[Movie Review] World War Z

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World War Z and The Zombie Survivor Guide written by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks was the highlight of NaNoWrimo one year since so many of us were doing zombie novels.

It is by no means your standard zombie novel since most of the book is told in flashback. So it’s understandable that when the movie is made it will take some liberties. Let’s be honest we all know “adapted from” can go one of three ways: Harry Potter Books 1+2 level of detail to switching the ending in Jaws to make it better or to World War Z where, well, look at the graph below:

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(Image courtesy of The Oatmeal via Blastr)

So let’s look at this objectively, shall we? How do you get people to go see a big tent pole movie with Brad Pitt about zombies?

If you said make it PG-13 you would be correct, here, have a cookie.

Now while you chew down that lovely, delightfully sugary cookie I’m going to hit you with this: it’s a bloodless zombie movie.

Careful. You’re choking.

Yep. Bloodless zombies. Three seasons of The Walking Dead has made us all a little more blood thirsty than I think we care to admit. So, I’m going to hit you some more: picture 28 Days later Zombies with a hive mind and able to scale walls as a pack.

You’ve already seen it in the trailer so I’m not ruining anything for you.

And Marc Foster’s zipping camera panning helps the movie because you really don’t need a slow zombie movie. After reading some reviews I was expecting Quantum of Solace levels of editing but the camera work was fine I thought.

World War Z begins well with introducing us to Gerry, played by Brad Pitt. His nuclear family consisting of wife Karin played by Mireille Enos and daughters Rachel and Constance are the anchor of this movie and ground the movie when needed. They’re stuck in traffic when the zombie outbreak hits Philly and for most of the first act are surviving on the ground.

The surviving on the ground has some great scenes in it from Gerry finding new wheels to looting the local drug store for the trusty asthma inhaler. The new universe Gerry and his family live in is quickly made apparent when their mode of transport is stolen and they have to hold up with another family for the night. These scenes don’t feel tacked on and help drive home the new “normal”. The race to the UN chopper is fairly quick and easy follow since many times the editing of a movie fails. The survivors are shuttled out to sea where Gerry is given his marching orders from his ex-boss to find out where this happened.

Equipped with a Doctor Fassbach played by Elyes Gabel who barely has time to register and a SEAL Team that just has Red Shirts written all over them. Gerry sets off to South Korea to track down the plague while his family stays behind and is shuttled from ship to ship since space is at a premium and everyone pulls their own weight which is a great world building but the extended Lane family doesn’t have much to do so their scenes are interspersed with Gerry’s team getting thinner and thinner until it’s only him and a spunky Israeli solider named Segen played by Daniella Kertesz.

Once we get past the fact we’re in a bloodless Zombie movie the stakes have to be raised. What’s that mean? Let’s have the Zombies scale the Israel’s walls! Or Zombies on a Plane! (Which has been done, I know)

But before this script can up the stakes to Michael Bay level stupidity, the movie and our heroes come to a crashing landing outside Ireland and trek to a World Health Organization Building to find a cure. It’s during this act that everything goes from big to small and while it’s enjoyable it feels like the movie should have built more before going quiet in the last act. I’m glad after all the rumors of reshoots that the ending was at least somewhat believable but when the trailer shows all the big stuff it doesn’t leave much to enjoy.

With no talking villain to speak of in this type of movie, it’s man vs. nature which the good doctor brings up to anyone who will listen. Sighting the Spanish Flu of 1918. This is where the book comes in handy because the book puts us in the action just as any good bard should. The reader is shown not told which is what the movie does a great deal of and suffers for it. If this had been a HBO mini series or CBS mini series I think the multi night format would have suited the story better instead of a two hour format.

Don’t get me wrong I’m happy for the two hour format and the fact Marc Foster directed a fairly good Zombie/end of the world movie that had some good world building in it. And from the sounds of it they’re prepping for a sequel so I hope they decide to get a bit more bloodier and closer to the book since the Battle of Yonkers would be a sight to behold. So long as it’s shot correctly without MTV-style editing.

Now, having said all that: Dear HBO, please go read Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire’s Newsflash trilogy and make it into a mini series. Thank you.

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