The only thing that seems to have lost its bite more than the zombie genre is the enthusiasm for the movie adaption of Max Brooks’ novel, World War Z. Fan outrage at changes to the source material and reported trouble on the set effectively put a dent in early enthusiasm, this writer included.
Well, turns out there’s no reason to lose your head because WWZ may just be the surprise hit of the summer.
I’ve not gotten around to reading the acclaimed book, so I won’t claim to know any changes made but what I will claim to know is that the movie adaption works as a zombie horror movie, an epidemic flick and a tried-and-true thriller. Long story short, it works.
In a summer where tentpoles decide to shift gears half way through, usually for the worst, WWZ remains absolutely consistent in its excitement. I’m usually not that fond of Brad Pitt but, dare I say, he gave a pretty solid performance here. Following him across the globe, trying to pick up clues about this epidemic and staying just one step ahead of the chaos before things go to shit, stays thrilling throughout and keeps the movie going at a great pace (another thing this movie has going over almost every other blockbuster this summer).
Having this story play out on a global scale is a fresh look at a situation that so often is shown about a small group of roaming survivors who can’t help but fight amongst themselves, aka a once interesting story that has been beaten to death for the past decade. The sheer scale of the Israel sequence showcases the overwhelming odds of this mass extinction and is terrifying to no end.
And yet the scene where our protagonist, along with a few others, must sneak down a dark hallway and avoid the zombies at the same time has that old-school horror genre thrill to it. The combination of these two strengths makes the movie almost unpredictable.
Also returning to the days of old: the actual word “zombie.” Gone is this “walker” or “infected” nonsense and thankfully the creatures themselves are practically on par with the idea. Yes, this is a PG-13 movie so the gore can’t go beyond a certain point but director Mark Forster does a proficient job at getting the idea across without indulging in it (after all, you can turn your TV to AMC to see all the “walker” gore you want and little else of interest on that show).
Pitt’s family in the movie is mostly ineffectual but that can be forgiven since they work as a big incentive (also a terrifying situation when you see it and realize what’s happening). While that can be forgiven, the final five minutes of the movie scream that they didn’t know how to end it (another problem of the genre) and fall back on bad narration that comes out of nowhere.
There will be some who avoid it simply because of their obsessive devotion to the book and that’s fine. Wait… no it’s not. Yes, it has the same name and is a much different take but it has such dominant strengths that shunning it simply because it deviates would be a mistake.
World War Z was slated to be a failure long before it came out. Here we are at the time of release and thanks to it being two hours of consistent thrills it’s better than both Star Trek and Man of Steel. Wonders never cease.