Early 'World War Z' Reviews & Reactions - Is It Actually Any Good?

June 3, 2013

World War Z

With the release of Marc Forster's World War Z adaptation now less than a month away, Paramount has mounted a massive recovery and damage control/cover-up campaign to turn everyone's attention away from the bad CGI, the reshoots, and Damon Lindelof's tinkering. Their effort to change everyone's disinterested minds began when they first showed it to Deadline's Mike Fleming, who called it, "a rocking, smart, pulse-pounding big-scale pandemic with raging zombies, palpable tension, and the kind of hero star turn Pitt hasn't performed in a long time." Now it's about to hit UK theaters meaning reviews have been published, and other screenings have taken place with reactions all over. So is it any good? Did they salvage it? Maybe.

Despite being adapted from the bestselling zombie novel by Max Brooks, Paramount has insisted on not referring to World War Z as a zombie movie in any marketing or publicity. Instead, Brad Pitt stars in the global action-adventure as a UN employee trying to stop "the zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself." We've all seen trailers and crazy footage and have been following its ups and downs in development over the last few years, but now it's finally time to find out if there is anything to this studio movie, or if it's one of 2013's big disasters. What do the early reviews say?

Stefan Pape writes for our friends at HeyUGuys (3/5):

"Zombies are becoming too archetypal a concept in cinema, and it requires something really innovative to fully justify spending a lot of money to re-enter the world of the undead, and though this certainly has its moments, it's just not quite creative or original enough. That's not to say it's not worth seeing mind you, but before you discuss this amongst peers, you're going to have to settle on whether it's called World War Zee, or World War Zed. The latter will get you brownie points on this side of the Atlantic that's for sure."

Some praise from Roger Friedman on Showbiz411:

"They build characters and tension so that the audience is really involved in the story. Don't get me wrong. This isn't The King's Speech. WWZ is a popcorn movie on the level of Independence Day. But like that summer hit, Forster's film never flags and is always entertaining."

The opposite from Chris Tookey in The Daily Mail:

"Brad Pitt introduced the screening I attended, and promised the audience ‘the most intense film you're going to see this summer'. He called it 'original' and 'genre-bending'. If only it were… None of the writers is at his best, and the film bears unmistakable signs of having been assembled by a Hollywood studio over-preoccupied with earning a family-friendly certificate. Virtually all the violence takes place fractionally off-screen. Disappointingly, the final product is much more conventional than the book and avoids its most interesting and innovative qualities."

Another mediocre reaction from Nick de Semlyen on Empire (3/5):

"The majority of the run-time sees Pitt and an assortment of sidekicks facing down 'Zeke' in a familiar array of bunkers, apartment blocks and labs. While it's all handled with skill and the actors sell the fear, it feels like a slight gyp, especially when the climax of the movie — which was reshot at great expense — is on a smaller scale than the third act of Shaun Of The Dead. There is also more than one slap-your-forehead moment, like the bit where Gerry, a highly trained covert operative, forgets to put his phone on silent while traversing an infected zone. Silly Gerry."

A scathing review from Charlotte O'Sullivan in the London Evening Standard (3/5):

"What a disaster. This end-of-the-world epic — Brad Pitt's 'baby', which he's been working on since 2007 — is mostly bland and extremely bloated. It's Z for zombie, in case you're wondering. But a more apt title would be World War Zzzzz…"

Similar middle-ground review from Robbie Collin in The Telegraph (2/5):

"What we get is a collection of moderately violent action set-pieces untroubled by humour or broader coherence. Lane travels from Philadelphia (played on-screen by Glasgow) to Nova Scotia via New York, New Jersey, South Korea, Israel and Wales, and almost nothing that happens along the way has the slightest effect on the film's final outcome… At least the film has one neat trick: in the Israel sequence we see Boschian wide-shots of zombie hordes coursing down streets and sluicing over barriers like a great, monstrous flood. This chimes with the footage of swarming insects in the opening titles, and suggests that the film may have once had a point to make before the rot set in. But there's no heart to be found amid the guts."

Finally a more positive take from Stella Papamichael on Digital Spy (4/5):

"Zombies are on the rampage in World War Z, but the B-movie premise becomes an epic story of survival in the hands of director Marc Foster. If his Quantum of Solace was too esoteric, then it's the opposite here, as Brad Pitt traverses continents to find a cure to the fast-spreading scourge. Everything about the film moves at a breakneck pace, including the zombies. It's a total rush."

