Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mirelles Enos, Fana Mokoena, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Capaldi
Plot: As zombies take over the world, decimating the population of several countries, UN representative, Gerry Lane (Pitt) races across the world, trying to track down the source of the infection and any possible cure.
World War Z has had a tough journey getting to the big screen. The script went through several rewrites, being batted back and forth between the busy Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, the budget kept ballooning and rumour had it Brad Pitt and Forster weren’t getting along, even though Pitt specifically recommended the director for the job. On top of all of that, there were doubts that the film was even a good idea to work with. The source material is a pretty lacklustre book; the content is good, but it has been said to read like a UN report on a zombie invasion, rather than a thriller. Then there were those who thought that the world was not ready for another zombie movie. Despite all of this, it is hard to be too disappointed with the end result.
What we are given is a summer blockbuster combined with a disaster zombie movie. Most zombie films focus on small-scale struggles, pitting (no pun intended!) interesting characters against zombies in an unusual environment. With World War Z, however, we get a budget of $190 million dedicated to bringing us the largest scale zombie movie to ever grace the big screen. Brad Pitt, father of two, is reluctantly called back by the UN to track down the source of the zombie epidemic. He travels from Korea to Israel to a sleepy village in Wales, trying to figure out where these zombies came from and if they can actually be stopped. The action rarely stops and when it does, you will be grateful for the breather. This film is definitely a fun ride. On the downside, we have been here before. Zombies have been done to death now and you can kind of predict every shock the movie is about to throw at you. The opening fight in Philadelphia feels like a shot-for-shot homage to the ‘Last of Us’ opening on the PS3.
Forster’s addition to the zombie canon is pretty clear from the trailers. These zombies aren’t Romero’s original vision (the slow, shuffling kind), but more along the lines of Danny Boyle’s menacing creations. They are fast, blood-thirsty and the transformation into zombie takes mere seconds. On top of that, Forster gives his zombies the ability to use themselves as human pyramids to get to their next meal. The trailer showed us the shot of the Infected climbing over themselves to get over the giant wall in Jerusalem. Personally, this kind of action could have been used more. Despite promising a new look for the zombies, there isn’t any major changes. Other than what we have seen in the trailers, there aren’t really any more similar moments in the movie. Also, Forster tones down his zombies in the final act (this is not the first zombie story to make this mistake): in Korea, Matthew Fox tells us that the undead take five bullets to slow down, yet by the end, Brad Pitt is able to take out a zombie with a single swing of a crowbar.
Other flaws with the movie come with the usual territory of summer blockbuster. To make it more family friendly, Forster cuts away from the kills and blood. It’s not as distressing a change as it has been made out to be, but it doesn’t quite satisfy you in the way smaller zombie movies would. Also, we can pretty much guarantee that Brad Pitt isn’t going to be radically killed off before the midway point of the film. While the chase scenes in Jerusalem were exciting, it fell a little flat. We knew Brad Pitt, the only character really worth investing any emotion in, would survive somehow, therefore there was very little fear or tension in the action. With ‘The Walking Dead’, you are constantly watching through your fingers, convinced the writers are about to kill off Hershel or someone. We do not get that with World War Z.
There are also a lot of wasted characters in this movie. We are given Gerry Lane, the pivotal hero of the piece, but other than that, every character only grabs a slice of screen time. At first, it was amusing, introducing a seemingly important character only to have him trip up and shoot himself in the face, the first time he sees a zombie. But then, Matthew Fox, David Morse and James Badge Dale (an actor I have bookmarked for big things in the near future), were written out, as soon as they entered the action. By the end, you stopped caring for anyone that Pitt bumped into, along the way. At least Gerry Lane makes for a good hero. It’s not Pitt’s hardest role, as he pretty much has the character of ‘worried father’ locked down. He makes the small moments count though: the scene where he whispers goodbye to his eldest daughter is very emotional.
But then, just when I think I have the entire film worked out, it hits me with a fantastic sequence in Wales. Forster ditches the wide-scale cities been torn apart and just gives us three characters (finally well-developed), sneaking through a lab, hiding from 80 zombies. The direction is great, every tense moment is milked for all it is worth and I am finally back to the zombie movie I wanted to see. The ending saved the film and I wish the rest of the movie followed in its steps.
Final verdict: Despite several missed tricks, World War Z remains an entertaining summer blockbuster with a fantastic finale.