised that they did not cover these, especially the Yonkers scene, because they would obviously fit so well into a film and the script, even as it is now, could easily be tweaked to include or at least mention them. The action that did make it into this film is very unsatisfying and obscure thanks to the restrictions of the PG-13 rating, and the narrative around is not engaging enough to really get me invested in it.
I was also surprised at how cheap this movie looked. This film cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, but it's hard to see where it all went on the screen. Swarms of zombies look very fake and nonthreatening, and in some cases individual zombies are computer animated, which gave me bad flashbacks to I Am Legend's awful CGI overload. Aside from the opening scenes in Philadelphia and the middle act in Jerusalem, there are no big outdoor sets. A South Korean airbase is portrayed as a series of dark rooms; too much of the movie takes place in an airline seat; there is a lot of sitting around inside of the aircraft carrier, etc. The sense of scale is very inconsistent, and this is accentuated in the bizarre final act, which was obviously the focus of the infamous reshoots as it feels like a completely separate movie. I consider myself a patient viewer, but this very long and dull scene started to bring me down after a while, and my less patient viewing audience eventually fell completely out of sync with the film and began to make fun of it at every opportunity - not really a fair criticism of the film, but it's a real issue when it can't hold an audience's attention. The final act does actually have an interesting idea at its heart, albeit one that completely doesn't connect with anything in the book, but I just didn't think it was a well executed concept. The very different style and tone of these scenes makes it feel like a completely different movie.
Again, while there was nothing all that terrible about WWZ, I didn't think it was anything to get excited about. In other words, a perfect 5/10 movie. I wish they were more aware of the source material's potential because without the best and most cinematic aspects of the book, WWZ (the film)and WWZ (the book) only share a title and the central premise of a zombie plague, which is not an original idea in itself.
Oh, Hollywood. You saw the zombie apocalypse coming didn't you? Not a
literal apocalypse of course, just 16 dozen different zombie books,
graphic novels, games and TV shows taking over the world like the
plague, and you just had to have your piece of the pie, didn't you?
World War Z is based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks. The novel garnered some quite positive reviews, praised for its international and political scope. It also caught the eye of producer and star Brad Pitt, who after a long struggle with studios, directors, producers and other Hollywood zombies, managed to put together a half decent movie with director Marc Forster.
Half decent? Well, WWZ certainly isn't a bad movie. You've got the long-time Oscar-deserving Pitt playing Gerry Lane, a likable, good-looking family man who retired as a UN investigator to spend more time around his wife and daughters. This is all about to change obviously, because after the now seemingly mandatory news-footage-montage introduction, Gerry is called back by the UN in exchange for his family's safety on their big boat.
It sounds good enough, but the problem is that WWZ's political/international context is nowhere to be found so we're left pretty much to 28 Days Later with blockbuster pretentiousness. Sure, Gerry travels around the world and makes a few long distance phone calls, but there's never anything remotely compelling enough to warrant his travels and whenever the plot does manage to come close to something it quickly sets it aside in the interest of keeping this summer blockbuster light, family friendly and internationally marketable.
After Quantum of Solace there was much uncertainty about Forster's ability to direct action and after WWZ, guess what? There still is. Granted, it's never boring, but when the other elements that should've made the film aren't there it should be more than "never boring". Paramount's marketing certainly didn't help; if you've seen the trailers then you've seen the whole plot and LITERALLY every single action set piece, in chronological order too. You know when you see a trailer and think "they put all the good parts in"? Well, this time they put the whole movie in. The more hardcore genre fans might also want to look elsewhere if they're seeking gory zombie kills; there isn't much of that either as its PG-13 rating might suggest.