Back to a mixed response from Paul Bradshaw on Total Film (3/5):

"Conspicuously bloodless, the PG-13 rating rears its family friendly head whenever the camera gets too close for comfort, and a dumbed down finale looks suspiciously like a scene from every zombie flick that's ever been made. But it's not just the intestines that are missing – with Lane's family crisis set against such a monumental backdrop, WWZ is sorely lacking in heart (and with it, any genuine sense of danger).

The Hollywood blockbuster might be a bit late to the zombie party, but it arrives now exactly as everyone hoped and feared – hectic, deafening, empty but oh-so-spectacular."

Update - a few more WWZ reviews added from the major US film trades below, to spice things up.

A mixed review with some reservations from Scott Collura on IGN:

"As for the zombies themselves, despite what we've seen in the ads, they're actually a mix of the fast, running type of ghoul and the slow, shambling, classic Romero variety. The script's reasoning behind this is pretty clever, actually. And while the mountains and mountains of undead that swarm like human-sized insects run the risk of being too CGI at times, ultimately I found that these scenes worked pretty well. The all-out bedlam and anxiety of the mass attacks displaces any such concerns. […]

Zombie fans will also be bored by the occasional derivative element that pops up, the kind of stuff that any Walking Dead viewer already has figured out. But largely, World War Z is less a zombie movie than it is an intense thriller that just happens to have zombies all over the place."

A fairly positive review from Todd McCarthy on Hollywood Reporter:

"Waves of startling action counterbalance standard one-man-saves-the-day Hollywood heroics in World War Z, an immersive apocalyptic spectacle that tosses the viewer into the deep end of a global zombie uprising and doesn't let up until close to the end. A bunch of impressive set pieces stitched together rather than a good story convincingly told, this gargantuan production should ride Brad Pitt's name, teeming action scenes and widespread interest in all things zombie to strong box office returns… There is certainly a tension running through the film between latent serious ambition and lowest-common-denominator-pleasing requirements, with the latter ruling the day most of the time without entirely erasing evidence of the former. Notwithstanding the expectation that the brave leading man and his adored family will somehow come out of it all unscathed, there are a few narrative surprises along the way and an absence of dumb, clunking dialogue that often infects such fare."

And finally another sort-of-positive review from Scott Foundas on Variety:

"Showing few visible signs of the massive rewrites, reshoots and other post-production patchwork that delayed its release from December 2012, this sleekly crafted, often nail-biting tale of global zombiepocalypse clicks on both visceral and emotional levels, resulting in an unusually serious-minded summer entertainment whose ideal audience might be described as comicbook fanboys who also listen to Democracy Now. […]

[Director Marc] Forster handles the large-scale action here with considerable aplomb and much striking imagery, enhanced by the seamless mix of choreography, prosthetics and CG that bring the herking, jerking zombies to 'life'… Moreover, the director always keeps the movie rooted in a compelling dramatic situation, with Pitt giving a very appealing turn as the seen-it-all veteran of the world’s worst places whose desire to protect his family trumps his desire to save the world. By today’s standards, he’s a refreshingly human-scaled movie hero, with no outsized strength, agility or superpowers to help him win the day."

So, maybe it's not that great after all? These UK reviews are a lot more mixed/negative than I was expecting.

World War Z London

However, on the other side of the Atlantic early World War Z screening reactions so far have been much, much more positive. Overwhelmingly positive, as blogs have written as their headline, but is this anything more than a well-organized tactic to try and keep the buzz positive? Most of the reactions have been coming from celebrities and very trustworthy names in entertainment, and they usually come after Brad Pitt makes a personal appearance at the screening (which happened in New Jersey recently). One person we do trust - filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (who's working on Noah with Paramount) posted this tweet after seeing it:

In addition, numerous other celebrities and notable names have been tweeting early reactions to World War Z screenings. However, Paramount has been carefully selecting a few prominent voices to see the film and post their (usually positive) response after. But is it enough to convince everyone that WWZ might actually be a good movie? Or at least solid summer entertainment that's worth seeing, even if it's not the best zombie movie ever? They really don't want to lose money on this $250M+ movie. Let's just hope all this buzz is true.

What do you make of all these reactions? Are they enough to convince you that World War Z might actually be good? They haven't shown it to many US-based movie bloggers or hardcore fans yet, just vocal voices online and reputable celebrities in hopes of getting the mainstream public to forget about any negative buzz (they've heard). It is an uphill battle for Paramount, that's for sure, but I'm curious if there's actually a good movie waiting to be seen or if they're just covering up a big zombie disaster with positive tweets. Only time will tell, but until then it's worth taking a quick look at the wide variety of reactions and reviews out so far.

