World War Z

Finally saw this t’other day. Also expect second Pirates review soon. End communication.

World War Z (2013)

It’s hard to talk about World War Z without talking about the production troubles it had. Last minute reshoots to make the film less controversial and “more blockbuster-y” (read: dumb), a ballooning budget and accusations of weapon smuggling (no, really) all plagued the making of the film and as such it was predicted to be a massive flop. Thankfully, the film eventually got to cinemas and here we are.

“Mother Nature is a serial killer. She wants to get caught, she leaves bread crumbs, she leaves clues… Mother Nature knows how to disguise her weakness as strength.”

World War Z follows a global outbreak of zombie-ism. Brad Pitt stars as former UN fella Gerry Lane (is in my ears and in my eyes) as he struggles to keep his family safe. Gerry is brought back in by his former colleague, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena), to help them find a cure for the pandemic and go on a globe-trotting journey to seek out possible answers. No pressure, then. Despite it being next to nothing like the original book, World War Z manages to keep its head above the generic waters. A clever little twist here and a nice little detail there all add up to a fresh take on the done-to-death zombie idea. Brad Pitt is decent enough as Gerry Lane and Malcolm Tucker himself, Peter Capaldi,  shows up and improves everything just by being him. Director Marc Forster, who was one of the many things wrong with Quantum of Solace, keeps things visually interesting from the awesome opening credits onwards and allows characters room to breathe, which is refreshing in a film like this.

Truth be told, I don’t find zombies to be particularly scary. I contend that most people don’t. To me, they’re too recognisably human to get my fear juices pumpin’. That is not to say I don’t see the merit in them. For one, they are a fantastic social commentary tool. Check out zombie godfather George A. Romero’s excellent Dawn of the Dead, which was a knowing stab or twelve at contemporary consumer culture. It’s no accident that the film depicts brainless beings shambling around a shopping mall. WWZ knows this and also has something to say, using the ways different countries react to the outbreak as some handy satire. Israel, for instance, just finished building the huge wall around itself and North Korea simply removed everyone’s teeth. They’re nice asides, but I kept wishing for more of it. I suspect it was a casualty in the aforementioned “dumbing down for fucktards” process.

The thing that really got my attention in the trailers was the way the zombies moved en masse like a tidal wave and could even stack and climb like a load of pissed-off army ants. These are still the stand-out moments of the film. The effects are decent enough and at least it’s something we haven’t seen before. The action sequences are ludicrously entertaining and extremely well done. The sight of thousands of zombies stacking up outside of Israel’s walls is one I won’t soon forget. For all its globe-trotting, World War Z can feel incredibly small at times. Gerry visits Camp Humphreys in South Korea, but it boils down to a runway and a bunker. The third act also takes place in a medical centre in Wales, which feels like it’s been bolted on from another film. These aren’t bad bits by any means, it’s just that it sits at odds with the global feel of the rest of the film. Plus, the little ripple of laughter at the mention of Cardiff Airport got at the Cardiff Bay screening I went to was delightful.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”

I’m struggling to say too much more about World War Z. It’s quite schizophrenic in a few ways. In some areas,  it’ll keep some of the satire and edge of the book, but then it’ll pull its punches in others. It’ll give us a big, sprawling adventure but then relocate to a small set somewhere. The overall effect is quite strange. I’m sure this is down to the hasty reshoots and rewritings. WWZ is better than the sum of its parts, but I can’t imagine anyone getting too excited about it. Most of the problems can be attributed to studio involvement, trying not to piss off the overseas markets they’ve suddenly realised exist outside of America and become reliant on in recent years. I hope the promised and already announced sequel fixes these niggles. When it comes down to it, World War Z is a perfectly decent zombie film with the potential for true greatness. See you all in the queue for WWZ II: Electric Boogaloo.

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