Brad Pitt is really the film's only strength. Much like Tom Cruise, Brad's got enough talent to singlehandedly pull you through a not-so-great movie without you hating him for it. And at almost age 50 you can't really blame him for wanting to star in his own big blockbuster franchise for the first time in his career when he could've played any superhero he wanted years ago. "Franchise" of course, if permitted by the audience, because this is one movie that desperately wants to have sequels.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The special effects were impressive, I will give you that. However, the
rest wasn't. The 2 hour experience felt like watching titanic sink, in
real time. Here is a list of the things that went wrong:
1. PG13 rating: The director and producers wanted to make this movie family friendly, so they took away all the gore, death and decay that makes the zombie genre what it is. This made the zombies totally not scary and even on occasions towards the end, just plain laughable.
2. Senseless plot: The UN sends a small team to investigate the beginning of the outbreak. They have a neurologist on the team, who incidentally cant stop using cheesy metaphors about mother nature. Why can't they send multiple teams, with more than one expert on each? After all it is clearly a high risk mission, casualties must be expected. After the neurologist dies right after his pretentious speech, it is clear that the whole thing was an excuse to put Brad Pitt in a dangerous situation so that we will feel tension. We still didn't because, see 3.
3. Bad character development: None of the characters in the movie had any depth. As a result we didn't care if they lived or died. Pitt's family was just the detestable suburban family, who apparently does nothing but turn money into feces. Their marriage and children felt so plastic and ready-made that I personally would not have felt a thing if Pitt was torn apart by zombies in front of his family. Well, actually that might have improved this movie, alas it couldn't have happened because of 1.
4. The ending sequence: Just as we think that the plot cannot get worse and we make peace with the idea of enjoying the special effects, the movie takes another down turn in the last 40 minutes or so. The special effects disappear and we find Pitt and his sidekick in a W.H.O. research facility playing hide and seek with zombies. There is no suspense because the ending is announced basically in the first 5 minutes of this sequence, Pitt will go into the zombie infested part of the building, get some disease samples and bring them back. They will use one of the samples to infect themselves and see if zombies will lose their appetite. They do, and we win, with another pretentious speech about how it is not the end but just the beginning. Yawn.
5. Plot holes:
a) Zombies can diagnose a terminal illness just by looking at someone and for some reason, they avoid that person. This doesn't make any sense at any level. First, even a doctor with years of medical training can't do that without extensive testing. How can a mindless zombie, who cant figure out how to unbuckle her seat belt, do it just after a glance by the corner of her eye? Second, why the hell would zombies avoid a sick person? There is no reason. After all, the virus, or whatever that is causing the outbreak is not harmed by any other disease. The W.H.O. scientists said so themselves.
b) The W.H.O. facility is in Wales, Britain. Among the weapons they have in their arsenal is a baseball bat. Does the director even know where Wales is? Does anyone, one soul in Wales, own a baseball bat? Was that so difficult to make it a cricket bat? Come on now, I think that the director is a bit of a thickie but I can't believe that no one who looked at this movie pre-release had seen Shaun of the Dead. And to add insult to injury, the soldier girl with one hand picks the baseball bat. This scene alone is enough to prove that the director of the movie is blind from birth, because anyone who had at least one functioning eye at any point in his life and used it to glance at a baseball bat would have immediately realized that it is a two-handed weapon. How could a special forces soldier could not recognize it as such and not pick the crowbar?
c) The cellphone battery: In one scene, the cellphone's battery is declared dead. In a later scene, it is working again. Really?
d) When they decide to recover the disease samples, they give Pitt no briefing about which containers contain what. But apparently, at least one container is full of deadly stuff, which would kill him immediately. Why? Why? OMG, why? The security cameras show the room clearly. All they need to do is to seat Pitt and the soldier girl in front of one of the displays and show them where the goodies are before sending them in.
e) Pitt has no special combat, first aid or survival training. He apparently learned all that stuff on the field, and he is not a scientist either. Finally, he doesn't have experience as a commanding officer. So, why would he, instead of literally thousands of military people who were purpose-trained for such a mission, is chosen to lead the mission? It doesn't make any sense. It would have made a lot of sense if his UN friend said something like "Look, I convinced these people that you are the best man to lead this mission though we both know that you aren't. You are just a guy who spent ten years handing out blankets to African countries. But I had to do it to save your family, alright? They would have never let you on the ship otherwise and you would have died in Philly." That would have not only sealed this plot hole, but also would have given Pitt's character a tragic and desperate quality, which would have helped us care about him. But the mindless zombies who made this movie missed this chance too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT! You have been warned.
