Review: World War Z

Ah, a summer night! Depending on your age (and…the day, I guess), you either don’t have to go to school tomorrow, or you’re an adult and can do whatever the hell you want. Or, you’re in summer school, in which case my sincere apologies. What better a way to spend your time and money than head to the movie theatre, where you can overspend on the price of the ticket, snacks and soda and spend some time in a nice air-conditioned room with comfy seats. For some of us, that’s a hell of a lot better than spending the time at home, even if that’s where all the games are.

I’ve been told by people that know better that World War Z has pretty much nothing to do with the book of the same name. And I figured that half the people who bash the movie are book fans, so seeing as how I haven’t read the book, I’m in a pretty good position going into the movie.

The introduction of WWZ is pretty standard fare for your zombie apocalypse film. Jerry (Brad Pitt) is shown with his family doing normal family things. The movie does its best to show you that there is absolutely nothing going on in the world. Even in the introduction, you hear and see news snippets, but none of them are of any real consequence. Jerry interacts with his family, who are all pretty decent actresses, even if the plot didn’t make me incredibly interested in learning their names.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Jerry and his family load up in their van and head to Philadelphia. Or they live in Philly. We know it’s Philly by a convenient description in the lower right corner of the screen. Seeing as how the film takes us around the world, it’s helpful. It doesn’t take long before their trip is sidelined by a rather convenient traffic jam, during which we get our first glimpse at what is actually happening. You know, the start of the thing that the name of the movie references to.

Now when I say that the movie didn’t allude to this at all before now, I have to retract and say that they might have, but not in any meaningful way. No one ever mentioned zombies or sickness or quarantining off entire countries, news that would ripple across the world like a big guy cannonballing into a backyard kiddie pool. They mentioned a rabies strain, but nothing along the lines of quarantining Israel.

When the family realizes that this isn’t just an ordinary traffic jam, the movie turns on Action Movie Mode with quick camera cuts and everybody running. Cars and trucks crash into the other cars and trucks, often times taking people and zombies with them. People fall, and get “eaten,” but more on that later.

This is what most of the encounters with zombies look like.

Jerry is called back to duty with the UN and sent on a mission to find the cure to save mankind. Easy stuff, right? One of his first stops is a military outpost in Somewhereistan – which is all but overrun with infected. The supposed genius doctor that Jerry and a whole team of SEALS is playing escort mission with, tells Jerry exactly what he needs to know about the illness/infection in about as vague a way possible, then promptly, accidentally blows his head off before they even disembark.

Well then.

It’s a good thing that we left Jerry in charge of fixing everything, because it becomes very clear, very quickly that if a catch-all cure for this virus/bacterial infection isn’t found soon, then the world is doomed. Every settlement that Jerry travels to that appears as if they might have found a safe haven is just waiting to be overrun with zombies. The zombies find a way to stow away in airplanes or climb on top of each other like ants to scale impossibly high walls. They litter laboratories where vaccines can be created – they’re fast and they are relentless. They also follow all the other TV and movie tropes about zombies. You have to shoot em in the head, and they’re attracted to noise. There’s one other trait that they have, but revealing that would reveal the movie’s ending.

The story is simple: find a vaccine, find a cure to stop the zombie infection from wiping out the entire planet. You really shouldn’t go into WWZ expecting something deeper or more thought-provoking. It’s an action movie, and if you can take it at face value, you might not be all that disappointed.

The biggest quarrel that I have with the movie is the fact that it has no teeth. World War Z is rated PG-13, and it’s very careful to stay within those boundaries. As a matter of fact, that PG-13 rating could be what makes it such a crappy zombie movie for anyone over the age of 10. There’s very little blood, virtually no gore, and very little violence.

In a zombie movie!

No, violence and gore isn’t everything, but it helps when you’re making a movie about zombies killing people. Weak characters don’t add to the overall enjoyability of the film and they are about as memorable as last Tuesday’s dinner. You don’t ever feel bad for people who die because they have zero depth to them. Added to the fact that there’s no real violence in the movie, one wonders why these people were included at all. There is a little boy at the beginning of the movie who says, maybe, five lines and nothing else for the entire film, despite making regular appearances!

The only character I actually felt sorry for was a female soldier who was bitten on the hand. Jerry cut a part of her arm off to save her life, which happens offscreen. The only reason I felt sorry for her was because I invented a backstory about how when she was a little girl, one of her friends was killed by a rebel and that’s why she became a soldier and now she couldn’t do that anymore because she was missing an arm.

When it comes to the actual zombies, WWZ is also pretty careful. You never really get a good look at the zombies due to all of the fast camera-cuts and darkness that surrounds them. Everything literally happens so fast in this movie that you don’t get to really see them until the end. And while the makeup is nice, they look every bit as toned down as the rest of the movie. Zombies with no broken or sticky-out parts, zombies almost devoid of bloodstains. Zombies who run fast and make weird twitchy movements and when they explode from a grenade blast, it might as well be red…err, black paper confetti.

There is a scene late in the movie where a doctor is describing a victim of the infection turn. Instead of the victim spitting out blood, he spit out a black, tar-like substance. So they pretty much replaced red blood with black blood – it’s smeared all over Jerry’s arm by the end of the movie. It’s supposed to be blood, because it sure as hell isn’t motor oil!  It’s almost like in the Dualshock version of Resident Evil 2, where you could turn the blood green, or in Mortal Kombat where people exuded sweat every time they were punched in the face.  It’s just not right.

Brace yourself kids! This is gonna be bad.

I will give the film credit on its production values though. It was decent looking and the actors, while paper-thin, seemed pretty good at the roles they played. While the zombies could have used a bit more bite to them, the makeup looked decent, even if you didn’t see it all that often. Additionally, the movie has a few jump-out scares if you don’t see them coming a mile away.

World War Z tidies things up with a nice, uplifting ending. It throws around some cliche, feel-good phrases about perseverance and the credits roll. Kind of a weak ending, even if you thought the other parts of the movie were good.

Overall, if you really feel like watching a flick about running away from zombies or you just absolutely have to have your zombie fix, go out and catch World War Z. Or hey, maybe you’ve got a thing for Brad Pitt? For anyone looking for a little something more, save your money and your time – you’re not missing much here.

5/10

               
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