World War Z is directed by German filmmaker Marc Forster, of films Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace and Machine Gun Preacher previously. The screenplay was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, State of Play) and revised by Damon Lindelof (Star Trek, Prometheus). It's adapted from Max Brooks' beststelling zombie book World War Z. Paramount will release World War Z in theaters on June 21st after being delayed from December last year.

Find more posts: Discuss, Horror, Hype, Movie News



Every single one of those positive tweets is embarrassing to read. I could believe "yeah, it's stupid, but it's still pretty entertaining" but "saw the long awaited #worldwarz last night. first 45 mins scared the living heck at me. nearly broke my girls hand I was so tense. Go Pitt"... Nope. Just cause you're best buds with Brad Pitt doesn't mean you have to suck his dick too.

Matt on Jun 3, 2013


Matt, you reached into my mind and took out the exact words. I love you.

Akira Smith on Jun 3, 2013



friv on Jun 16, 2013


Cool! I didn't know that Brad Pitt made a sequel to I am Legend?

Joey on Jun 3, 2013


I will see this. But let's face it's probably bad, not awful

DAVIDPD on Jun 3, 2013


My thoughts exactly

N. on Jun 3, 2013


It's weird that as movie fans, we want some.movies to fail. I am guilty of that as well. this film has so much stacked against it. I did not like the "I am legend" CG, but I hope the actors do sell the intensity.

mooreworthy on Jun 3, 2013


Obviously I'm not speaking for everybody, but I feel like sometimes I want a movie to fail just on pretense. The source novel for this was terrific and it looks like they took almost nothing from it, just slapped on the title "World War Z" to get asses in the seats. If they had named it anything else I don't think people would be carrying anywhere near the gripe that they have been.

axalon on Jun 3, 2013


I only read some of the book and I can tell it will be totally different and unfortunately kid friendly. If a studio is willing to sell out for the sake of selling out, then agreed, I will love to see a movie fail, only to say, give us quality, and I'll give you cash.

mooreworthy on Jun 3, 2013


Oh god yes, Danny Boyle's whole speech about the Pixarification of Hollywood is dead on. Growing up one one of the biggest things I looked forward to was getting to freely watch R-rated movies and discuss them with my fellow adults. Now R-rated movies are almost like unicorns. I want adult content, damn it!

axalon on Jun 3, 2013


pg13 killed the movie industry. the only true pg13 was the first one: red dawn. after that, it was just an excuse to not commit to the idea or intensity of the idea or both. Peace Wax

Jon Wax on Jun 3, 2013


Have you seen The Horde? French zombie flick.

mooreworthy on Jun 3, 2013


The Horde is the best Zombie movie that came out in years. It's almost like a French version on Dawn 2004.

ray on Jun 15, 2013


18 (R) movies were always the best growing up as a young teenager in the 1980s. PG-13 is producing pathetic movies.

cobrazombie on Jun 4, 2013


I'm generally the type of person to advocate making your own mind up and not judging what something will be like based on either the trailers or someone else's opinion, but...something about this movie just screams to me "bad". Honestly not sure what it is or why I've got this impression, and while, as a fan of movies and TV, I don't want any of them to fail, I also don't want to "reward" a poorly produced movie with my money. The problem herein lies in the fact that Hollywood judges a movie's performance almost solely on how well it does financially, which is generally how a bad movie gets a worse sequel.

AnotherDan on Jun 3, 2013


And unbelievably, people will see it!

mooreworthy on Jun 3, 2013


any movie where you have to kill off the dog to establish emotional connection lacks substance at the writing level. Peace Wax

Jon Wax on Jun 3, 2013


You just put a new wrinkle in my brain.

mooreworthy on Jun 3, 2013


Hey man that shit was said no matter how right you may be.

Cody W on Jun 4, 2013



Cody W on Jun 4, 2013


Zombies are overexposed, the PG-13 rating sucks, it's nothing like the book, its production was troubled... The negatives were already there.

cobrazombie on Jun 4, 2013


Like these tweets are really a good judgement? Some of these are peers. They surely not going to slam a movie of a studio they also work for. The real fan reaction, will happen right here. And I wont see this PG13 'zombie' movie until some people i respect here say go see it...

Sascha Dikiciyan on Jun 3, 2013


Never believe the critics. They always always always over analyze every detail too much and always underrate the gems; always have done, always will. Many a time I've seen films and video games etc that critics have underscored, neg'd and disproved of but they turn out to be a gem - Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 80% positive and IGN has put down a reasonable 7.6 unlike the tripe that these poxy 50 year old pensioners have dishing out to start with. Seriously Chris Tookey gave the film a 2/5 and called it World War Zzz - even through this guy rated Katy Perry's documentary higher than The Dark Knight Rises. C'mon. Seriously. If you miss this film because you take the world of a critic then your an idiot. See it yourself or go from word of mouth.