The Premiere -
I was at the London World Premiere last week, and Interestingly there was clearly tension between Mark (Director) and Brad Pitt. I would have thought a director of this size movie would be able to make a speech. But no. Reading from cards he fumbled over his words, got his actors names seriously wrong in front of 1000 people and was clearly very very nervous. Which is odd because any director should be excited or proud to be presenting their work to the world!
Brad Pitt in interview said they chose Mark as he was really good at the little emotional moments between characters. Well they mush have cut those bits out.
The movie -
A zombie film with no blood? I've no idea what the zombies were doing as we never see them kill anyone! They just run around a lot, far too fast for a 'human being'. No decapitated zombies, and a incredibly poor script that could have been knocked together in an evening.
Speaking to actors who worked on the film they told me a lot of the dialogue was improvised. And it shows. Good dialogue is written. It is very hard for an actor to come up with great dialogue on set with crew around, lights, explosions, gun fire and a budget and schedule pressing down on you - that is what rehearsals and, dare I say, a screenwriter are for.
I just don't think Mark Forster (Quantum of Bollox) knows how to direct. No emotional connection to any of the characters. No big climax at the end and the least threatening Zombie in the history of movies. Click click click.
A tedious V/O from Brad at the end, about "only just the beginning, of the war, YAWN..." We have heard this a hundred times.
There was some truly awful acting, characters that appear and go in a scene, that do nothing, and flimsy science that is just insulting to anyone who can actually think.
The only good bit was the Zombie as Ants scene, but it would have been hugely improved if a zombie with a giant leaf walked past in the background.
The audience laughed at several moment, that I don't believe the director even realised were gags!
Brad doesn't even really do any acting. He does a bit of running around and a fight or two. No great lines, and I don't really believe that he loves his kids and wife so terribly much.
Best thing in it was - Daniella Kertesz, but her scenes are clearly cut to bits, unlike her hand, which just seems to be fine after a couple of gin and tonics. I'll have what she's having!
And leaning suitcases against a curtain? Seriously. That was really bad.
The film could have been saved in the Edit - with some clever re-positioning of the major scenes, to get the structure right, but having seen Brad and Mark together, they had clearly fallen out of love with the movie.
Nothing here we haven't seen in 28 Days Later, or any other zombie film, or even The War of the World that was written 100 years ago.
At the end the applause was half hearted and everyone got up and left super fast.
The aftermath -
Please GOD can we stop giving bad directors a second, and in this case 10th chance. This film made me angry that a studio can waste so much money on what was a mediocre idea even at the beginning, and gave it to a director who has a proved track record of not being able to fix a bad script, or direct action.
The budget on this would keep an independent film maker in business for the next 400 years - or if we put that in a real time scale - all the way back to Elizabeth the 1st.
Nothing to see here ladies and gentlemen, move on.
