Movie adaptations of novels like World War Z often have a large cult following. They also have enthusiasts from the production side. In this case, Paramount and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment production company was engaged in a bidding war for the fim’s rights with Warner Bros and Leonardo DiCaprio’s company Appian Way. I kinda wander how it would’ve turned out if the other side had won.
While the novel explores the actual outcome several years later, the movie depicts the very moment that the outbreak becomes global and overcomes all nations around the globe. The whole of all governments around the world seems to collapse almost within the same few days, something that might not give a lot of veracity but at the same time gives the audience what they want to see: a front seat to the zombie apocalypse becoming global.
Once a movie decides to stray away from the novel, it immediately becomes a target of criticism regardless of outcome. As it happens, you will not see “the book” here. However, I will make the concession that the movie does try to give us a global view of the entire world being overrun by zombies. Although not all political, religious and cultural aspects from the book are addressed there’s a semblance of this story taking place in the world that the book narrates.
That being said, my advice is to put the book in the back of your mind and just see this as a standalone movie. Brad Pitt plays the lead of retired UN investigator Gerry Lane. He doesn’t try to play a secret agent, but it comes down very much like that. I kept trying to just tell me it was an excuse to put him in the middle of the action in every scene but he does come off a little too infallible to believe. Conveniently, he has the connections to put his family out of harm’s way fairly quickly.
I like zombie movies because most of them understand that it’s not about the zombies themselves. It’s about the decline of civilization. It’s about the lack of government and complete anarchy. In The Walking Dead series, you keep hoping to find the last outpost of civilized life until you realize there isn’t one. There’s just despair and only your wits and your group to rely on and everything is in short supply.
I found a mistake for the plot to immediately show Gerry getting put back into service by what it seems is a still active and resourceful armed forces. The remaining urgency of the movie is about finding a cure or a way to survive. It doesn’t quite work in the same level that other movies because there’s a clearly prepared hero and he has backup. That abandons the whole point of a zombie movie which is, there’s nobody coming to help. This makes the movie more of an adventure film than a horror one.
The zombies themselves have a scare factor that slowly dilutes itself the more zombies we see. And there’s the fact that they run. I was talking to a friend about this. Watch 28 Days and you will get scared of the way that the zombies run. It’s not regular. It’s in spurts, like a force is pulling them in spurts of chaotic movement. In WWZ, they run as normal people run. You can’t tell them apart while they’re running except for the fact that there’s a lot of them. Soon enough the scariest thing about them seems to be their number when they can scale on top of each other to reach tall structures. The scare factor of one zombie drops after you’ve seen hundreds scaling up a wall or bringing down a chopper.
As Gerry travels the world looking for clues, we’re introduced to other characters that seems to disappear in the background. Segen, an Israeli soldier that Gerry saves from turning by amputating her hand, sticks around as a travel companion. Segen, played by actual Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz, seemed like it had a lot of character potential but it’s left completely untouched by the movie.
Eventually, Gerry and Segen will arrive at a research facility where Gerry puts into a motion a plan to deter – not eliminate – the zombies. To do that, he will have to cross a section that just happens to be overrun by the undead. Most of it plays by the numbers, with Gerry proving his solution works by trying it out himself. I won’t give it away, but chances you probably can guess it out.
I’d say the movie is worth a watch as an action film / contagion scenario. It’s better to divorce it from the source material right at the start and appreciate only the slight references that seem to be based on Max Brooks’ novel. There’s one scene where Gerry’s team is armed with an ax, a bat, a crowbar and the one gun that almost discusses the pros and contras of each that made me recall Max Brooks’ earlier work, The Zombie Survival Guide. Unfortunately, the movie passes up on delivering the explanation which was a huge opportunity lost for me.
As an action/adventure film it’s decent, but I can’t call it a zombie film. It’s a regular action film that happens to have zombies in it. If you haven’t seen it by now, wait for Netflix.
That will do for now.