WORLD WAR Z
Genre: Action Thriller
Running Time: 115 mins.
Premise: When a zombie outbreak reaches global catastrophe, United Nations worker Gerry (Brad Pitt) travels the world trying to find a cure while evading zombie attacks.
Behind-the-Scenes: This was a very troubled production, with Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) never having directed an epic, effects-filled movie of this scale, and going into the start of shooting without a finished script. Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were brought in late to draft a third act, and the movie was pushed from Christmas 2012 to this June 21 date. For more on World War Z's production history, check out this great Vanity Fair piece.
The Good: Critics have been surprisingly kind to World War Z so far - mostly because everyone knows how out of control and over budget the movie was (up to $250 million!). The fact that the end result is competent and watchable has to count as some kind of success. Brad Pitt is still a movie star, and I enjoyed seeing him paired with The Killing's Mireille Enos, if only for the first 30 minutes and even though Enos is given nothing to do as the movie progresses.
The Bad: If you've seen the trailer, then you've seen all the money shots and about 70% of the movie already. There's not much more to it. Forster directs action in a scattershot, unorganized manner, and it's difficult to make out what is happening on screen. There is a lack of finesse to the big action set pieces. Take the opening attack, for instance. Compare what Spielberg did in War of the Worlds, slowly building dread and then letting it erupt when those aliens first appear. That level of control and discipline is nowhere on display here. The zombies are ill-defined (other than it takes 11 seconds to turn after a bite) and their design is generic and uninteresting, not to mention bloodless. You really feel the limitations of the PG-13 rating. Despite having horror elements, there are no genuine scares to be had, apart from 1-2 silly jump scares. The movie never gets under your skin or gives you chills the way 28 Days or 28 Weeks Later did. Those two movies are masterpieces in comparison, and World War Z would have been better off emulating them more. Not sure why, but the screenwriters decided to name Gerry's main contact at the UN, Thierry. So, most of the dialogue consists of the two talking to each other, as someone else hands them the phone and says "Gerry, it's Thierry" or "Thierry, it's Gerry." Knock Man of Steel all you want for its egregious product placement (Sears! IHOP!), but it doesn't hold a candle to what World War Z does. It's no spoiler to say that during the big climax, Pitt goes to a vending machine with only Pepsi in it, and takes a lovingly framed swig of that oh-so-refreshing Pepsi. Hilarious. I guess they had to pay for all those reshoots somehow.
Should You See It?: No. Go watch 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later, and hold out hope that they'll someday make 28 Months Later instead.
Star Rating: ** out of 5 stars.
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