I was dubious! The rating, the early reviews, my love of gory George Romero movies had all led me to deciding not to see this. But, my wife wanted to go... Well, two breathless hours later I turned to her, big grin on my face and had to state "That was awesome!" Yes, I can see why people don't like it. It is very different to the traditional zombie movie, and very different to the book. But you know what, who cares - it's not a traditional zombie movie, or the book - it's different. So suck it it up whiners and enjoy this for what it is! (And I'm a huge fan of all Max Brooks zombie books.) The movie begins with a short intro to the main character and his family (it was enough, it told me all I needed to know) before launching into a fantastic, break neck sequence that establishes the pace for most of the rest of the movie. It's violent, visceral and shocking without any reliance in gore. The tension is racked up (especially in the escape from the apartment block sequence) with a series of spectacular set pieces (the walls of Jerusalem scene is brilliant) and things get better and bigger until the film slows the pace for the final reel with a slow burning, smaller scale sequence set in a WHO research lab in the UK. It's an unusual choice to end a movie with the smallest set piece, but it worked well for me as it was in line with Gerry's quest and the (stated in the movie) fact that the answer is often so small it gets overlooked. The gravity of the decisions Gerry has to make here are greater than any previously in the movie (where mostly he just has to run like hell!) and it's that that makes this such a powerful set piece to end the movie. I learnt several things from this movie 1) to let go of my preconceptions about what a zombie film should be, 2) that a low rating doesn't mean its for kids - I have two sons and despite the lack of gore I certainly wouldn't let then see this. Its very intense and that (not the gore) is what would scare them. 3) to go with the flow - I did here and was swept along for a rapid fire 2 hour thrill ride that was a hell of a lot of fun. I for one will be getting this on blu ray and I'll be first in line for any sequel. But I will admit, an undated version would be very welcome!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If a film is sold by a trailer it's this one . I've never read the
source novel but do know it is structured as reportage where the world
has been changed by a zombie infestation leading to a new geo-political
shape for the world so in many ways this is more of a prequel than an
adaptation . I did like Danny Boyle's genre shattering 28 DAYS LATER
and loved the sequel and unfortunately it looks like that franchise has
ended so in some ways this could be a surrogate 28 MONTHS LATER . Add
to this the trailers where the waves of infected storm barriers against
heavily armed soldiers and we've got a Zombie classic in the making
don't we ?No we don't because this is a film that gives the impression
that it was written and made by zombies
From the outset we get something incomprehensible - the outbreak itself . WWZ keeps the origins of the virus an enigma and right away this damages the premise . At least in 28 DL the audience are afforded an opening scene of the rage virus escaping and you're very quickly able to buy in to this scenario . WWZ doesn't do this but an opening scene alludes to a virus breaking out across the world via news reports . Cut to scientist Brad Pitt driving his family in Philadelphia and finds himself in a traffic jam . Within seconds people run screaming from their cars as rabid zombies run everywhere
This scene is mildly effective but there's a spanner in the works . Two spanners actually . One is that's very clear that the incubation period of this virus is a few seconds almost identical to that established in 28 DL . In reality such a violent virus would spread like wild fire but the thing is it wouldn't be able to cross continents which renders the later parts of the film as incomprehensible from a logic point of view . Secondly you will find it impossible to buy in to this scenario . I know I didn't but please feel free to ask questions
As the film progresses Brad Pitt's scientist - and I won't call him by his character name because he doesn't have a character - jumps on a plane to South Korea then off to Israel where the Israelis have managed to block out the infected by building a massive big wall
" Wow that was quick Theo . The Israelis must be very good bricklayers to build a wall when the infection has only existed for a couple of days "
Oh no because the Mossad chief got word from India a few week earlier that the Indian army were fighting zombies . Before you ask it's never revealed why the news media never got hold of this potential headline , nor is it revealed why when the rest of the world is battling Zombies this unknown virus never got in to Israel
The action scenes in Jerusalem are impressive from a spectacle point of view but again lack internal continuity . Safe behind their wall the Israelis let in refugees - while armies of Zombies swarm around outside . Narrowly escaping the carnage Brad stops to amputate the hand of a female IDF soldier whose just been bitten which defies credibility
" But Theo you know these Israelis are tough nuts and women have to endure pain and blood every month "
