Movie Review: World War Z

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So I guess the obvious speculation based on the previews were correct; World War Z is nothing like the fantastic book that it’s based on.  Given that the book provides a plethora is great material to include in a film version, the cinematic adaptation basically just resorted to focusing on their A-list star running all over the globe trying to find “patient zero.”  I guess I’m disappointed that we weren’t gifted any of the source material, but at the same time I’m pleasantly surprised that the movie that resulted from just being an in-name only adaptation of World War Z actually ended up being sort of good…!

I guess to enjoy this movie, you have to be in one of two camps…  The first camp: you’ve never read the book, so you could care less if they didn’t follow it.  Or the second: which are people who read the books, realized they aren’t going to do it our way, but then just clear your head and enjoy the ride.  If this movie totally sucked, then all the book complaining would be necessary.  But it did its own thing, it did a lot of it pretty well, and it should be held in good regard with its own merits.  I don’t want to use The Shining as an example of comparison for World War Z, because Kubrick took it to a whole different level (and created a classic [WWZ isn’t a classic]), but it’s the same in terms of taking the framework of the book and telling a different story with the same basic tools provided.

Brad Pitt is an interesting choice for this movie for a couple of reasons.  I always find it neat when A-list talent decide to star in B-movies.  Because as expensive and epic as World War Z is, it really does boil down to B-horror movie fun.  Like Brad Pitt crouch walking under windows to avoid being seen by zombies kind of B-movie fun.  I’m not sure why he wanted to be in this movie so badly, but I guess it paid off in end; WWZ ended up being Brad Pitt’s biggest opening weekend of his career, which is something I find hard to believe (much like this year’s GI Joe sequel being Bruce Willis’ biggest opening).  What movies have these guys been making all these years that prevented them from having huge openings?  Wasn’t Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven movies?  Were those not as big as I remember them being?  Anyway, I don’t think Paramount would have paid as much money as they did for this movie had Matthew Fox been the lead.  (RANDOM MATTHEW FOX BURN)

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One of the benefits of having a huge international superstar as the lead in your zombie movie is the budget it provides.  I’m sorry, I meant to say the ridiculous budget that it provides.  World War Z cost $190 million dollars to make (!).  Granted I know there were a lot of re-shoots and they changed basically the entire original ending (which I just read about and it was indeed awful), but the point I’m getting it is that with a budget like that, WWZ created a zombie movie the likes of which had never been seen.  There are action scenes in this film that I’ve truly never witnessed in the genre before.  Seeing the zombies smash into each other in massive groups at high speeds was pretty exciting.

And despite the fact that it had an epic feel to it, the main story was a very small-scale one.  It’s almost like a detective story, but with, uh, zombies!  I really liked how they took the small story and put it in the framework of the worldwide problem, and it mixed well enough that I feel like I got the best of both worlds.  There are a lot of little moments that seem a tad far-fetched, but I’d like you to inform me of a zombie movie where that never happens so I can award you with a solid gold medal of movie knowledge or something.  To be fair and honest, the main story is kind of basic and uninspiring; but it works as a means for following the more interesting action.  Don’t look at this as a drama.  This isn’t Contagion.  It’s an action movie, pure and simple.  The high-speed, tense, and frantic moments outweigh the boring ones tenfold.

On a technical level, I can’t complain.  The special effects on the massive zombie hordes were cool to look at.  The editing was nice, it didn’t feel like two hours.  The cinematography was cool at certain parts, but they probably used up all the “iconic” shots they had in the commercials and trailers.  In retrospect, I remember seeing a lot of different lighting techniques for each scenario Pitt got himself into.

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Most of all, though, it’s just a fun movie.  It mixes large-scale terror with small jump scares pretty nicely.  And it has a sense of humor.  Once we finally get a closer look at the zombies near the end of the movie; they are teeth-chattering, screeching weirdos.  The audience laughed at the zombies.  In a time when the newest Superman movie is completely devoid of humor or lightheartedness, it’s nice to know that our zombie movies can still stay fun.  As we were walking down the stairs to exit the theater, the guy sitting in front of us was walking down the aisle, arms flailing and zombie screeching, made everyone around him laugh.  I guess I’m saying the audience had a good time.

And there is already talk of a sequel in the works because this first one was successful enough, I suppose.  I don’t see how $66 million against $190 million is successful, but I’m sure Pitt will bring in a lot of international money.  But sequels are a good thing.  I’ve always thought that WWZ would have worked way better as a TV miniseries, or even better, as a more interesting and less draggy TV show than The Walking Dead.  This would have been a great episode, about the UN guy who was trying to find Patient Zero.  But it really doesn’t even tap the source material’s bounty of good zombie fun.  So I hope they make a sequel.  I hope they make two sequels.  I’d love to see what they can do with it.  Maybe next time around we’ll actually get to the best story in the book, about the helicopter pilot that crashes in the bayou and has to survive the night in a zombie infested swamp.  [closes eyes] [crosses fingers] “Please don’t cast Michelle Rodriguez…  Please don’t cast Michelle Rodriguez…!”

8 out of 10

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