WORLD WAR Z Low on Scares, High on Lame

Is it just me, or do we seem on the verge of zombie overload? I realize zombies are super cool nowadays and Zed is riding the wave of popularity along with superheroes and dystopian young adult fiction, but with books, video games, movies and AMC’s hugely popular series, THE WALKING DEAD, we are knee deep in zombiepalooza and I think the un-dead are about to be relocated to the fringe of coolness and their popularity is going the way of the pasty teenage vampire.

I may be wrong and it may be naive to presume a falling-out between the masses and the entertainment engines producing zombie media and merchandise, but I can’t help but feel WORLD WAR Z is a day late and a dollar short, and for a movie with all sorts of screenplay problems and re-shoots, it appears what started out as a big, thought-provoking project with political undertones, is now a watered-down, incoherent summer blockbuster. Actually, appears is the wrong word. WORLD WAR Z is an incoherent, seesawing summer blockbuster.

And that’s too bad, really, because I like director Marc Forster and am always rooting for him to regroup from a string of bad movies (QUANTUM OF SOLACE and MACHINE GUN PREACHER). He’s got talent, MONSTER’S BALL and FINDING NEVERLAND are proof of his skill, but WORLD WAR Z is not the motion picture to put his name back on the radar. I can say the same of Brad Pitt, as well. Here’s a guy who has been on a string of acting glory with BABEL, BURN AFTER READING, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, THE TREE OF LIFE and MONEYBALL, and now he picks WORLD WAR Z? Not sure that’s the best choice for an almost 50 year-old, still hunky performer who’s experiencing a Clooney-esque acting heyday. Still, actors misteps are long forgotten before those of the director. So something tells me Pitt will be just fine. Forster? Who knows.

Brad Pitt needs to ax some zombies some questions about WTF the ending to his movie blows!
Brad Pitt needs to ax some zombies some questions about WTF the ending to his movie blows!

If you’ve made it this far into my review and have plans to see Brad Pitt vs. The Un-Dead, what you should know about WORLD WAR Z the movie is that it’s nothing like WORLD WAR Z the book, except that both have people, zombies and a war. Max Brooks’ oral history of the zombie war is present in title only. In fact, Brooks had no input or say whatsoever in what is the celluloid version of his tale of Zed vs. The World. Good or bad (I vote bad!), this movie has had a glut of screenwriters – four by my count – including Drew Goddard (who wrote CLOVERFIELD and CABIN IN THE WOODS) and Damon Lindelof (PROMETHEUS). In this iteration, a virus breaks out across the world causing those infected to rise again and turn into rabid, Olympic-class leapers and sprinters laser-focused on eating almost anything with a pulse. Before too long, the world is losing billions of its population to the zombie outbreak and that’s when the hunky Gerry Lane joins our story.

Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former United Nations investigator – now a stay-at-home-dad who “just makes pancakes” – who is called back to service when the United States military, now running the show, needs Lane to lead a team of Navy SEALS and a virologist to discover the origins of the zombie outbreak, in the hope they can stop this before the entire world is wiped out. Lane’s investigation takes him from South Korea to Israel, but that’s it. He never really learns anything and after some tense moments at the World Health Organization, the movie whimpers out. Word on the street is the screenwriters agonized over how to end the movie, hence the delays. I can say with absolute surety the ending of this movie is deflating and jarring and feels like a question mark. Question marks can be good, especially the mystery whodunit kind, but WORLD WAR Z’s question mark is a WTF? and that’s never good.

In the end, I would have much preferred a more intimate picture, perhaps surrounding Lane and his family’s struggle to stay alive and the humanity that still exists in a sea of un-dead hunters, rather than a nearly two hour mystery that really isn’t so mysterious, topped with an ending that makes me hope this zombie fetish goes away soon.

GRADE: C

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