Not in the same league as amputation though is it ? Then Brad phones the UN who tell him that he must make his way to WHO research lab in Wales . Don't ask why there's no nearer research centres between Cardiff and Jerusalem . while on the aeroplane a Zombie that just happened to be hiding in the cupboard jumps out and spreads the infection leading to IDF girl to throw a grenade that causes the plane to crash in Wales . So they have a short walk to the WHO research centre
" Wouldn't blood loss caused by getting your hand amputated make you too weak to go for a short walk ? And wouldn't Britain being an island make quarantine against the virus much easier ? I mean if the Israelis managed it ? "
Look sit down and shut up . I know this was a major plot point that the rage virus couldn't escape from Britain in 28DL but if you think you can write a better Hollywood screenplay join the 7 billion people heading towards Hollywood right now . The last half hour involves more idiotic plotting that rely on coincidence , good fortune and after spending nearly every scene pointing out that the Zombies are attracted to noise someone just has to shoot a gun . The film ends with a solution to the problem which doesn't make the slightest bit of sense but means the human race can now concentrate on wiping out the Zombies
" But Theo won't the Zombies die of thirst ? "
I said shut up . If anything about this film made any sense it have been more than a loud dumb Summer blockbuster . You do notice that everything about it seems to have commercial consideration . Brad Pitt jumping all over the world meeting so many different nationalities does seem a cynical attempt at audience identification . Likewise the very obvious lack of blood and gore might supposedly attract people who fear the post apocalypse / Zombie genre ( Hello Bob The Moo ) but they'll notice the lack of intelligent plotting which severely damages the film and gore hounds who enjoy blood and guts will be disappointed by the extremely inoffensive nature of WWZ . Danny Boyle you're needed
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me start by giving a summary of the book: A journalist travels the
world AFTER the zombie outbreak to interview different people from
different countries to see how they handled this massive infestation.
It gives points of view from different characters on how they handled
themselves and uses real-world scenarios to show realistically how such
a thing would be combated.
On to the movie: Where did ANY of this go? First of all, instead of showing how DIFFERENT people handle this situation, it shows how ONE MAN handles it. Brad Pitt. For a movie that seems to want to be taken seriously as true-to-life, it sure does fail when it introduces the premise that somehow a RETIRED UN investigator is the most important man in the world and the only one who can save it. If such were the case, why send him out with ONLY a handful of soldiers instead of a small army of Special Forces? Also, why introduce this young, brilliant doctor as the possible hope for humanity if he is only going to idiotically shoot himself in the first thirty minutes of the movie? To me it seemed like Brad Pitt said: "Woah, wait a minute. You can't let a dorky doctor save the world. I'm the hero! Kill him off!", stamped his foot, and went to pout in a corner. I had heard that Pitt (the producer) and Forster (the director) were at odds through the entire filming, so the script had to be re-written several times to accommodate Pitt's hissy fits, so I'm slow to blame Forster for this awful "adaptation".
The zombies: LOL! These zombies are everything you'd expect if Disney decided to do a Pixar zombie film. Most of them are done using CGI, and the ones who are actual actors are completely non-scary and laughable. Gnashing their teeth like poorly acted Cenobytes from the Hellraiser series. In order to sell more tickets, they opted for a PG-13 rating, so there is no blood and I don't remember seeing a zombie kill a single person. How do you make a zombie movie when the antagonist which is supposed to strike fear into our hearts just seems like a football game gone horribly wrong? Super fast running and lots of flying tackles does not for a zombie apocalypse make.
The plot: I know this movie was trying for something different, and failed horribly. They should have just called it "28 Months Later". The supposed plot twist at the end, which was re-written 4 or 5 times, seemed put together at the last minute, and as if the writers just said: "eh, screw it. Just do this and release the movie so we can get a paycheck." Anyone who thinks that making it a metaphor for the current state of events and painting the UN into the saviors of humanity is something new has obviously not seen the FAR superior District 9. I will not get into all the other plot holes so monstrous you could drive a bus through them.
The acting: Who are these people? Why should we care about them? Their performances are wooden. They have such small roles because Brad Pitt seems to want to hog all the screen time, and even then his own performance is stilted and lackluster. He lacks any sort of emotion and I never once felt that I could connect to his character at all. The filmmakers would have done a much better job if he'd been introduced as an average joe.
