Saturday, June 22, 2013

World War Z (2013)


World War Z zombies are sprinters compared to Night of the Living Dead zombies; they appear to be cousins of 28 Days Later zombies.  They work together in swarms and are a lot less sociable than the likeable guys in Warm Bodies from earlier this year.  They shriek instead of moan, their joints constantly pop, and it only takes 12 seconds to go from normal human being to rampaging, flesh-eating nightmare.  One thing all zombie movies have in common is that their respective zombies must have distinguishing characteristics to set them apart from all the other movie zombies.

Working out who first becomes a zombie and why is extremely complicated which is why almost all zombie movies skip that part and head right into the mass infection stage.  In today’s globalized and interconnected world, a disease which is rapidly transmitted from host to host and only takes 12 seconds to infect is the perfect storm scenario for any public health official.  Luckily, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former United Nations super soldier who has a keen eye to detect the ins and out of infectious diseases.

Starting off in Philadelphia, we only get a minute or two of wholesome family time with Gerry, wife Karin (Mireille Enos), and their two daughters before all of humanity starts running through the streets in a mass panic.  Gerry is still in touch with his old U.N. boss, Thierry (Fana Mokoena), who can get his family to safety after a rough night in Newark and safe on board a U.S. Navy carrier.  All Gerry has to do to ensure some of the ship’s limited space for his family is hop on a plane, fly around the world, and figure out how to cure the zombie disease.

There are stops in South Korea, Israel, and Wales with a vicious zombie attack awaiting poor Gerry at each destination.  The Israel scene is the most intriguing as the walls the Israelis built to keep out Palestinians are now used to keep out zombies.  Unfortunately, we must check in with is family every now and then and see their trials and tribulations on board the ship juxtaposed with Gerry’s adventures fighting zombies.  The two do not stack up very well together.  Also, Gerry flies on a C-130 from the Atlantic to South Korea on one tank of gas. 

The action scenes, of which there are more than a few, are well done.  There is confusion, fear, and downright hysteria as thousands and thousands of zombies just keep swarming with no end in sight.  The two issues here are that it moves so fast and with so many edits it is hard to keep track of anybody for any amount of time and the stunting PG-13 rating.  Logically, director Marc Forster incorporates an abnormal amount of edits to simulate a frenetic pace and the fog of war.  This works a bit too well; keeping tack of Gerry becomes near impossible at times. 

The PG-13 rating removes anything edgy from the action.  A zombie movie should not be PG-13.  In one sequence, Gerry uses a crowbar for defense and we only see him swing it with no effect.  He gets it lodged in a zombie because he spends a good 10 seconds trying to get it out of the body yet all of it is off screen.  I am not begging for an obscene amount of gore and flying blood, but come on, it’s zombies on the screen; use them! 

Those audience members who read the novel by Max Brooks will most likely be polarized.  I heard some are upset that the location has been changed away from China, possibly due to political sensibilities, and I am sure there will be a hundred other little problems, which always come with a movie based on a popular book.  I am glad I have not read the book; otherwise, half of this review would probably involve telling you why it the movie fails on so many levels. 

Since this is all new to me, I liked it.  In spite of the PG-13 nonsense, Gerry’s around the world quest to find answers makes for a good film.  The end has a bit more of a passive climax than I expected, especially since the first two-thirds of the movie moved so fast and frantic.  However, World War Z is a good way to spend an afternoon.  

Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Elyes Gabel

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