World War Z (Movie review)

world-war-z-poster031The anticipated Hollywood blockbuster movie “World War Z” is “based” on Max Brook’s novel “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War”, which is about fictional interviews on Zombie Apocalypse survivors. Now that would have been great to see! A documentary horror film all about Zombies! It would have been interesting to see a different take on the Zombie genre, but again this is a Hollywood movie. This review, like the movie will remain completely separated from the novel. “World War Z” is basically an adaptation of the title and not the storytelling words inside.

What a battle this film has gone through to have it play at a theater near you! The film’s original release date was set for December 2012. The production was delayed due to quite a few drawbacks, (could it be the lack of originality?) which lead the whole process in zigzags filled with rewrites and reshoots. Despite the hope to have a stronger story, it only weakens the film. We end up getting all the crumbs left over like a store bought cookie box.

The film has an A list actor Brad Pitt and a talented director, Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace), what can go wrong? From the trailer to the stars we were lead to believe that this film would be fantastic! Unfortunately this is not the case. To add to this bundle of love, we get a PG-13 rating. Yay a Zombie flick with no blood and guts! This is a common trait that Hollywood has been doing lately on horror films. The film ends up being so limited that it looks like it was a made for TV movie. The lack of gruesome bloodshed is a huge disappointment to all horror fanatics.

The film follows Gerry Lane (Pitt), a retired United Nations employee who is ordered to travel the world to find a way to end this Zombie contagion, which was originally thought to be an outbreak in Rabies, The Spanish Flu, or even a bad case of chickenpox. The premise of the movie is about the dawn of Zombies and finding a cure. The film opens up with sounds of a heartbeat and images of a calm and harmonious morning. This is perhaps a typical opening to a summer blockbuster; the beginning of a normal day which ends up being a natural disaster but in this case we have Zombies! There are little hints to show that what seems normal is actually not. For example the news mentions dolphins being mysteriously found dead and that there is an outbreak of human rabies. We see a nice family shot of Gerry with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two kids. This sets up Pitt’s character as a devoted family man.

Ironically the first chunk of the movie showcases great special effects and an imaginative different take on Zombie movements. We see these Zombie creatures moving at the speed of light, but they also tower over each other to climb up a big wall that was built to protect the humans in Jerusalem. We also see them jumping and clinging onto helicopters. They will do anything to eat human flesh, (yet we don’t fully see them do this….where’s the gore?!). We get into some real fun when a zombie makes its way onto a plane. It’s like “Snakes on a Plane” but “Zombies on a Plane”. These sequences are fun, and worth it to watch in the theater. We only wish that we could have more action and gore! There’s also not much of a clear development in the ensemble character of Zombies. We only discover that they respond instantly to sound and that their jaws clack and chatter. There’s no full development on how the humans effectively kill a Zombie for instance : shooting them in the head or burning them.

The film falls flat when it comes to character development. We end up not caring about Gerry’s family and the characters that he bumps into along his pandemic global journey. There is barely any emotion or even fear when Gerry’s family get attacked. Their reactions are more comatose and simply just not there. When Zombies run to attack and eat me I personally would be terrified out of my skull! We then have glimpses of the family lounging around on the United Nations safety ship looking more bored than frightened as if they expected to be on some fancy cruise line. Yes the wife cries (slightly) when she can’t reach Gerry on the phone, but that’s just not enough.

The character Tomas is briefly introduced when Gerry and his family hide for safety in a Newark, NJ Spanish family apartment. Tomas is rescued by Gerry shortly after his parents are presumed killed by Zombies. His introduction and rescue lasts not even five minutes in the film, and that’s all we really know about Tomas. For the rest of the movie when we see him, he’s just standing there just like an unnamed extra. Perhaps it would have been best if Tomas just stayed in the apartment with his folks?

We bump into a character that could have played out a lot better if the film didn’t showcase Gerry’s family and Tomas. We see a female Israeli soldier, Segen, who gets bit by a Zombie. Gerry saves her by amputating her hand, which loosely shows that when you cut off the area that’s been infected you will survive. Segen is with Gerry throughout the second half of the film and we want to like her. However the introduction and development has yet again flatlined. I give her credit though; we care about her more than Gerry’s family. During the beginning of the plane scene, we see Gerry bandaging Segen’s wounds. We briefly learn more about her, before a Zombie attack interrupts it all. That is the only scene that has some sort of background and even a relationship. It flowed quite well but it just isn’t enough. We end up not caring if she gets eaten alive by Zombies from limb to limb.

The story also falls flat in the beginning. For example we see Gerry’s daughter having an asthma attack. The asthma is mentioned once in the film and never again, yet it could have been used later on. It would have been interesting to see Gerry’s daughter being used as the example of the Zombie “camouflage”. The family scenes should have been completely cut as a whole or involved more to make the story stronger. The characters are extremely bland that we would find it more dramatic and interesting if we saw the Zombies eat their living flesh. It’s as though Forster and the writers wanted to cram so many characters and subplots, that it ends up being too much to execute in one movie. Everything ends up being short lived and unfulfilled.
The most anticipated part to this film is seeing if Gerry finds a cure to the Zombie pandemic. This revelation is sadly shown through the use of flashbacks. For instance we see flashes of the sick walking in the midst of the Zombie attack not being affected. These past images are supposed to tell the story that Zombies ignore the weak. If someone is infected or diagnosed with a serious disease or virus the Zombies will simply leave them be. It would have been great to see this discovery through classic storytelling rather than recycled shots.

The last third of the film takes place heavily on one location (did the budget run out?). This location is The World Health Organization facility in Wales. The pacing alone feels as though we are watching a different movie. The entire sequence has no bodies exploding, no guts pouring down the hallway it just has a predictable outcome. Yes there are slow camera pans and great Zombie jaw clenching suspense moments but it all turns out flat and safe. We see what we already predicted, Gerry locks himself in this large refrigerator room that holds viruses. He injects himself with a disease and shortly after we find out that his camouflage theory works. Gerry the family man saves the day!

We completely forget about Gerry’s family for a while yet all Hollywood films must come to a happy ending. There is an intercut between Gerry reuniting with his family and the news on the Zombie cure and aftermath. This whole sequence was uninspiring and redundant. It would be better off if the film ended at the W.H.O. Research facility, everything else is too expository. .
“World War Z” will get kids jumping out of their seat in fright but not your typical horror buff. This film is sadly not meant for horror film fanatics, and readers of Max Brook’s novel will simply be disappointed. It lacks originality, character development and bloodshed. If the pages in the book were adapted to pages in the script, this movie would have been a lot more satisfying. There may have also been less rewrites and reshoots. We would have seen blood and guts, we would have listened to stories that several Zombie apocalypse survivors had to say. We would have been ready for a real life Zombie apocalypse. The movie however is worth watching in theaters but please don’t waste your money on 3D. It’s not worth it for this one. Cryptic Rock gives “World War Z” a 2 out of 5.
Review by Zenae Zukowski.

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