Summary: I see a lot of people praising the action in this movie, but I found it extremely boring. Any action presented was the same: "Brad Pitt goes to new country, Brad Pitt gets attacked, Brad Pitt saves a handful of people, Brad Pitt runs to new country". For the overbloated budget, this movie offered nothing new or refreshing. On top of that, it could not even succeed as a good zombie film. Movies like 28 Days Later, The Horde, and hell, even Cockneys vs. Zombies show that a great zombie film does not need a huge budget to make it great. This was simply Pitt's and Hollywood's attempt at taking something people love (zombies) and cashing in on it. The 7.4 rating I see this movie had must have been paid for, because 9/10ths of the user reviews I see for this film are just BAD! Same as the film itself. The good reviews I see praise it as "The Best Zombie Movie I've Seen" which leads me to believe they haven't seen ANY zombie movies before, and that the movie is "Intelligent and Realistic", which if you see my above points, just isn't the case. Usually I am very forgiving in terms of movies lacking realism, but this one was trying to sell itself on that very premise. Also, I am not harsh on films for not being perfect adaptations of a book, but this is different, because it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the book at all aside from the wall in Israel and the title itself.
4/10 simply because some parts of it did look nice, and I'm even being in a giving mood with that.
World War Z is a zombie outbreak movie that supposedly bases itself on the amazing book of the same name by Max Brooks. What this movie truly is, is a shamefully mediocre attempt to create a movie that appeals to the widest audience possible. Pee established fan base from the book? Check. Star power (this is Brad Pitt)? Check. Focuses on intensity rather than horror and gore to not alienate non zombie fans? Check. Safe, young PG 13 rating? Check. All the makings are here because this is what the big Hollywood studio wanted. Despite the fact this movie doesn't resemble the book at all, it appears that those attached to make this movie tried to make a decent movie such as the visually interesting director Marc Foster who wanted to make a movie with a message which would emulate the tone the book was going for. However, the big studio disliked this and demanded rewrites and re-shooting that damaged the relationship between the director and Brad and results in a quick, intense action movie that lacks the character development and messages it needed to be a truly memorable movie because almost every one of those scenes were cut so much to the point that central characters get barley any lines. While the action scenes are intense and enjoyable on their own and Marc foster adds style to the lack of substance but its just not enough to save this movie. While it is better than it had any right to be thanks to Marc, it needs more and it lacks in crucial substance. However from the reviews and box office reports it appears Hollwood has succeeded in creating a successful marketable movie that everyone will eat up and it will be too late when we all get the nasty aftertaste.....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've listed that this review contains spoilers, but I haven't included
anything that the trailer hasn't already given away.
And the that's my main problem with "World War Z" The Trailer. If you've seen the trailer you've seen the movie. It literally shows everything that happens in the movie completely destroying any suspense that might have been had. "World War Z" isn't a conventional movie with a flowing plot line that builds to a dramatic conclusion. It's more like a bunch of individual parts laid out in a not so very straight line, and strung together loosely by a single character. I don't have much of a problem with that, or the facts the Zombies aren't of the undead kind, slow moving kind like they were in the source novel. But rather the rabid, sprinting, quick turning kind like in "28 days later" Brad Pit is good and takes the roll seriously. The CGi is top notch, and the movie is well made. The problem I had is that I new exactly what was going to happen, before it happened, because they showed it in the stupid trailer. Literally, every single cool action shot that's in the movie they showed in the trailer. Every single plot point. Even the dialog scenes. I knew the jest of what was going to be said because they showed the important parts in the trailer! I kept waiting for the extended version but it never came. There's no suspense. (I know there's Zombies on the plane and that Brad Pitt blows a hole in the side sucking them all out, crashing the plane, because they show it in the trailer!) That's just one example of a long list of scenes that you totally know what's fixing to happen because, well... You've seen it already. This is one movie I wish I could have gone in completely blank. Not having read the book, not having seen the trailer, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
It seems unfair to criticise the film for not being like its source
material given that it obviously didn't try to be but I'm going to
start by bringing that up anyway. The book had so many sequences that
could have been turned into amazing set-pieces in a film and yet not
one of them were used. The book also had some neat ideas about how a
global outbreak and response play out. What might work? What would
catastrophically fail? What would the cost be? Not one of these ideas
were explored or even alluded to and there seems absolutely no reason
why this was the case.
