I promised someone today I would write this review tonight depending on how livid I Was after the showing. Well Rocky, here you go. I find myself in a difficult position in writing this particular review. I have gone on record many a time as saying – “I don’t read books to the movies so I can judge the movie as a film without considering the source material.” I also hate hypocrisy and since I have read the book (4 times), listened to the audio book and met the author once its safe to say that I am a fan of the material, neh? That being said I will give you two reviews in one. The first will be the objective review of an amateur film critic and that of someone who loves movies more than almost anything. The second half will be the one for the other fans of the material, don’t worry the wait will be worth it.
Heads up this is a long one – feel free to skip to the section of your choice. TL;DR at the bottom this time.
Ok objectivity time.
World War Z, the film has some interesting history. The most noticeable of which is during post production (thats after all filming has been done) the producers of the film, which include star Brad Pitt himself, ordered six weeks of reshoots. Now if you don’t spend a lot of time reading about movies and looking at behind the scenes that doesn’t mean much. Those who do know are already wincing. You see six weeks is how long some movies take to actually shoot all of the principal photography for the film. Thats right in six weeks many of your favorite movies have been shot end to end. This one….had six weeks of reshoots?
So what might there be to that? Well that brings us to the second warning in the films opening credits – which are told via jumbled news broadcasts that seem to tell you nothing really – where we are shown that the movie has four writers involved. Again if you know movies you are starting to go for the wine like I just did. If you don’t I will ask you to watch the opening credits next time you watch a movie. At most you may see 2, Story By / Screenplay by. This one…four. Four. During the six week reshoot the fourth writer was brought in. some of these writers are very talented giving us some of the best episodes of Buffy (Drew Goddard), and Babylon 5 (J. Michael Straczynski) – others gave us Cowboys and Aliens and the worst parts of Prometheus (Damon Lindelof).
Do I lay all the blame there for the two and a half hours of bloated film? Nay I cannot. Perhaps I should lay it on director Marc Forster, who gave us the most boring Bond film Quantum of Solace. Don’t remember it? You may have experienced brief bouts of narcolepsy watching it. Yet…his incompetence behind the camera does not lay the blame on his shoulders either. I then look to the producers. Who put the money of their investors into this, green lit it, called the shots and threw their proverbial weight to make this movie and at the end of the day were satisfied with it.
Sounds like I hate it and I am not being objective? Actually…I am experiencing a profound sense of ennui from it. It exists. It will continue to exist and there will be people who like it. There will be people who call for blood, but at the end of the day I feel “Meh” about it as a film. It is deeply flawed on nearly every level but doesn’t actually exert enough effort to be that good or that bad for me to exert enough effort to hate it as a film on its own merits. So whats the story here?
Brad Pitt as jesus, no sorry Gerry Lane, a former U.N. agent who goes into hot zones around the world and does…something. Is he a doctor? No. Is he a soldier? Nope. Is he a survivalist? Almost. What exactly are his qualifications? If you figure it out let me know. Apparently though he is very good at going into these places and surviving, every one he knows told us so.
The movie begins with an introduction to Gerry and his McGuffin – his family. He loves them. He quit his job to make pancakes for them – no I am serious. The outbreak has already begun around the world and we are treated to society as we know it breaking down. Gerry gets a call from the deputy secretary of the UN who wants to help save him and his family because Gerry can save us all by finding the patient zero and finding a cure for the zombie virus. The rest of the movie is Gerry travelling various locations in the world with a horde of red shirts trying to find the cure.
That there is the problem. Its a film full of red shirts and superman. Who despite his own mistakes that cost others lives (a trope came into play and I was irritated) and to save his own life crashes a 737 which he and his red shirt of the moment are the only two survivors. I really don’t care about anyone in this film. It takes no chances and theres no real risk. He is worried about his family that never actually feels in danger. He is traveling the world watching people die but it holds no weight. None of the people matter. The writers give it an effort with one or two but really thats it. It was the end of the world as we know it and I didn’t care. It lacks heart. It lacks the subtlety to make you feel for a world that is dying and being overrun.
