In World War Z Brad Pitt plays a former U.N. investigator attempting to stave off a zombie apocalypse.
For all of the delays rewrites and reshoots that plagued World War Z it turned out to be a solid summer action flick. The irony though is the thing that might be its most festering infection is the plague itself.
World War Z would be better if it weren t a zombie movie.
That s not to say there shouldn t be legions of infected undead swarming all over the place because those things actually are pretty awesome. But when something markets itself as a zombie movie it inevitably takes on certain baggage. Zombies and the movies TV shows and comics about them have a rich history and certain tropes that demand to be acknowledged. If they re not it s hard to get past the cognitive dissonance created by a movie no matter how enjoyable it might be that isn t what it s billed as. It s as if a scrawny insecure Thor appeared in an Avengers flick. It might be an interesting story or character study but that dude wouldn t be a truly Asgardian superhero.
Similarly if you re a fan of gory zombie action and you re going to this PG 13 flick looking for your bloody fix of gore you might leave wanting.
Of course changing up the zombie game is exactly what director Marc Forster (Monster s Ball) and his fellow filmmakers set out to do. During a recent screening of World War Z in San Francisco the movie s star and producer Brad Pitt introduced the film by saying If you think you re just about to see another zombie film you re in for a bit of a shock. This thing is big it s like nothing you ve seen before.
He s right.
(Spoiler alert Minor plot points for World War Z in the text below.)
The movie a fast paced race by one man to stop a total zombie apocalypse isn t like a lot of zombie fare which tends to focus on a small group of people fighting the undead in rural (or at least abandoned) surroundings.
Before we go any further though a quick primer World War Z loosely based on the book by Max (son of Mel) Brooks is an enjoyable action movie in which former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane played by Pitt finds himself his wife and two young daughters in the midst of a worldwide undead epidemic. The family escapes with help from Lane s U.N. connections but by calling in that favor he is asked to trace the source of the disease and stop it. He goes from South Korea scene of one of the first reported cases to Jerusalem which has built a wall to keep the undead out and ultimately to a World Health Organization facility.
His journey is a nail biter. (We have the cuticles to prove it.) And in addition to being suspenseful the flick drives home the personal and global reactions such an outbreak would bring. In a key moment Lane believes he may have been infected and stands on the roof of a towering apartment building prepared to jump knowing he s better off dead than a threat to his family. That s as real as it gets. Also telling are the geopolitical reactions and their ties to real world politics. North Korea for example staves off an invasion of the undead by removing everyone s teeth so they can t bite. Such undertones make World War Z as intelligent as it is shocking.
That said it could use a little more feeling and character development but hey you can only tell so much story in a couple hours.
But considering the tweaking done to zombie lore it could ve just as easily been about another kind of outbreak and been just as poignant. And maybe it should have. As Annalee Newitz at io9 notes Maybe the problem with World War Z is that zombie movies require a certain amount of weirdness or subversiveness to succeed. Turning a zombie pandemic into a generic disaster movie robs the zombies of their dirty nasty edginess and robs the disaster of its epic scope.
Bingo. But what if World War Z didn t call itself a zombie movie
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