Review: 'World War Z' Saps Excitement from the Zombie Apocalypse
by Jeremy Kirk
June 21, 2013
It's been a bumpy ride getting Max Brooks' World War Z to the big screen. Even with Brad Pitt on as lead/producer/champion and Marc Forster directing, various drafts on the screenplay and a last-minute reshoot on pretty much the whole ending has given us something neither train wreck nor grand blockbuster of a zombie apocalypse. World War Z has a difficult time impressing on any level. The intensity and even excitement that should be built into the very premise is squandered for something subtler that simply doesn't work. Not even Pitt's gleaming charisma can break through the dreary, and sometimes dull tones.
That doesn't stop him from trying. When the film begins, the rioting in the streets is seen on the TV. Gerry Lane (Pitt), former problem solver for the United Nations, is making breakfast for his family, who watch on casually. It's world news. Nothing insane ever happens like that here at home. That's what they think until only minutes later when they come face to face with the insane swarm. It's the zombie apocalypse, humans being taken over by some unseen pandemic that spreads through their vicious bites. The zed word only comes into it, because that's how the military - or what's left of it - classifies it.
What begins very quickly also shows the poor hand it's dealing us right at the same time. As soon as Lane and family begin racing through the chaos of city streets, director Forster - the man who took similar duties on Quantum of Solace, which is important here - goes directly into shaky-cam mode. It's difficult to tell what's going on, who's zombie and who's human. The idea that such a film making technique instantly causes tension for the audience was proven otherwise long ago. World War Z has consistent shaky camera action, and even though the pace of the action never seems to subside for long, it's unable to ever grasp you.
The waves of zombies stampeding over each other to get their human prey is an interesting concept, one that's never been able to be depicted as it is here in this Summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, most of the zombie action here comes in waves of a dozen or less attackers, those waves and piles left for only the few instances we saw in the trailers. When they're not menacing swarms of CG zombies, they're individual CG zombies. The special effects on the undead here isn't horrible, but it's noticeable. Each time they attack, run, even move an arm a bit, the jerky computer effects takes you right out of it.
Which leaves the real interest in World War Z to Lane's search for a cure. We follow the man around the globe, constantly checking in with his family via satellite phone, and watch him go from country to country in hot pursuit of "patient zero," the first of the zombies. This may have been an interesting plot line, but the screenplay as it is loses interest in that fast for a completely different idea altogether. It also has a hard time holding interest on more than one character The screenwriting cooks in this kitchen include Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), J. Michael Straczynski ("The Twilight Zone"), Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), and Damon Lindelof ("Lost" and Prometheus), and the film's intention was never to bring Max Brooks' novel to film as it was written, an oral history of the zombie apocalypse from many, different perspectives long after the war was over.
World War Z, the film, was always going to just be about Pitt's character, Lane. This instantly draws tension away from the film's horror. The "anyone can die at any moment" that usually comes from the sub-genre can only work if you're invested in a large group of character. See "The Walking Dead", the comic or the TV show. It doesn't matter which. But World War Z, Brad Pitt's show and, by that rationale, the story of Gerry Lane during this apocalyptic time only lets us into his character. This might not be a bad thing, all in all. Brad Pitt looking concerned about rampaging zombies is still worth watching. It just doesn't make for a very suspenseful Summer movie.
Even a supporting female soldier aiding Lane (Daniella Kertesz) has a difficult time making us remember her name. World War Z boasts a few names you might recognize: Mireille Enos as Lane's worried wife-at-home; James Badge Dale as captain of an overrun, American outpost; David Morse as an ex-CIA agent who saw this apocalypse coming; and Matthew Fox as…Parajumper. That's his credit, and you would need a keen eye to even notice him. Each of these characters may have had a much larger part here, more development to make them actual characters worth caring about, before the script revisions and reshoots. As it stands, they may as well have vague titles instead, like Matthew Fox's Parajumper.
World War Z is too much world procedural, not enough war action, and the Zs on hand are just silly. A more toned-down version of the zombie apocalypse has always been suspenseful, a small group trapped in a secluded environment quickly becoming overrun by the undead. The zombie movies have gotten larger and larger, and though a blockbuster version of a war against them sounds awesome on paper, the end results of World War Z leaves us craving more. Maybe in the sequel, they'll actually get to the "War" part of the title.
Jeremy's Rating: 5 out of 10
LOL. Not surprised at all. This one is a 200 Million Dollar stinker.