Let’s talk about that shall we? 12 second bite to full on zombification. Interesting. Hasn’t been done. Yes, the movie did something I hadn’t quite seen before, the closest is 28 days later which did it slightly better and actually made you feel for the characters. So a highly virulent incubation time with a near hive like mentality. We have in fact now created zombie ants. Feel the terror. No? Alright. I didn’t either. When I heard Max Brooks speak he said there is a fundamental difference in the type of terror between fast zombies and slow zombies.
A slow zombie, with a slow infection time is like standing at the door of a plane with a parachute waiting to jump out your very first time. A fast zombie is already being in free fall and pulling the rip cord and nothing happens on the first pull. I won’t get into which is better, thats a matter of taste. Suffice to say I prefer the slow zombie.
I won’t even get into the pseudoscience of the contamination and it’s vectors. Anyone with the barest inkling of medical knowledge will skip the wine and go for the hard alcohol and pray they can drink themselves to enough of a stupor that it makes sense.
Now if you do like your zombies fast, then this movie has your zombies. It has them move like a CGI tide of angry ants, leaping, climbing and launching themselves with a sense of nigh invulnerability. Of course you will have trouble seeing that except for a few star zombies here and there. Once again I am left to wonder if upon graduating from film school all directors, cinematographers and DP’s have the words – Steady Cam and Tripod – removed from their brain. If the shaky cam wasn’t bad enough, you would think the action scene editors was suffering some horrible mental illness that didn’t let him keep his attention for more than two frames at a time and that he felt if he couldn’t no one else would.
Then there is our ending. I promise as always to be spoiler free. It annoyed me with the sheer weight of its self indulgence. The time I wasn’t annoyed I was also pleasantly surprised by the idea. Again something I had not quite seen before.
So two things new brought to the zombie film genre which is tough to do these days. The North Korea solution is also inventive. Those are the pro’s to film full of cons. Going forward those who hold the rights to films like this need to have a 10th man.
With that particular inside joke if you wish to continue reading please prepare your blast shields now, though I cannot promise they will help.
The Compare and Contrast Review –
WHAT THE ?!!?!?! The only thing the movie has in common with the book is the god damned title. ok sure Jurgen Warmbrunn makes a cursory appearance. There is a ostensibly black boy with a cricket bat a bit far from south africa and possibly a reference to Raj but not sure….yeah ok thats it.
No Lawrence Kansas, No Athena, No LOBO (even the SEALS in South Korea didn’t have one), No Yonkers, No False cures, No Decimation, no Raj Singh, No China, No Reddeker, and no winters where everyone ate just fine. I needed a pessimist to look at me during this film and tell me “everything will be just fine.” It clearly wasn’t.
I know there is an internet meme about that says in short “I want this book into a movie actually means I want every page and nuance on film.” I may be victim to this but when you title a movie World War Z and say its based on the book by Max Brooks I would expect some similarities. I know that book to movie is difficult, things need to be cut. It happens. Its the nature of the beast and I am ok with my favorite scenes not being in a film as long as the film actually follows the arc of the source material. This does none of that.
This needed to be an HBO or Showtime series. Maybe FX or SPIKE as counter programming to Walking Dead. The book just cannot be done in 2 hours, or three or four. Shame on them for trying to think they could bring any of what makes the book special to screen in two hours. They failed so miserably I can only hope that in retrospect that they break their own hands to avoid writing something so horrible again.
For me at least the story of world war z is about humanity. Humanity at its worst, humanity at its best. Humanity trying to survive despite itself and maybe being a little wiser for it. Yes there is sociopolitical satire laced through it but it has heart. It tells the story of people you can believe might actually be real. That there are people like this in the world. They aren’t just archetypes in the book – they are living, breathing entities that has more definition than the quislings this movie gave us.
I think I could keep going on napalming this movie but I am going to cut to the chase. (too late I know)
If you are a zombie movie fan who must watch every zombie flick – alright, you might get your monies worth.
Anyone else. Anyone with an ounce of self respect and a desire not to waste two hours of their lives that can never be recovered – DO NOT SEE THIS FILM.
Go to the book store, get the paperback copy of the book, get it on tape, anything else, but just don’t see this movie. Give to the person who deserves money for seeing his work whacked apart with a LOBO. Deny those who thought this was a good idea any sort of support to the idea.
To borrow from Doug Walker, The Nostalgia Critic – I am Jessica Darke I saw it so you don’t have to.