Zombies have become everyone’s new preferable way of dying. They have replaced deranged killer in the woods, car chase with Keanu Reeves and even being chased by a bunch of naked ladies off a cliff and into your own grave (R.I.P. Graham Chapman).
This is the reason why the book “World War Z”, which documents a zombie apocalypse on a “Lord of the Rings” like scale, was such a massive hit. Now it has its own movie companion starring Brad Pitt that came this close to being the next big box-office disaster.
Thankfully, “World War Z” avoids the never-ending pit of bloated, destructive, and plain God-awful movies that shine a big X over the industry. But that’s not to say it does so with perfect grace. As the movie chomps and bolts to a finish festooned by big explosions, many elements are featured that pose a contradiction: They are either a bold, intense breath of fresh air, or so much it borders on asphyxiation.
A prime example comes not but 10 minutes into the film. It begins with some nice pre-chaos exchanges between Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his family. Jokes about Dad and school and cute children occur that will plaster a smile on any fan of “Full House”. Out of nowhere all hell breaks loose as a semi plows through the streets, car chases ensue and people are tackled and maimed by their friends and neighbors. Worst…trip…to school…ever.
Relating back to my earlier point, it’s exhilarating to see such a grand spectacle. The whole city of Philadelphia aflame as hordes of zombies barrel down the streets. It goes on for so long—throwing scenes of rioting, looting and other vicious acts in the mix—I had already forgotten the characters names by the time there was a moment to breathe. It’s the only time a movies destruction and violence have caused me to abandon basic manners (take that, political America!).
As the movie progresses, the locations become larger in scale as the crisis becomes global. We find out Lane is an ex-military investigator, who is drawn out of retirement to try and figure out what in zombie-hell is going on (based off Pitts aging pattern, he will NEVER get too old for this shit).
This takes him to different lands on planes, trains and automobiles, making for a globe-trotting adventure that makes “Tin Tin” look like a boy in tree house waving a sword in the air shouting “I am the Batman! I am the Batman”, occasionally taking moments to bite at his ear. The locales range from the quiet suspense of Korea, the surrounded terror of Isreal to the worst Pan Am flight in years. Not ever, just years. Each locale offers people who help uncover a new piece of the cure-puzzle, but eventually just succumbs to the fury of the undead, and looks fabulous doing it.
But like most other elements of the movie, for every positive action there is a negative reaction. Each time a place gets run over by zombies, it seems to take the horror-film-cliché route by showing it seemed to be the fault of utter human stupidity. Someone made too much noise, opened a door that shouldn’t have been or throwing a grenade inside a flying plane. Many causes of destruction could’ve had a more intellectual route, but instead they make all the characters look like bumbling buffoons. Needless to say they are actions that would be taken quietly in theaters across South L.A. But the actors look fabulous doing it.
There is some guilt free uniqueness though, mostly in the form of the subtext and the zombies themselves. The flesh-munchers are given a few new traits, like a time limit for turning and the fact they are attracted to sound not the scent of warm blood. These new twists provide many nail-biting moments that give the film the much needed horror and magnitude.
The story, on the other hand, gives the movie a thoughtful foundation regarding the nature of disease and the natural behavior of human unreadiness. The story along with new and improved zombies give “Z” the edge it needs to make up for its obvious shortcomings.
Zombies are so appealing because the intense nature of such an apocalypse seems exciting as well as, in some people’s delusions, a plausible occurrence. This is why “World War Z” will probably be a big hit. It takes that idea of global severity and blows it out to extreme realization. The sets are big and well shot—an improvement over director Marc Forster’s last action piece, “Quantum of Solace”—but are riddled with mistakes made by the common action movie. It’s big, sprawling, well-acted, and flawed. It’s the kind of movie that will make all the hipsters who loved the books quiver in their Birkenstocks. That alone earns it an extra grade bump.