DAVIDPD on Jun 21, 2013
David Banner on Jun 22, 2013
Some are going in wanting to hate it.
Xerxexx on Jun 21, 2013
"Some men just want to watch the world burn." Couldn't resist.
DAVIDPD on Jun 21, 2013
Can't say that I blame you. Also: And any man who is too extreme for Ra's Al Ghul is not to be trifled with.
Xerxexx on Jun 21, 2013
Because of the stink it goes into theaters with already?
cobrazombie on Jun 22, 2013
Just saw it. Yea, I noticed Fox in such a low role without a titled name, I was like "WTF?!"....but anyways...wasn't too impressed about the movie. Was hoping to be impressed. And...and I hate this the most...all the "wow" scenes in the movie, were in the trailer. It was decent, but there are better movies to go see currently playing.
JBrotsis on Jun 21, 2013
Usually try not to mention the trailer in my review, but yeah. There were no "awesome" shots in the movie we didn't already see in the trailer.
Jeremy Kirk on Jun 21, 2013
I thought it was good, not great. At least the shaky camera wasn't as bad as last weeks man of steel which gave me a headache even during the quiet scenes.
Cs on Jun 21, 2013
i loved the book and have had such high hopes for this, but all i keep seeing are negative reviews. going to see it tonight, maybe i'll enjoy it since i'm going in with such low expectations.
Astroboy3000 on Jun 21, 2013
So... is it really so bad? Anyone has a different opinion?
capitandelespacio on Jun 21, 2013
DAVIDPD on Jun 21, 2013
LINDELOF!!!! Ugh. Hate his work. I will definitely not be paying to see this.
Blizzed on Jun 21, 2013
I actually thought it was really good. Not as a zombie movie, but as a world epidemic film, which is what I was looking for it to be. Zombie movies have come and gone, taking almost every angle (Humor = zombieland, romance = Warm Bodies, etc). But this one sets itself apart and took the focus off of scaring and put it more on the process of finding a cure. While the somewhat odd pacing of the film is undoubtably due to the rewrites, and more characters should've been utilized, the film works well overall.
Jackson on Jun 21, 2013
Im sorry but this movie was beyond terrible. Stop telling yourself that you 'thought it was really good'. Stop being ok with mediocre shit Hollywood produces these days. This has by far been the worst year of movies yet. Brad Pitt emotional acting or maybe he just doesn't give a shit about acting anymore. He mentioned that he isn't into it anymore and you can tell. The dialog was written by amateurs and OF COURSE the ending or 3rd act was convoluted by none other then Damon Lindelof. You know that guy that gets PAID to make movies just fall apart. Even Beltrami's brilliant score was butchered. I could barely hear it. Oh and there was zero blood. The Zombie make up was laughable. Michael Jacksons Thriller had better make up. Do i sound like an bitter, angry Troll? Maybe. But my point is, no one wants movies to suck. i WANT them to be good. Decent. It doesn't matter what genre. The Writers these days get away with any plot holes because the story is shit anyways. Im sick of it. And i surely have the right to voice my, maybe, snobby sounding opinion.
Toksin on Jun 21, 2013
That was "Brad Pitt emotionless". Sorry about that.
toksin on Jun 21, 2013
I also want to like movies too, but Hollywood is just churning out big budget crap too much now. And the sad thing is audiences are becoming so used to average flashy empty movies, that's all that we get.
cobrazombie on Jun 22, 2013
I agree; the movie was fairly mediocre, but you'll have to learn the difference between 'then' and 'than' if you want to be taken seriously when voicing an opinion.
Hiroki Kikuta on Jul 20, 2013
Jeremy....do you ever like the movies you review? I think the only one that comes to mind is Hugo.
Alex Williams on Jun 21, 2013
Gee, I don't know. The last 10 out of 10 I gave was THIS IS THE END. Last week.
Jeremy Kirk on Jun 22, 2013
Is anybody here actually surprised?! Zombie movie that's pg-13 And has Brad "I don't care anymore" Pitt....of course it is awful! Btw the book is awesome!
SkyNet300 on Jun 21, 2013
Yeah, most of the scenes are in the trailer. Still thought it was entertaining though
Filmigos on Jul 1, 2013
All I can really say is that I'm happy I only paid $3.50 to see this at a discount theater. I totally agree with Jeremy's analysis!
Neil on Aug 10, 2013
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