June 23, 2013

World War Z

Marc Forster, 2013

In this adaptation of the popular Max Brook's novel, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former UN employee who has to renew his role to help stop an outbreak that is moving so quickly that the entire human race is quickly vanishing by the millions.

Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) directs this story that is an interesting take on the zombie genre. It focuses more on the macro effect of a zombie outbreak than the micro. Instead of following a small group of survivors, you are witnessing a group of panicked high-ranking military officials strategize as large governments have fallen. Instead of a simple foot pursuit, you're seeing swarms of creatures piling on top of each other and hanging fearlessly from helicopters. They come very rodent-like in that sense, which ultimately feels more realistic. The zombies in the film are pretty terrifying (although they look more like the creatures in I am Legend than a George Romero creation). Rapid infection turns into seizures, which is followed by the sound of their bones breaking as their bodies make erratic twitches and jerking movements. The first ten minutes of the film are gripping as the outbreak hits Philadelphia while Gerry and his family are stuck in their car in the middle of a traffic jam.

The biggest flaw with the film is the fact that it has a PG-13 rating. It watered down the carnage, which one would come to expect in this age of The Walking Dead. When the camera pans away quickly to avoid the view of bloodshed, something just isn't there. That makes films like 28 Days Later stand out so much, that sense of realism. There is a certain requirement for gore that reinforces the barbaric nature of a zombie. Also, with that PG-13 rating you lose a certain sociological component. The unpredictable nature of not only the zombies but fellow humans. People aren't so willing to open their doors to strangers in the middle of the apocalypse. You find that the world is limited to three commodities: guns, gasoline and food. World War Z lacks that dystopian element. You don't get a sense of that darker side of humanity in this film. Instead, strangers open their doors and offer food and shelter. Generous and inspiring, yes... but not realistic. Part of what makes zombie films so interesting is not only the idea that you are fighting off these blood-hungry creatures - you are also fighting off your fellow man. At the end of the day, it's just not THAT type of zombie film and that's still okay. The action sequences are satisfying and Brad Pitt is effective in his role as Gerry. Pitt dedicated the film to his two sons, who are both zombie fanatics. I suppose there is room for both types of films in the genre, and World War Z still makes an impression with some original ideas and visual elements.

The rumors were running wild during the production of World War Z. The ending was re-shot which pushed back the initial release date (Q1 2013). The ending of the film leaves it open for a sequel, but ultimately does a good job of wrapping things up. It certainly seems to be well-received - people were actually applauding in the theater during the end credits.

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