Cert: 15 Runtime: 116 mins Director: Marc Forster Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Anos, Daniella Kertesz, Abigail Hargrove, Fana Mokoena and Peter Capaldi
Life as we know it will come to an end in 90 days. It’s on us to change that
So after the delays and the controversy World War Z is finally here, never read the book in my life but I do intend too at some point. All I know is Brad Pitt is in a zombie movie, that was enough for me. So what is World War Z? Humanity will be brought to the brink of extinction by a devastating international crisis. Entire populations are mysteriously transformed into an enemy beyond our comprehension, every nation is united in the fight to survive. On a globe-spanning race against time, U.N. Specialist Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) may be the only one who can hunt down the cause, risking everything he has left to protect his family and turn the tide of the world’s last war before time runs out for everyone. With the summer blockbuster movie season in the swing, audiences expect all the usual trappings that come along with such; i.e huge explosions and no plot. That’s what you’ll get with World War Z, a film that is flash and substance, cranked to insane levels with bucket loads of CGI and little regards for smooth and cohesive narrative which could’ve elevated it beyond just action and special effects.
The first major problem came down to the zombies themselves. For a zombie film to get that right is critical and World War Z stumbled pretty badly here. The physical appearance of the zombies is a clear problem. Given the film’s penchant for shying away from blood and gore to keep its rating audience-friendly, the only things that separates these zombies from regular people are milky eyes, grey skin, and a tendency to bare and snap their teeth. They’re not the bloodthirsty creatures at various stages of decay and ruin that feature in most zombie films. This is generally fine in close-ups but at a distance it’s impossible to tell the zombies apart from regular people. And when most of your action scenes involve panicking people running away from what are allegedly zombies, having them pretty much indistinct from each other means you never get much of an inclination about the level of the threat or even what’s going on.A possible solution would have been for the film to opt for the shambling moaning Romero-esque zombies of the book. Instead of running and tackling, having a slowly ever-advancing tide of danger would have given turned the zombies into something to be feared rather than something to try and spot in a crowd.But even later when the film displays zombies in their ‘docile’ state its shown how little the film-makers understand how zombies are supposed to work. The jerking around and screeches were meant to be threatening and they are anything but. They are borderline slapstick and certainly comical judging by the outbreaks of laughter in the audience at my screening.
The second major problem came down to the complete lack of weight or tension. Brad Pitt isn’t the type of actor anyone expects to be in danger, at least not when he’s in an action film, so already there’s the knowledge that he’s fairly safe. But added to that, his character is a practically invulnerable bad-ass UN investigator whose field knowledge and ingenuity makes him able to adapt to any situation. His ‘baggage’, as I referred to them earlier, is played at first by his wife and two daughters as well as an orphan boy. The baggage is then played by a doctor and a team of soldiers who are so bereft of personality and character that there is no reason to care about them. He then teams up with a young Israeli soldier who is the closest person aside from Pitt to qualify to be called a character but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. His final baggage comes in the form of a team of WHO doctors. I won’t say anything about them aside from pointing out that all four are named in the credits as “W.H.O. Doctor” despite being a key part of around a quarter of the film. Though I wouldn’t recommend the film, to its credit it managed to attain a level of being entertaining and it never embarrassed itself, (despite a squeamish bit of product placement.) It was clearly let down by a few core problems and while certainly not a good film I’d feel a bit mean if I were to label it ‘bad’. I’m disappointed that it painted itself as a zombie film for zombie fans while clearly being a toothless blockbuster to appeal to a broader audience, (however understandable that move may be from a film studio’s perspective given the production problems and cost blow-out.) For this reason maybe the film tripped up and fell flat on its face but as it dragged itself to the finish line I’m willing to applaud it for that at least.