By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10
Long rumored to have faced drastic re-shoots, a re-written ending and an over bloated budget, World War Z had all the makings of an epic disaster. The PG-13 rating for a movie involving a zombie apocalypse did not seem appealing to viewers either. However, director Marc Forster has managed that which was slightly perceived to be impossible; keep the ship afloat with a dramatic, large-scale disaster movie driven by its charismatic leading actor. Brad Pitt anchors this movie, which ends up being one of the best efforts so far this summer in sheer scale and visuals despite lacking in character development and plot.
Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family become placed in the middle of a frantic Philadelphia downtown area suddenly undertaken by a massive and fast-acting zombie infection. Lane, a former UN employee, manages to escape and get his family to safety, but soon that the problem is global. Leaving his family, Lane embarks on a journey to find patient zero of the zombie outbreak and find a cure before the world’s population turns entirely into the undead.
With a $190 million budget, this movie placed a lot on the line for Pitt, Forster and Paramount Pictures. The first few trailers did not do much to create a rampant source of anticipation and excitement for the public, showing grandiose scale chaos but limited information on the story or other characters involved in the main plot. Luckily, the plot moves along just fine, as thin as it may be. The real draw to World War Z is the sheer scale that the film utilizes, switching out blood for pure numbers.
What will drive people to World War Z is the non-stop action that the film constantly pushes into the face of the viewers. The action is ever-present and consistently escalating throughout the entire film. The audience only receives around five to seven minutes in the beginning of the movie before Lane’s family is attacked in Philadelphia, from then on it is hard for the audience to catch their breath as scores of the undead are constantly plaguing the main characters in a desperate struggle to survive.
In several scenes throughout the film, including a massive attack on the city of Jerusalem and a very interesting situation on an airplane, the scores of the undead are simply mind-blowing. Zombies moving like a wave through city streets, engulfing all that are unable to escape their grasp or the publicized ant-hill conundrum shown in trailers and posters are amazing to look at. World War Z presents one of the first times this year that a viewer can honestly say that a director has done something moderately fresh and definitely entertaining with special effects.
The audio is in the same vein. The film’s score pounds as the attacks happen as the screams of the zombies are ear piercing and incredibly unpleasant. Forster knows atmosphere and when to keep the sound down, but conversely understands that when the action on the screen is nothing but chaos, the best action is to replicate that chaos through your audio, which is where the film truly shines.
Pitt’s performance in the film would either make or break the picture as a whole, and he manages to lock in the character early and uses the momentum throughout the main plot. Once he leaves his family, Lane is put through a proverbial hell on Earth and becomes more of an object trapped in the chaos while really having nothing else to do with his family. Quaint reminders are placed during breaths in the action referring back to Lane’s family, but those are few and far between.
However, aside from Pitt, the rest of the cast is sub-par. The Killing’s Mireille Enos plays a stereotypical character, not adding a great deal of dimension to Lane’s wife. Up-and-coming actress Daniella Kertesz plays the best supporting role as an Israeli soldier who quickly becomes a close companion to Lane. Established actors such as James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena and David Morse are severely underused. However, the worst culprit is Matthew Fox, an actor that many watching the film will immediately recognize and subsequently question when he is quickly thrust off screen and never heard from again.
In the course of the making of the film, controversy arose when the filmmakers decided to scrap, re-write and re-shoot the ending. In the initial conclusion of the film, Fox’s character played a massive role in the plot progression, hence his sudden departure. The new ending provides a glimmer of hope for the characters, which is something lacking throughout the entire film, but ultimately just doesn’t have the resounding feel of conclusion that the audience would hope for. World War Z’s ending opens up the door for at least one sequel, but doesn’t have the lasting impact to leave audiences craving for more
Additionally, the PG-13 limitations of the film ultimately hurt the movie’s feel and atmosphere. There are few “jump out” scares in the course of the film and the zombie violence seen in Resident Evil or The Walking Dead series are not found in this film, replaced with mud and dirt and very little blood. It takes away from what could have been a visceral look at the zombie apocalypse, presenting a dumbed-down apocalyptic world that is not as scary as it could have possibly been.
World War Z is an impressive summer blockbuster, busting at the seams with enough summer popcorn material to leave any generic action fan or zombie fan clamoring for more. Pitt’s character performs well, but is harmed by a sub-par supporting cast. The action is non-stop and visually exhilarating, but a PG-13 rating holds back the movie’s potential, substituting gore for sheer scale. Overall, as a summer movie, World War Z is far from the disaster so many initially predicted, presenting a unique look into the zombie genre that will be enjoyed by many who decide to descend into the madness of a world overtaken by the undead.