Thursday, 27 June 2013

World War Z - Review

Directed by: Marc Foster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Ian Bryce
Written by: Matthew M. Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof

Rating: 6.5/10

Ages ago, we heard that Brad Pitt was going to do a zombie film. 

Our collective jaws dropped and we were wondering where it was headed. Fast forward a year (or two!), and we hear that World War Z will hit theatres in December 2012. Then go forward another 6 months, and we've arrived to where we are now - with a big, lumbering hulk of a zombie film - despite the stunningly quick pace of the poor infected souls in this movie. 

I always hold a particular place in my heart for the poor zombies in such a flick - our titular heroes come up with ever more creative ways to kill them - ranging from your standard gun/grenade to a fire axe, a bat, a crowbar.... whatever comes to hand really.

But, despite it all, you'll be pleasantly surprised with watching this film. It's running time feels nowhere near as long as it actually is, the performance from Pitt is well above that of the standard fare that sometimes lands into these films - the visuals and the scale of the film will also envelop you. However, with that being said, the narrative feels sluggish at times and the third act is a distant cry from the first two. Some parts feel patchy - others feel rushed. All this was down to rumours of constant shooting, reshooting, editing and re-editing. The film never really finds its footing - it's nothing spectacular in the zombie genre, but it's a decent outing. I'll chalk this up onto my "Lemonade Summer Film" list. ('Lemonade' being a term that I use to describe films that are slightly refreshing, easy to watch and are useful to alleviate the summer heat/boredom). It's an easy enough to watch film - it doesn't scare for the squeamish, but it also doesn't add enough character development to fully get to your teeth into.

The film itself is centred around Gerry (Brad Pitt) from Max Brook's novels of the same name - and a virus that, with no properly traceable point of origin for the elusive 'Patient Zero', throws Pitt in at the deep end. Pitt is an ex-UN investigator who is strong armed into helping the current UN discover any information about the virus and how to potentially stop it.

The UN's protection of Jerry's family is reliant on his compliance in helping the investigation - so despite escalating grand set pieces and zombies that sprint at an ungodly pace, he continues to throw himself into the danger zone. As he tracks the outbreak across the globe, the knowledge surrounding the virus becomes more and more diluted - but the most attentive of viewers will already start to piece together Gerry's plan before he even arrives at it during the heavily rewritten third act. Pitt's character struggles with protecting those he loves and saving the entirety of what remains of humanity. Despite flying all the way around the world, Gerry still ends up in a building in Wales, of all places.

Also, we have no grounded idea of the film's total budget - with a reported total of $200 million - but some sources claiming higher/lower. But even at the 'speculative' $200 million - which is a fair chunk of change to pay for a zombie flick at the end of the day - is still going to leave investors reeling unless the impressive box office pace continues from the film. It's a real shame when, in the world of movies designed for grand escapism, real world issues and doubts cause the magic to be lost. 

The set pieces are grand - the apocalypse is suitable (but not extraordinary) - the effects are all 'there' and all 'right'. The score is about where it should be - which was another slight disappointment considering Marco Beltrami's pedigree (the "Scream" franchise, "The Woman In Black") and other previous works. 

The zombie apocalypse is somewhat reminiscent of a cross between "I Am Legend" and Soderbergh's "Contagion". Now fast spreading viruses are nothing new - especially ones that have a nasty habit of deforming the population into mindless, flesh eating maniacs. But the rate of spread, the speed of the infected, as well as their relentless in general bring back hallmarks of the above two films and more. Gone are the days of the 80s and 90s - and even more recently, the days of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise - where zombies are slow and hulking. No - the zombies now have many upgrades that are designed to keep those with short attention spans watching. In the old days, it used to be about killing zombies. Then it was about curing them. Now it's about both and more - "Contagion" being a perfect example. In an effort to make these films intellectually stimulating, as well as the seat-of-your-pants thrill ride that they want to project in every chase sequence that make up 80% of said zombie genre's running times, they're now focusing on more scientific grounds. We're no longer killing zombies with chainsaws for the heck of it - now we're doing with a purpose of finding Patient Zero, understanding the virus and it's origins, and developing an antidote/cure. Rather than have a set of people try to make it out of a situation or simply survive - we now deal with questions of extinction, where it always falls on one (or a very small group) of unlucky souls to deal with this mammoth task. 

Credit should go, on that last point about the plucky survivors to earlier pioneer Romero - whose formula for a zombie film feels like a nostalgic memory at this point.

Fans of the book might be disappointed. 

Fans of actually scary zombie films may be disappointed. 

Fans of...

You get the idea. However, the film isn't bad, at all. It's not that the film falls down and would need even more extensive reshooting or a complete restart (like say, "Scary Movie 5" did)  - it's just that it leaves you wanting more. You can go watch it, and it'll leave you feeling content that you saw an above average zombie film. Foster (and the rest of the production crew's) grand set pieces and hard hitting scenes work well - it's the 'small' scale stuff that just leaves you wanting that extra few morsels.

But all it will leave you feeling is wanderingly content - it won't ask you for anymore. The unfulfilled potential of such a star driven vehicle leaves you wanting more.

Considering the source material, that's the real shame. 

What the Mr Thought:
Missing the book's heart by a country mile - WWZ ended up looking epic, but feeling ever-so-slightly empty. It's not disappointing overall - just slightly saddening that the

What the Misses Thought:
If you have read our About Us post you will know that horror/thriller films are something I really don't enjoy. I hate being made to jump and just get a little freaked out! However while this is a film I would normally try to avoid, I really enjoyed it! The story captivated me and I was just fascinated.

But remember, you didn't hear any of that from us,

So you know, keep it secret.

The Mr. and the Misses!

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