World War Z is a frantic and adrenaline-filled movie about a retired United Nations worker who is living his daily life as a family man when a zombie outbreak takes place. This film was designed as a vehicle for Brad Pitt who plays the reluctant hero as only he can, with a look of awe in his eyes and hair that wouldn’t be out of place on Sawyer from Lost.
This film has been a long time coming, and for a while I didn’t believe it would actually get made. This is one of those properties based on a best-selling book that struck the right chord when the zombie craze was just hitting its stride. I haven’t read the book, but it’s marketed as a chronicle of humanity’s fight against the zombie plague. The film relies heavily on setup. The opening title sequence serves as a montage-heavy explanation of the movement and evolution of various diseases across the globe – any one of which could be the source of the outbreak we witness after no less than what I believe was about twelve minutes. Pitt, who plays Gerry Lane, is thrown at the audience along with his two young daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins) and his always half-smiling half-sad wife, Karin (Mireille Enos). The family is established so briskly that it is obvious to the audience which tropes are being used on which character. His eldest daughter suffers from asthma and his youngest is scared easily. They want a puppy for their birthday. Needless to say, that idea is thrown out the window in ten minutes. His wife also acts as if she is keeping secrets about her husband’s past employment at the U.N. because she seems generally nervous whenever her daughters bring up his previous work. What exactly did he do that is so tear-producing?
I will admit that this film was exciting. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire time, excepting the middle portion that took a detour away from where I was expecting it to go, and it lagged for a bit. But, my main gripe with the film was that it offered nothing new to the zombie genre that other films and even television’s The Walking Dead haven’t already contributed. I could say the writers were clever with their solution to the zombie problem, but that’s about it for creativity. This is still just a movie where the main characters are trying not to be infected by zombies. Potential spoiler alert: the source of the outbreak, indeed, the global origin of the outbreak is never fully revealed. The entire film hangs on this premise that a viral epidemic has swept humanity and causes all those infected to become deranged animals. It’s not clear what the infected are after. They are fast and they don’t exactly feast on the uninfected. They simply go crazy and attack long enough until those who are bitten become the same as everyone else. They are good zombie friends after that since entire cities of the infected become dormant. They simply wait for noise. They are attracted to any audible stimuli. They are also very noisy themselves.
As far as characters are concerned, many of them drop like flies after half the film is complete. Earlier on I couldn’t help but be reminded of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds as Pitt tries to coax his daughter, suffering from an asthma attack, into breathing in and out. I wanted more from the family. I wanted to see their lives, other than in the kitchen or piled in the car. They are our sense of normalcy, the kind that Pitt struggles to return to for the entire movie. Sadly, they are split up for the majority of the film. There are also eccentric characters to take our attention: a doctor who is the last hope for humanity (played by Elyes Gabel) and also a group of W.H.O. employees barricading themselves in their infected laboratory that holds the key to a possible antidote. When the film is running briskly, it is at its best. However, it is obvious that the pacing of the film went through a series of test audiences to arrive where it is now. The downtime is very quiet, as it always is in a horror movie. The film wants to get you with your guard down so that it can jolt you out of your seat. Trust me, it will.
I’m sure that audiences will jump at all the right places as I did, and curse the characters for stepping willfully into a dangerous and disastrous situation like I did – multiple times. The film was a lot of fun. However, as far as intelligence is concerned, don’t be fooled by the critics who say that this film is the smartest one of the summer. It was well plotted, but the questions that were left unanswered and the re-filmed final forty minutes felt like they were merely a lead-in to a new franchise. Studios just can’t resist, after missing the boat on Walking Dead. More films could be good fun, but I don’t know how long my disbelief can go unrewarded in the form of credible reasons for the outbreak. I’m always wondering if we brought the plague upon ourselves, or if it’s something else at work. I wanted to say to this film, “Throw me a bone!” Or maybe an entire severed arm.