It might have been okay to abandon these ideas if the film had some ideas of its own to explore or at least play out but it doesn't. Instead we follow Brad Pitt and Brad Pitt's baggage through a few set-pieces as he first escapes from and then looks into an outbreak of zombies. There's little else to say about it than that.
The first major problem came down to the zombies themselves. For a zombie film to get that right is critical and World War Z stumbled pretty badly here. The physical appearance of the zombies is a clear problem. Given the film's penchant for shying away from blood and gore to keep its rating audience-friendly, the only things that separates these zombies from regular people are milky eyes, grey skin, and a tendency to bare and snap their teeth. They're not the bloodthirsty creatures at various stages of decay and ruin that feature in most zombie films. This is generally fine in close-ups but at a distance it's impossible to tell the zombies apart from regular people. And when most of your action scenes involve panicking people running away from what are allegedly zombies, having them pretty much indistinct from each other means you never get much of an inclination about the level of the threat or even what's going on.
A possible solution would have been for the film to opt for the shambling moaning Romero-esque zombies of the book. Instead of running and tackling, having a slowly ever-advancing tide of danger would have turned the zombies into something to be feared rather than something to try and spot in a crowd.
But even later when the film displays zombies in their 'docile' state its shown how little the film-makers understand how zombies are supposed to work. The jerking around and screeches were meant to be threatening and they are anything but. They are borderline slapstick and certainly comical judging by the outbreaks of laughter in the audience at my screening. They clicked their teeth together as if they enjoyed the sound. They repeatedly hit their heads against the wall in a way that was meant to seem deranged but just came across as silly. They spun and jerked around leading to a hilarious sequence of Pitt and two others essentially playing "Red Light/Green Light" with a snarling zombie. Nothing about these zombies seemed to work as intended.
The second major problem came down to the complete lack of weight or tension. Brad Pitt isn't the type of actor anyone expects to be in danger, at least not when he's in an action film, so already there's the knowledge that he's fairly safe. But added to that, his character is a practically invulnerable bad-ass UN investigator whose field knowledge and ingenuity makes him able to adapt to any situation. His 'baggage', as I referred to them earlier, is played at first by his wife and two daughters as well as an orphan boy - far too cute to ever come into real harm in a film like this. The baggage is then played by a doctor and a team of soldiers who are so bereft of personality and character that there is no reason to care about them. He then teams up with a young Israeli soldier who is the closest person aside from Pitt to qualify to be called a character but unfortunately she doesn't seem to serve any purpose. His final baggage comes in the form of a team of WHO doctors. I won't say anything about them aside from pointing out that all four are named in the credits as "W.H.O. Doctor" despite being a key part of around a quarter of the film.
Though I wouldn't recommend the film, to its credit it managed to attain a level of being entertaining and it never embarrassed itself, (despite a squeamish bit of product placement.) It was clearly let down by a few core problems and while certainly not a good film I'd feel a bit mean if I were to label it 'bad'. I'm disappointed that it painted itself as a zombie film for zombie fans while clearly being a toothless blockbuster to appeal to a broader audience, (however understandable that move may be from a film studio's perspective given the production problems and cost blow-out.) For this reason maybe the film tripped up and fell flat on its face but as it dragged itself to the finish line I'm willing to applaud it for that at least.
I suppose all I can do it sit here and try to imagine what might have been...
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