Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review: World War Z (2013)

World War Z directed by Marc Forester

One of the many films I regret not having seen in the cinema last summer is World War Z, based on the popular novel by Max Brooks. We zombie parents love World War Z in its many forms and were excited about a movie version. Naturally, a movie must be very different from the book. The book is a series of interviews and stories collected while compiling a report for the United Nations. A narratively faithful version would have to be a TV miniseries, probably mimicking the Ken Burns documentary style. A two-hour movie could not cover all the different stories in the book but the movie gets the feel of it by spanning the globe in search of a way to fight the unrelenting waves of the undead.

"Waves" is a good term to use, because the zombies here for the most part are fast-moving swarms that overrun streets, walls, apartment buildings, etc. The visuals of zombies piling up in massive heaps to scale walls are amazing. There are very few close-ups of zombies till the end. They are not very gory even when attacking people. Almost all of the gore happens just off screen, making viewers squirm more than feel nauseated.

The story follows Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) a retired special agent for the UN who gets pulled back into service as the world begins to be overrun. He and his family flee their Philadelphia home and are picked up in Newark, New Jersey, by the UN forces after some harrowing encounters. They are taken to a air craft carrier that's become the UN headquarters. Lane is convinced to help the investigation into where the infection came from and he heads off to North Korea. Things don't go well there and he starts hopping from place to place to try and find a solution to the zombie problem.

The movie is exciting enough in parts but is not quite convincing. I never believed Brad Pitt's character was in jeopardy, which is a bit of a problem. None of the other characters are around long enough or developed enough to be compelling. After his family makes it to the boat, any jeopardy they experience feels forced.

Considering the great source material, the film borrows unnecessarily from other sources. For example, the last third looks like something from the Resident Evil game franchise (I haven't seen the movies yet but have played one or two of the games); there's a Hannibal Lecter-type character; the ultimate solution is cribbed from Species and is not very believable.

On one hand, I wanted to like this movie a lot. On the other, I didn't really hate it. It's just another summer action movie that takes itself too seriously and (rather shamefully) begs to become a franchise at the end. I'm not interested in seeing a sequel.

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