Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Reel Review: WORLD WAR Z

The latest legion of zombies to invade our silver screens comes in the form of WORLD WAR Z, a loose adaptation of the novel of the same name. Large in scale and operating without limits, WWZ clearly seeks to put a new wrinkle on the forehead of the walking dead.
Former U.N. agent Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) must traverse around the world in a race to discover the source, and perhaps the cure to an epidemic which is sweeping the entire world, turning most of the population into zombies.

WWZ is more about the global effect of a large-scale epidemic than it is about zombies. Lane and his family are thrown in the middle of a collapse of society and a complete breakdown in all structures of humanity. The collapse of society makes the film one of the most realistic zombie films made. Once Gerry has to leave his family to seek out a cure, the film takes on another meaning as his story is twofold; save humanity before his family is put into danger.
The story is solid enough and worth staying awake for, but where this war begins to sputter is in the script, and in the editing. The film moves along at a breakneck pace, and while that is fine for the wonderfully realized chases and scares, the eventual quiet moments seem to exist just long enough for Gerry to get some new info before running off into the wild again. The chases are thrilling, the scares are well-timed and the stakes are high enough as we hop from location to location on a world tour, but there always seems like there is something left behind; things like emotion and a reason to care about what happens. The movie is in a big damn hurry to get places, and often makes large leaps to get from A to Z; certain plot points are rushed, some are forgotten about, while others come off as stupid with no logic and just exist to force things into place.

Director Marc Forster puts together some clever sequences (a third-act, hide-and-seek game with the zombies is excellent), but every clever moment he pulls off is derailed with overuse of his goddamn shaky-camera. The handheld work is literally all over the place, and the technique, while it does have its occasional place, seems to get used as a crutch to make action sequences tenser than they really are. The zombies themselves are impressive; ghoulish and creepy and certainly a formidable foe, and the large, wide-angle, FX-shots of the large hordes piling over walls and swarming down city streets is impressive. The film does however suffer from its bloodless PG-13 rating; the dread and peril of the situation that we are supposed to feel is always conveniently out-of-frame.
Brad Pitt does well for what he is given to work with. The problem here isn’t with Pitt, but that the material does not offer a challenge to him as an actor. Although the scenes with his family are sweet enough, Pitt is never put against anyone (or anything) to challenge him as an opposite, leading to a severe lack of human drama. The rest of the cast comes and goes too fast to leave an impression; James Badge-Dale and Matthew Fox turn in short and sweet performances. However, the show is nearly stolen by the great David Morse, who makes a brief appearance as a former CIA man who has lost his marbles.

The finale comes about after a very clever cat-and-mouse game with the zombies, and can only be described as “soft” as it sneaks up without much of a build-up, and leaves a lot to be desired in the emotion department. For all the world-wide destruction and loss of human life, by the movie’s end we really don’t feel like our characters actually went through very much, leaving this as a very flat zombie-film in the largely populated genre. WORLD WAR Z is light entertainment and occasionally fun, but nothing to lose your mind over.


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