The months leading up to the long delayed Marc Forster film adaptation of WORLD WAR Z people were still up in arms about the enormous reshoots and rewrites- not to mention no end to people crying about all the CGI zombies. It gave me no end to pleasure when people finally got to lay their eyes on the finished project and were reporting back that it wasn’t nearly the abortion everyone wanted or expected. Then I saw the film for myself and while I do fall on the side of it not being a total trainwreck, I have to say that the film is still kind of a mess.
I’m going to out myself right of the bat and say I don’t get what everyone loves so much about the book- that’s correct, I’m not a die hard fan of Max Brooks’ novel. Not only am I not a die hard fan, but I was kind of bored by it and it took me a LONG time to finish. Personally what Forsrer and whoever the hell ended up contributing to the final product did here is perfectly acceptable. The film takes the idea of the book and rather than filming what would be an instanely uneven anthology-like film they basically created their own story that could have been told in the book. What came out was an insanely uneven film with some pretty amazing set pieces.
The story is little more than a former UN Investigator, Gerry (Brad Pitt), who is called back in to investigate the source of a global outbreak that’s turning everyone into ferocious bloodthirsty (except with no blood) zombies. The bummer for Gerry is that he is basically blackmailed into going on this quest to ensure his wife and kids have a safe place to stay while the world goes to Hell.
In a time where we have a TV show like The Walking Dead puting up big ratings and delivering at least in terms of the gore associated with a zombie filled world, it makes the complete lack of blood and gore in WORLD WAR Z all the more offputing. I don’t need blood and gore to make a movie good, but they way its hidden and cut away from is kind of silly in the exact opposite way that a movie like THE DARK KNIGHT was able to pull off. This is a zombie apocalypse and yet when you see one man get tackled and brutally attacked it is blatantly obvious they were trying to get around the violence to hit the PG-13. There are scenes where clearly someone is being bit, yet no blood flows from the wound or it is shown simply as a bite mark and not a zombie trying to tear chunks off their skin which presents an entirely different issue with the film in general.
I get that with the reshoots and rewrites that the cost of this film was sky high and earning an R rating is a great way to ensure your film never has a chance at hitting a profit- especially since WORLD WAR Z is incredibly uneven and nowhere near the type of blockbustet that gets people coming back for more. One thing is certain that Forster’s film has quite a few really fantastic set pieces filled wall to wall with raging hordes of the undead and it’s because of those set pieces that this even remotely fits in with the crop of summer blockbusters.
Very little of this film resonates emotionally even with the family dynamic, but it does set up why Pitt would bother going out into harms way. It gives his character a little background and gives the audience something to root for. Given the placement in the summer with blockbusters surrounding it, almost every single plot point is muddled in the background to make way for the massive hordes of rampaging zombies.
The timeline of the film is kind of a nightmare because seldom does there seem to be any attention given to how long it would realistically take a human being to arrive at the the location and conclusions that Pitt’s character makes it to. Essentially Pitt is the luckiest and unluckiest person in the history of zombie cinema as he’s always at ground zero when the sh*t hits the fan and always in the right place to get the information he needs to get that sends him around the world to his next lead.
Of course it’s unrealistic to expect to see all the trials and tribulations of Gerry the UN Investigator, but it is kind of easy to see that everyone involved in the making were grasping desperately at anything that would make this film work. In spite of being able to feel the desperation and see some of the seams Forster and Co were able to create some genuine tension along the way. The final act is a completely different type of film from the first two acts and in some ways its better because of it- it just is out of character for a summer blockbuster.
With Pitt in the lead WORLD WAR Z is already carried on his shoulders. He’s at his best in the first act and the last act when he’s not simply running from place to place to avoid the CGI waves of zombies. The initial outbreak is fascinating to see him trying to protect his family and get them.from place to place while having to fight both other people and the undead. With so much of the dialogue being glanced over there are few real standout scenes of the performance outside of a few standout moments inclusing a small moment during the climactic scenes that gave me a good laugh in the midst of what was essentially a dead serious flick.
WORLD WAR Z as a film stands on its own separate from the novel- which in my opinion would have made an even more uneven film than we have here. Shakespeare this is not and it was never bound to be the type of film that blows up the box office with AVENGERS type numbers. As it stands Marc Forster’s WORLD WAR Z is enjoyable for what it is especially when you take into account its troubled production. Despite the problems I had with it, I wasn’t mad that I went to the theater to see it, but I probably would have been happier waiting around and giving it a rental. The film succeeds almost entirely on the weight of the visuals and by the performance of Brad Pitt, but disappoints on the script level and serious pacing issues.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)