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World War Z - Review
In terms of an adaptation, World War Z fails tremendously. Not only does it deviate wildly from the source material, it manages to completely undermine the tone and themes of Max Brook's novel. This, of course, wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, if it chose to do so for some creative or inventive reason, but it doesn't. All of the socio-political, and world-spanning story, that Brooks created is removed in favour of Brad Pitt running away from some iffy-looking CGI zombies.
World War Z though, manages to go one step further. Whilst being incredibly bland and uninteresting action-schlock, bar a few impressive scenes (which almost all ended up in the trailer anyway), it also manages to be insufferably pretentious and full of its own self-worth. Brad Pitt, looking like he's just stepped out of that annoying cologne commercial he's in, leaps from one action set-piece to the next as he races to find a cure for the zombie plague that is sweeping the globe. Meanwhile, the film tells us we should be invested in this simply because it's what we should do, even though we're rarely given a reason to care about anybody.
In an attempt to stand out from all the other apocalypse movies that have been coming out lately, the zombies here can run. Admittedly, the first time you see someone get bitten and infected, in a crowded city centre, is rather unique; the man's body twisting and contorting like some horrible Transformers toy as he gets back up, only to lunge at his family stuck in their car. Besides this though, the zombies manage to lack any of the menace that was seen in 28 Days Later and its sequel, and the CGI is not always that convincing.
Part of the reason is that the film is completely free of gore. The iconic scene in almost all zombie films, where the hero whacks one of the undead in the skull with something, occurs off-screen in order to preserve that all important 15 age-rating (PG-13 in some cases) and maximise ticket sales. Similarly, whenever anything is kicking off, and zombies are running about, director Marc Forster sees fit to shake the camera about so much that you're completely disoriented, and can never make out when anything has been killed, or what's happening.
This is a big problem when the vast majority of your movie is non-stop action scenes. Beginning in Philadelphia, after a very brief set-up, Brad Pitt and his incredibly pointless family are thrust into a zombie apocalypse. By never taking any time to humanise its protagonists, it's impossible to empathize with them in anyway, which also saps all of the horror out of the zombies as well. We follow this family around for the first chunk of the movie and they act as if what's happening around them is just part of a normal day. Sure, they're distressed, but there's never a moment where they reflect on what the hell is happening, since the film is afraid let up on its pace. Society breaks down and they just rush down to the supermarket to pick up some medicine for their daughter's asthma.
Then there's Pitt's character, Gerry Lane. Whilst it's not a terrible performance by the actor-producer, there's just nothing interesting, or human, about him. Gerry Lane isn't your average Joe either, he works for the U.N. in some important capacity, which separates him from the ordinary group of survivors that make up most post-apocalypse stories. Here's the thing, apocalypse movies, in particular zombie ones, rely heavily on a kind of vicarious feedback with the audience. When you sit down to watch The Walking Dead you not only want to see Rick Grimes and the others survive, you're also playing that game in your head: "what would I have done in that situation, how would I survive the end of the world?". Gerry Lane however, has more in common with a super-powered video game character than he does an ordinary human being.
The film's troubled development can be felt too. There's a distinct episodic feel to the whole movie: first Lane goes to South Korea, then Israel, then Nova Scotia, as he's drip-fed objectives by the various people he meets, again like a mediocre video game. The film's final act, which seems incredibly at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie, manages to be something of an improvement over the previous hour, simply because it returns to being a traditional zombie horror flick, without all of the distracting set-piece bombast.
As both an adaptation, and as a film in its own right, World War Z fails on both counts. Perhaps as a dull action movie, it's a bit better than we usually get around this time of year, but that's not something to be especially proud of.
World War Z was released in UK theatres on June 21st.
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