Wednesday, July 17, 2013

World War Z Review

reposted from Flick Show Ticket

World War Z...They Spent $220million on this?
Okay, I have to be honest and upfront about something, I friggen love zombie movies! They have been a big part of my cinematic diet for closing in on 15+ years. In one night, one of the movie channels ran the Original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, the 1990 Night of the Living Dead Remake AND the horror comedy classic Return of the Living Dead! That's right... all of them... in one night, needless to say I didn't sleep much! But since that night, I have loved the genre. Whenever there is a rainstorm or nasty weather out, it is Zombie Movie Weather! With that I have a high standard to meet when it comes to zombie movies, but I also appreciate that the genre opens up the opportunity for a lot of So-Bad-They're-Funny movies, so I am by no means a Zombie Movie Snob, I just like good story, lots of gore, and a mounting sense of danger and tension with a little bit of humor tossed in for good measure. Sadly for this one, World War Z doesn't have any of those elements.

Staring and produced by Brad “I always look great” Pitt and directed by the guy that ruined Quantum of Solace, Mark Foster, we are given this odd creature of a movie. Zombies have traditionally been a long-standing member of the horror movie club. The film adaptation of World War Z sets about to graduate the horror sub-genre into the realm of Hollywood Summer Action Movie with mixed to negative results. I'll give the filmmakers some credit for trying to break the Zombie movie mold, but when there is a cast iron mold in place that works and offers plenty of room for interpretation, taking blood hungry flesh eating zombies and making them kid friendly PG-13 was the wrong step to take. Not that I'm upfront against the idea of kid friendly zombies, I adored Paranorman, but for the stakes this movie attempts to portray of total world destruction an annihilation, this was a dire mistake. With no real on screen violence or gore, or real death that isn't a piece of horribly rendered CGI, it's hard to care or feel any real sense of danger. These Zombies leap 15 feet in the air, create "ant mounds" to climb up buildings and push over buses with little to no effort. And since 99% of them are CGI they're not scary or believable. With no gore, they're a non-threat. There is a scene where Brad Pitt uses a crowbar to kill a zombie, but because there is no on screen gore, the audience has no idea that his weapon is stuck in the head of the dead. As another zombie is barring down on him, we're left to guess what is going on as Pitt struggles to pick up his weapon because they wont show us what is going on! Rather than being tense and scary, it's just confusing.

Breaking away from the "anthology" style story structure of the book by Max Brooks from which it's "based," what we have here is a pretty straight forward, follow the dude travel around the world thriller in the vein of the Bourn movies. Seriously, switch Pitt for his Ocean's co-star, drop the zombies and you virtually have the same movie. And that's it's biggest problem. This isn't all that scary, and is only intermittently suspenseful. I will admit, outright, upfront that the beginning of the film is awesome. There is some genuine suspense and creepiness as the Zombie plague starts to spread just in time for Brad Pitt's character Gerry and his family about to go on vacation. As the scene unfolds, you get sucked in by it's natural build, a news report here, random traffic jam there, a cop zipping past on a motorcycle going the wrong way in traffic... and then BOOM! the hoard is upon them, and Gerry is forced to take his family on foot to safety. Sounds good right? Sadly, it's at this moment the movie loses me.

You see, Gerry used to work for the U.N. in some capacity, we're never actually given any information about what he did. All we know is he would go into random combat hot zones and report what he saw, like Hans Blix in Iraq, only people believe Gerry because he has super perception powers. Seriously. I am not kidding when I say that. His daughter drops some stuffed rabbit that has a recording in it like Teddy Ruxpin that has some kind of second by second countdown in the recording and that's how Gerry "Super Perceives" that you have 12 seconds from the time someone is bitten to the time they fully turn into a Zombie. Seriously. He has more moments like this where his "Gerry Sense Tingles" and he notices something but doesn't put the pieces together until days later when the good that it would have done has passed.

After all hell breaks loose, Gerry is forced to go back into the field or risk having his family deported from the safety of an aircraft carrier. What doesn't help the stakes of this movie, is we never really get to know Gerry and his family. We are given all of 2 or 3 minutes of time as Gerry makes his kids pancakes for breakfast and complains when they don't put their dirty dishes back in the sink. After that we're given only a moment here, 15 seconds there as he calls his wife on the phone to give her updates as he hops from one international location to another following "clues."

More or less Brad Pitt is left to follow the rumors and random stories that would in a normal world be left on the websites of people that suffer from paranoid delusions. There is never any "hard" evidence to direct him. He gets an idea in his head and he goes, risking the lives of the people assigned to protect him and endangering everyone he comes in contact with. And because he just stumbles from place to place, the whole affair becomes predictable defeating any attempt at scares, suspense, or any kind of human message. It would be something if we knew why Gerry was so important or got a few more moments with him and his family to actually care what happens. A few shots of Brad Pitt looking sad when the phone loses signal don't really cut it.

thanks to the Oatmeal for this
Then we come to the ending. Don't worry, I wont spoil it, but suffice to say it is one of the dumbest things to grace the Zombie genre. If you hated the "smart" zombies of Land of the Dead you will loath this. Because this production was in trouble pretty much from day one, the original ending got scrapped and the production was halted to cobble together some resemblance of a coherent story. With that, we are given a definitive ending, while a voice over from Pitt tries to convince us the war has just begun contrary to the final montage. Because this movie cost so much, producing studio Paramount is basically required to push forward with unnecessary sequels. What would have done right for this movie and the book that it stole its name from? If they took some of the survival stories from the book and expanded them into their own movies. If not movies, then a TV show on HBO or Showtime where it wouldn't have the neutered content. This could have been a fantastic alternative to the intermittently brilliant and confoundedly dull The Walking Dead.

I will give all credit to Brad Pitt here, you can tell in every scene he is working his ass off. And since he was one of the lead producers behind the film, you know it was a passion project for him. My hope is that one day there is an "unrated" edition with the gore and violence necessary to make this "zombie" movie interesting. The 3D works in some places, but not in others. When the camera moves fast or when there are numerous CGI zombies, the screen noticeably flattens and you lose all sense of depth when you needed it most. So if my overall negative review hasn't dissuaded you from seeing this or waiting until DVD or Blu-ray - see it in 2D and save yourself the extra ticket costs.

With that, this movie could have been great. I really wanted to like this movie. I gave it every chance to impress me. But as it stands it is merely a retelling of Zach Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and its followup 28 Weeks Later. World War Z tries very hard to be all of those movies at the same time but on a bigger scale, only it doesn't measure up to any of them. Bigger isn't always better.

In the end: 3/10 - Brad Pitt gets 3 points for trying; the rest of the movie is a sad waste of potential
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