Marc Foster’s reimagining of Max Brook’s World War Z starring Brad Pitt is cleaning up the box office; no doubt taking advantage of the nation’s current zombie craze, as well as cashing in on the fame of the book of the same name. However, whether or not it is just a cheap cash in is up for conjecture.
Our story focuses around retired family man Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt. As they are enjoying another lovely day in Philadelphia, there are news reports of an epidemic spreading on every corner of the globe. Before long, it presents itself to the Lane family, leading to a daring escape via helicopter. They are taken to the Atlantic Fleet which is acting as a mobile refugee camp. There, the severity of the situation is explained; as most world powers have either gone completely dark or are in the midst of being overrun as the estimated death toll climbs to the billions. Gerry Lane, as well as a team of soldiers and scientists, embark on a journey around the globe to find the source so that they might be able to devise a way to combat the spread of the virus. Therein lies the greatest issue taken with the film; a complete deviation.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a significant deviation from the source material provided that the story can maintain a compelling narrative and complex characters. However, here the premise of the movie, attempting to find a cure for the virus, doesn’t match up with the title. At no point did the film demonstrate a true war, or even significant steads against the hordes. Instead, we follow Brad Pitt and whichever survivors he can bring with him from city to city to find patient zero and lead to a cure. That in of itself isn’t a problem with the movie on the whole, but anyone expecting a fast paced, action-heavy conflict against throngs of the undead will be sorely disappointed.
The film is hindered with its lack of an R-rating. With the lowered MPAA rating, the film isn’t able to show some of the more gory details. Meaning that the zombies look little more than regular people with eye and slight skin irritants. And any of the scenes wherein we see dispatching of the infected, there is a surprising lack of blood, gore or even exclamations of obscenities. No blood shooting from the necrotic flesh of zombies is one thing, but to see nothing when living humans are attacked is another. With the exception of Brad Pitt and his family, there are virtually no other characters that are at all memorable. Any of the interesting ones aren’t given sufficient screen time to flush them out, whereas the rest are merely a traveling feast for the undead. It is to be expected of a movie like this, but taking other zombie films into account, there are others with much richer character development and more thorough interaction and overcoming horrific situations; something that is almost completely absent here.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the film is its anticlimactic completion. There is no truly epic standoff, and the audience isn’t privy to any kind of cathartic conclusion. The situation is left even bleaker than when the story began. However, at the risk of a spoiler, the audience at least isn’t treated to some kind of a bullsh$t cookie cutter ending that is completely insulting to the story.
World War Z is not a bad movie; it just doesn’t live up to its full potential. The source material could have easily been stretched into a miniseries and, given proper funding, easily rivaled The Walking Dead. Even with a relatively short two hour running time, the story moves along at a remarkably slow pace considering the amount of potential for subplots and alternative stories. However, the acting is completely sound, the settings are gorgeous, and the atmosphere built up in scenes such as the apartment building in Newark and the landing strip in South Korea is palpable. Hardcore zombie fans would better served revisiting other works, but this movie would still be satisfying to the movie going public. Two stars out of four.
Watch the trailer. World War Z opens nationwide June 21st.