Dan on Jun 3, 2013


What's the point of calling this "World War Z"??? It should have been called "Just Another Zombie Movie(but this time with Brad PItt)". It obviously doesn't follow the book and is only seeking to capitalize on the book's bestselling status and on an A-list star. Why not just make a "Brad Pitt Zombie Movie" and let someone else who actually cares about the book make a real "World War Z" movie...sheesh...

guest on Jun 3, 2013


If they made a movie more like the book "WWZ", it would bomb.. The politics, the "ending", and lack of real scares and action would doom this as a movie

jason richards on Jun 3, 2013


LOL of course the Americans loved it. They ARE the zombie apocalypse! I might pirate this film one day if I get bored enough. But the last thing the World needs is more glory boy America-saves-the-day GARBAGE. In the mean time I might read the REAL WWZ again.

B Statham on Jun 3, 2013


Awww.... jealousy. Such an ugly thing.

BigDogJunction on Jun 3, 2013


Jealous? Of what? Of overweight, war-mongering, violent, unintelligent, mindless Americans? Doubt it mate.

B Statham on Jun 3, 2013


But our teeth aren't bad like yours lol

oceantracks on Jun 3, 2013


I'm an Aussie so jokes on you.

B Statham on Jun 3, 2013


Completely off topic here, but it is too bad U guys have such bad opinion of us Statham.. I personally have a good opinion of U Aussies and hope to one day visit your home land... I hope, perceptions aside, I am welcomed there

Tester on Jun 4, 2013


So that just means, you're an a$$hole. Been to Australia, "mate"... you all take the cake for sexist, racist a$$wipes. That's why your women, ditch you deadbeats, when we show up. I know from experience. You just got neutered, mate. Joke's, actually on you.

BigDogJunction on Jun 4, 2013


Read below. You got burned. I've been to your country. Your women hate you. Your idea of a date, is taking your women out, so they can fetch pints for you and your mates (that's so... gay sounding to). Mate is someone you sleep with... MATE with. You're just a joke to laugh at. Sucks when someone you don't expect, has been on your side of the globe. You want to talk unintelligent and mindless? Yeah, you've got us beat there. P.S. Having had numerous and frequent encounters with your military and the testosterone overflow, you idiots carry around, you're one to talk. LOL.

BigDogJunction on Jun 4, 2013


Statham, not all americans are overweight, war-mongering, violent...etc There are still alot of good people here in the united states. Peace be with you Statham!

Phillip Knox on Jun 4, 2013


I am an Australian and some of my fondest memories are of my time spent in the US. An amazing place filled with lots of great folks. Overweight, violent and unintelligent Americans? Over 60% of Australians are "overweight", our news is filled with violent crimes on the street and in our homes, and reality television (mostly cooking and renovation shows) dominate our tv schedules, completely lacking in any real substance or relevance. Sorry Statham, but many of us Aussies need to take a good hard look at ourselves before sprouting off nasty garbage like that. World War Z the movie. Not going to watch it...will read the book yet again and pine for the high budget TV series that it should have been from the very start.

Crikey! on Jun 11, 2013


MURICA! Fuck Yeah! Commin to save the mother fuckin day YEAH!

Jimmy Love on Jun 4, 2013


The level of cynicism on here is hilarious. How can you want a film to fail? As someone who is regularly involved in film production, both fictional and corporate, most productions experience difficulties, it's part of the process. The media just love to jump on a production that has a big star and big budgets and love to report on any problems it has and then the press along with some narrow minded people decide that the film will be terrible before it even hits our screens. No director or writer sets out to make a bad film. Granted I have not seen the film yet, but I am at least prepared to reserve my comic book guy line of "registering my disgust around the world" until after I have actually seen it.

I am Jacks DVD on Jun 4, 2013


Yeah supposedly this is a film fan site, But no one likes a damn thing, unless it's got tom hardy or j gordan lightfoot or james deen funny seeing as how they all hate gimmicks.

Jimmy Love on Jun 4, 2013


I think that the film is much-anticipated. I like the content as well as the actors in the film

friv on Jun 5, 2013


What would be more interesting is if Max Brooks is satisfied with what they've done with his book. Methinks he would probably say this film has nothing to do with him.

Lucy Saw on Jun 5, 2013


Matt! I love you.

Friv on Jun 13, 2013


It's weird that as movie fans, we want some.movies to fail. I am guilty of that as well. this film has so much stacked against it. I did not like the "I am legend" CG, but I hope the actors do sell the intensity.

friv 2 friv 3 friv 4 on Jan 15, 2014

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