“World War Z”
by Michael Walters
The Cantankerous Critic
“World War Z” is a thoroughly conventional and forgettable zombie movie. To the filmmakers, that must feel like one heck of an accomplishment after what was by all accounts a cursed and tortured shoot. They’ve constructed a halfway coherent movie by playing it safe at nearly every turn, but it’s far less exciting and thrilling than the “Ishtar” of zombie movies it promised to be.
Brad Pitt stars as a retired U.N. investigator who has drafted to help find the source of the zombie plague spreading like wildfire across the globe. The movie hopscotches from Philadelphia, to South Korea, and then to Israel and (for budgetary reasons) Wales as Pitt tracks down the source of the virus and works on a solution to stop it.
According to a very detailed story in Vanity Fair, the filmmakers got a bit lost in the weeds while attempting the difficult task of trying to adapt the book, which lacks a conventional narrative arc. But Director Marc Forester is no Ang Lee, so his solution is to strip away everything that made the book special. Then he and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof have hammered the remains into the mold of a conventional action picture about one man fighting insurmountable odds to save his family.
But this $200 million dollar zombie movie never manages to make an impression. It keeps up a fairly quick pace, but it doesn’t contain one single sequence that could charitably be described as memorable.
The plot is chock full of red herrings and aborted ambitions. Subplots are introduced and then tossed away just as haphazardly. The moment Pitt touches down in any one place, things almost immediately go from bad to worse, but the film never constructs any set-pieces that really pay off.
Pitt is the star here, and he’s created a type of kinder, gentler hero; who holds tight to the gentle family man image while bashing a zombie’s brains in. But this doesn’t entirely work. Pitt wants his character to be a genuinely nice guy who’s just doing what he has to to save his family, but are we really supposed to buy his nice guy image while surrounded by the flesh-eating undead?
The closest thing to a surprise in this movie is how little gore there actually is in it. Zombies aren’t usually PG-13 fare, but Forester’s big zombie battles are almost entirely bloodless. It’s a zombie movie for people who don’t like zombie movies – a creature of compromise likely to leave everyone disappointed.