Starring: Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad), Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale (The Grey), David Morse (The Green Mile)
Director: Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace)
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play) and Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) & Damon Lindelof (Prometheus)
Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Release Date: 21 June (US, UK)
Zombie movies. Much like the undead, these movies just won’t stop coming. But World War Z (extremely loosely based on the book by Max Brooks) is Hollywood’s biggest attempt so far to cash in on the zombie craze. But does big money really make a better movie, or is it just going to get caught in the shuffle?
If there’s one thing World War Z does well, it is establishing the world. The first act of the movie does a good job at setting the atmosphere of the recently begun undead epidemic and treats the situation in a serious, realistic manner. The majority of traditional zombie lore is intact here, but the film also throws out some intriguing new ideas that keep things interesting. This is a refreshing outlook on the genre; most zombies movies these days are either about showing as much gore as possible or taking the piss, so it’s nice to see the material to be used for different purposes. Unfortunately, the second act of the film takes a large dip. It becomes a series of repetitive encounters: Brad Pitt goes someplace, finds out some info, s*** hits the fan and he has to escape. Luckily, the film’s third act is stronger but noticeably much more small scale; instead of the grand open landscapes infested with undead, the final act is limited to one building with only a few dozen zombies. But surprisingly, this is when the movie is at its best. It just goes to show you that no matter how much money you have, less is more.
Where World War Z mainly fails is in the character department. The actors in the film all do a fine job with the material given to them; it’s just a shame that none of them have very interesting characters to work with. Brad Pitt is a charming and likeable actor, and manages to find a good balance between everyman and bad-ass. But we never find out too much about him as a person, and his only motivation (to get back to his family) is simple and weak. His wife and children don’t do much of anything during the film, and even the movie forgets about them for long stretches. Most of the rest of the cast come in and out, with no one consistently staying the movie before they die or lose their purpose to the plot. It makes it hard to feel attached to anyone when they have so little screentime that there’s no time to give them any kind of interesting personality. The film’s bigger names after Pitt, such as David Morse or Matthew Fox, play bit parts that could have been played by anyone. Great zombie movies of the past relied greatly on the strength of its characters to carry the movie whenever zombies aren’t on screen, and it’s a shame World War Z doesn’t bother to do this.
Considering this film is rated 15/PG-13, don’t expect much gore. This surprisingly doesn’t affect the film too much, as the zombies here are scary not because of their bloodlust but more because of their numbers and ferocity. The way the zombies move in large swarms, evocative of an army of ants or locusts, makes them a completely new but equally frightening foe. The film uses a mix of practical effects and CG to bring the creatures to life, and both are done exceptionally well. The scale of the picture is impressive, taking many opportunities to show masses of infected crawling across the decimated landscape. It’s a sight most zombie movies can only dream of. The film’s score is dark and brooding, very similar in ways to John Murphy’s work on 28 Days Later. However, the cinematography is borderline annoying a lot of the time. The film seems to be have been shot mostly handheld, leading to a lot of shaky cam during action scenes. This, combined with some choppy editing, makes a lot of the action a little hard to watch. I’m guessing this was done to add intensity to film as well as a way of shying away from showing gore (a method previously used to the point of tedium by The Hunger Games), but it just took me out of the movie.
World War Z adds some good ideas to a genre that really needs them, but fails to make me really care about what’s going on. Considering the genre has always dealt with surviving as a team despite people’s differences, and the way the film wants to paint this bigger picture of a world in peril, the film doesn’t seem to care too much about the characters in this environment. What that leads to is an enjoyable but cold picture; one that has its moments but never reaches the heights of its more modest ancestors.
FINAL VERDICT: 6.5/10