Movie Review: WORLD WAR Z

PrintE-mail Written by Katherine McLaughlin

Review: World War Z / Cert: 15 / Director: Marc Forster / Screenplay: Matthew Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof / Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken / Release Date: June 21st

World War Z comes to the big screen after a troubled production that led to reshoots, extensive rewrites and an overblown budget (reported to have reached $200 million plus), all of which unfortunately reflects on the final product.

This adaptation will likely disappoint fans of Max Brooks’ horror novel as it bears little resemblance to it. Satire and themes are sullied and lost due to heavy editing, and multiple perspectives are shorn to allow the narrative of one man, a saviour named Gerry Lane (ex-UN man on the ground played by Brad Pitt), to travel the globe in search of patient zero.

On the surface WWZ is a fast paced and entertaining action movie that shows glimpses of genuine insight and humour. Sure a big budget zombie film should be all this, but the geo-political subtext needs to be addressed properly. Director Marc Forster displays a talent for conveying post 9/11 mass hysteria with his chaotic and choppy camera work and there are some provocative images relating to Jerusalem and passing references to Korea’s survival tactics. Unfortunately these subjects are merely touched upon with no real weight guiding the ideas. The focus is firmly on the action as Gerry moves from one place to the next; our hero travelling to Philadelphia, to New Jersey, South Korea, Cardiff and Nova Scotia. There are hints of The Walking Dead, as Gerry makes new companions along the way, asking them about their experiences but these are all too fleeting and there’s no real investment or emotional engagement in any of the characters apart from Gerry himself.

As for the film's portrayal of the zombies, the living dead here whizz across the screen in vast and visceral set-pieces, pouncing on their victims and chomping at their flesh. The change happens within seconds and corpses jump back to life to attack just as swiftly as they’ve passed. When we see the zombies up close they are dinosaur like, screeching at their prey like pterodactyls. These zombies are also extremely sensitive to sound which Forster uses to create both tense and unintentionally comical moments.

The final third, the portion of the film that went through multiple reshoots, is where the trouble really comes in. The fast pace halts in favour of the quieter, more intimate setting of a laboratory in Wales. Up until this point the viewer has become accustomed to expensive set pieces and swarms of zombies, only to be suddenly taken out of the action. The problem here isn’t what they’ve done with this final piece - it’s actually quite tense and fun - it’s that we’ve seen these surroundings so many times before in lower budget productions and it’s quite clearly just been tacked on. You may breathe a sigh of relief as you see Malcolm Tucker appear but even he isn’t given much time to confront either politics or zombies and once again we look to Gerry to save the world.

World War Z simply gets a little lost, never knowing which direction to go in; an average action thriller lacking in meaty ideas for you to chew on after you leave the cinema. Which might be ok if it wasn’t for the gratuitous budget.

Expected Rating: 8 out of 10

Actual Rating:

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0 #1 Adam Lowe 2013-06-26 12:56
Agreed. The Jerusalem stuff was indeed provocative, and more could have been done with that.

North Korea's survival tactics were also interesting.

The political and social elements of the film had promise. But at the beginning we're treated to fast-paced episodes, with no real build-up of tension overall, and then the tension evaporates completely in the third act. The episodic nature of the script also meant characters were quickly introduced and underdeveloped.

So much more could have been done with the amputee Israeli soldier. We could have learned more about Gerry's family, and what their experience was like. Instead we get a kind of apocalyptic travelogue, where Gerry travels around the world, facing one problem after another, before moving on to the next.

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