- Jun 19, 2013
- Posted By: Michael van den Bos
- Tags: none
WORLD WAR Z – directed by Marc Forster
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Chaplins.
The popularity of the zombie movie among horror fans has remained as unrelenting as the march of the flesh eating undead since George A. Romero unleashed his 1968 low-budget shocker, Night of the Living Dead. I am no zombie zealot (although I am big fan of the atmospheric Val Lewton produced 1943 RKO psychological horror film, I Walked with a Zombie, brilliantly directed by Jacques Tourneur), so I don’t quite understand the continuing fascination with barely one-dimensional characters whose grunting and groaning and their loopy, staggering gait strike me as more silly than scary. However, in recent years, British director Danny Boyle resurrected the walking dead into a pair of critically acclaimed hit films, 28 Days Later, and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which Boyle produced and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo directed. Moreover, the zombie sub-genre has successfully crossed into mainstream entertainment with AMC’s hugely popular cable TV series, The Walking Dead.
Of course, thematically, the zombie picture has been an obvious metaphor for a variety of social and political ills over the decades, including the AIDS virus, government corruption, military incompetence and mindless consumerism. All of this overripe zombie fodder was due for a sendup, which audiences got with Shaun of the Dead, the very funny 2004 British zombie comedy directed by Edgar Wright. I figured Shaun would finally bury the axe into this limited horror sub-genre, but we now have Brad Pitt in the latest zombie onslaught, the big-budget and digital effects heavy World War Z – based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks – with the Hollywood superstar also serving as one of the film’s producers. The much anticipated movie version of World War Z is as soulless as its multitudes of undead. It is a truly toothless zombie picture.
Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a United Nations agent with a wife and kids. He travels the world to find a reason and cure for the unexplained zombie Armageddon that is overtaking governments, overpowering the military and attacking millions of people, turning them into the undead. Meanwhile, on a military aircraft carrier 200 miles off the coast of the United States, Gerry’s family receives protection from the insidious advance of the zombies, but only as long as Gerry is alive and on the hunt for a key to saving humanity. That story description pretty much sums up the depth of the narrative of World War Z, which is shallower than a zombie’s eye sockets.
Of the many problems with World War Z, the biggest issue is its screenplay, credited to at least three writers – Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof – which feels like a rough first draft went into production. Apparently, the screenwriting history of World War Z was extremely problematic and this is evident on the screen. With barely any character build-up, the movie begins with Gerry and his family caught in a massive zombie rampage in Philadelphia. The audience is thrust immediately into the action for almost 20 minutes of screen time, which is fine, as long as we eventually get some interesting character development and story substance, but those dynamics never materialize. It’s all bare bones plot driven, conveying no character nuances nor making any attempt at thematic exploration. The film also disappoints with a hasty resolution that seems patched together because the filmmakers had no satisfactory ending
Brad Pitt is one of the most appealing of all contemporary Hollywood stars who happens to be a solid actor, too. He has made some interesting choices in his career, starring in such decidedly non-commercial films as Andrew Dominik’s brooding character-driven western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), or Terrence Malick’s ethereal and existential, The Tree of Life (2011), among Pitt’s more mainstream roles. Pitt’s easygoing charm only goes so far in World War Z; even his natural charisma fails to carry what is a hopelessly weak film. You sense Pitt is on autopilot, trying to get through a bland film and unconvincing role as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Director Marc Forster, whose credits include such fine films as Monster’s Ball (2001) and Finding Neverland (2004), but also the dud James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace (2008), keeps World War Z’s skeletal story moving briskly, but his direction is generally lacklustre. The exception to Forster’s average treatment are a few impressive CGI mass zombie attacks (especially the thousands of zombies that pile up on one another to scale an enormous wall) and the third-act sequence in a World Health Organization lab, which sustains interest and some tension.
World War Z is one the worst looking major Hollywood films I have seen in years. The chaotic editing of the handheld camera shots in the action sequences make significant portions of the movie incomprehensible. This problem is exacerbated by the sub-par cinematography and the 3-D stereo conversion, with its required eyeglasses worn by the audience, which gives the movie an ugly, dark and muddy look. The 3-D does not enhance the experience, so if you are an ardent Brad Pitt completist and must see World War Z, avoid the 3-D version and watch it in flat 2-D.
World War Z is not only a watered-down Brad Pitt vehicle, but also an anemic horror epic, which doesn’t even have the guts to show the carnage that diehard gorehounds would expect from a movie selling the ultimate zombie apocalypse. Avoid World War Z as you would a plaque of undead brain-eaters.