World War Z

Summary:

World War Z is tense suspenseful, and ultimately thrilling.  The biggest factor going into this movie is the viewer’s ability to separate the novel from film, especially given that the similarities between the stories only exist in name. World War Z definitely doesn’t break new ground, but it gets enough right to be really satisfying for those who still appreciate the genre. The look and behavior of the zombies can be a little humorous, and the limits of the PG-13 rating really makes the film lose some of its bite. Brad Pitt provides a wonderful depiction of a family man caught in this chaotic turmoil and is supported by a wonderful cast of characters. The film’s third act may leave an abrupt and hollow end but if you can look past it World War Z delivers on solid summer action.

Being familiar with the source material, I was pretty apprehensive about the initial trailers for World War Z. It became increasingly clear that the only thing that movie and novel had in common was the name and nothing more. The movie seemed singularly focused on one man where as the book was a recollection of many stories from many different people all over the world during the zombie war. Setting aside my feelings for the book though, the movie still looked like it was shaping up to be a solid flick, and with any luck, hopefully the start of successful franchise that would be able to deliver on more of the stories that made World War Z as popular as it is. Regardless of the future of the World War Z franchise, the movie pleasantly caught me off guard and proved to be a rather enjoyable film.

World War Z

World War Z tells the story of a retired United Nations employee, Gerry Lane. While caught in traffic with his wife and kids, the family finds themselves trapped amidst the chaos of a random outbreak in Philadelphia. Barely escaping the city thanks to the aide of Gerry’s former UN colleague, Thierry Umutoni, Gerry is forcibly recruited to investigate the emergence of this mysterious disease and travel from country to country in hopes for the creation of a cure that will turn the tide of the zombie war.

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Tense, suspenseful, and ultimately thrilling, the movie wastes no time getting straight to the action and rarely lets up. The first and second acts of the movie are incredibly strong and kept me glued to the screen. World War Z reminded me a lot of the movie Contagion, only with a bigger emphasis on the action. The rapid pacing of the World War Z doesn’t give it quite the same level of intrigue that I enjoyed with Contagion, but what it lacks in details it compensates wonderfully with great summer action. Brad Pitt’s focus as the family man is enjoyable and gave emotional weight to his character. The supporting cast is solid as well, if not a little underused. The biggest problems with the film are its chaotic pacing, unintentional humor, and finally a lack luster third act.

The third act isn’t necessarily bad, especially given the incredibly thrilling laboratory scenes, but it does have story problems. There seems to be a narrative switch in the third act of the movie that completely forgets about the first two. This abrupt change is not noticeably jarring, however it became more evident as I mulled the movie over. I wouldn’t necessarily call it movie breaking, but it did leave me questioning if that was it, and a general overall feeling of hollow resolution story wise. It’s hard to continue without getting into some minor spoilers so readers beware of the following paragraph.

General Spoilers regarding the genre, as well as a minor location Spoiler

My biggest problem with the third act is that it falls victim to the archetypes found in most pandemic movies where a revolutionary cure is discovered by the main character in a deus ex machina fashion. Having the main character as merely an investigator on the search for the origin of the outbreak was much more interesting than focusing on one man saving the world, and I couldn’t help but noticed the switch after mulling over the movie.  From the beginning of the third act the search for ground zero takes a backseat and is quickly forgotten for the remainder of the movie. It’s easy to forgive though especially when some of the most incredibly tense parts come from this section of the film. Without getting too detailed it’s set in a W.H.O. research facility where Gerry and a few others navigate a maze of laboratories that have been infested with the infected.

End Spoilers

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When it comes to zombies there’s always the old debate between fast running zombies and slow shuffling zombies. The book focused on the slow shuffling zombies and really played up the psychological fear of an enemy who never tires, and never stops, where as the film focused more on the super strong, super fast set zombies who are more capable of bluntly overpowering. Even though I prefer the psychological fear of the slow moving zombies, I still didn’t have much problem with the depiction of fast moving zombies in this film and for the most part it works. Although it’s hard to not roll my eyes at the mass of zombie coming together to create a tidal wave of bodies or a human ladder capable of climbing over huge walls, I still enjoyed the zombies for what they were.

Based on the trailers I feared that the movie would feature nothing but CGI zombies but thankfully the film does contain more intimate horror scenes where the zombie are depicted by actors in costume and make up. However, it is unfortunate that the look and behavior of the zombies produces a fair amount of unintentional laughs and the constant clicking of their jaw is more humorous than intimating. Finally, given the film’s PG-13 rating it’s ultimately limited on what it can do regarding the deaths of the people and zombies. A lot of death is handled just off screen and is rather tame. I’m surprised that The Walking Dead TV series gets away with a lot more gore and blood than World War Z, which can be a little disappointing given the nature of the genre.  Ultimately the movie feels like it loses a little bit of its bite thanks to the limit of its rating.

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World War Z definitely doesn’t break new ground, but it gets enough right to be really satisfying for those who still appreciate the genre. As far as the book goes it, I feel like it’s easy to consider the movie a sort of spiritual prequel to the book with minor details changed at least that’s how I’ve reconciled my feelings between the two mediums. Admittedly my expectations were low but I walked away from this one really happy with the way things turned out. If the movie turns out to be successful enough to warrant sequels I welcome them with open arms and look forward to more stories told in this war against zombies.

World War Z is tense suspenseful, and ultimately thrilling.  The biggest factor going into this movie is the viewer’s ability to separate the novel from film, especially given that the similarities between the stories only exist in name. World War Z definitely doesn’t break new ground, but it gets enough right to be really satisfying for those who still appreciate the genre. The look and behavior of the zombies can be a little humorous, and the limits of the PG-13 rating really makes the film lose some of its bite. Brad Pitt provides a wonderful depiction of a family man caught in this chaotic turmoil and is supported by a wonderful cast of characters. The film’s third act may leave an abrupt and hollow end but if you can look past it World War Z delivers on solid summer action.

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Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
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2 responses to “World War Z

  1. Pingback: Movie Monday Update Week of July 1st | Thinking Cinematic

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