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MOVIE REVIEW: World War Z Is Infectiously Frightening Fun

WWZ MAIN

“Run, it’s zombie Outlaw!”
“What are you talking about? I just missed dinner.”

 

It’s been awhile since Brad Pitt has been through the ringer (in a movie anyway).

 

It’s also been awhile since I’ve seen a decent Brad Pitt movie.

 

In my humble opinion, both issues were addressed in some fashion with the release of World War Z, the zombie apocalypse blockbuster loosely based on Max Brooks’ (son of funny man Mel Brooks.) novel of the same name.  Despite not having read the book myself yet, due to lack of time and my literacy skills equivalent to third grader, my deputy movie Outlaw, Erika “The Spunky Destructor,” informed me that the movie has as much in common with the book as a toaster does to oatmeal.

 

Book

What the movie has in common with the book.
(Hint: it’s only two words and a letter.)

 

With the first-hand knowledge of the fact this was one of the movies that Erika has been salivating over, like Brad Pitt in a Hanes commercial, for what seems like the better part of the last four decades, I took her word at face value.

 

(FUN FACT:  Brad Pitt has been quoted as saying he made this movie for his kids because he wanted something they could watch with him in it.  Unless the kids he is referring to are of legal drinking age, I find this an odd dedication to the younger members of his family seeing as I’m in my 30′s and I covered my eyes with the help of the men’s restroom door during several scenes.  Cool nonetheless, but just odd.)

 

WWZ Main 2

“You know what the difference is between Brad and myself?
I make this look AWKWARD.”

 

Seeing as the book apparently has no relation to the movie outside of the title, I figure a brief synopsis is in order.  After a deadly undead virus outbreak, UN employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) finds himself traveling the globe in an attempt to keep his family safe, save the world from a zombie takeover, and ensure the undead will be able to participate in all future Olympic games.

 


Like Halley’s comet, there are rare events where the film lives up to the trailer.

 

I say this only half-jokingly since it seems that whatever virus has infected mankind, it has also given them incredible strength, endurance, speed, and the ability to mimic scenes from the movie A Bug’s Life.  Unless you were Jackie Joyner-Kersee or the roadrunner, the probability of survival was along the lines of Babe the pig at a national BBQ cook-off.

 

That’s not to say the concept of zombies with cat-like reflexes wasn’t a refreshing concept, I actually liked the added element of danger it provided in addition to the fact it hastened the clock on humankind’s demise along with providing the film itself with a brisker-than-expected pace.

 

Zombie Fly

“I believe I can fly… I believe I can bite your flesh…”

 

To be sure, this isn’t your typical goreific zombie fare, unlike the endless oceans of blood and the grotesquely outrageous ways people are offed in each episode of The Walking Dead.  Even the WWZ zombies themselves aren’t too excessively goreified in the makeup department, which could easily be explained by the mere fact the virus turned the living to undead in 10 seconds or less, there was no time for bodies to rot to a disgusting visual state, close to that of say, Keith Richards.

 

Airline Zombie

Not being able to tell the difference between a zombie and a homeless Englishman added another level of horror to the film.

 

There is a relatively interesting exchange towards the beginning of the film where Gerry is trying to convince a Hispanic family that saved their lives to travel with them to the roof of the building for a helicopter rescue; his simple words being “movement is life.”

 

Of course that is easier said than done, as uncontrollable bowel movements are also life when you have millions of the undead – with the ability to break the land speed record – chomping at the bit to give you a love nibble.

 

World-War-Z-special-effects-helicopter-41

“Blackhawk dead, blackhawk dead!”

 

(FUN FACT 2:  For all of the reported issues that plagued (pun intended) the filming and production of this film, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this movie looked and flowed.  From beginning to end, I was in a constant state of genuine suspense and as a whole, the entire movie was extremely entertaining.  From someone who usually likes his zombie media on the more comedic side (Shawn of the Dead, Zombieland), this is saying quite a bit.  I digress though, as I guess this turned out to be more of a “Fun Opinion.”)

 

Director

“So for this scene, I’m going to suggest we spend enough money to feed a small country for 10 years, and then once done, we re-write the scene entirely because what good ever comes from a first take?”

 

With any blockbuster summer popcorn movie, it’s always a given to check your brain at the podium where they rip your ticket and prepare to view the ridiculousness unraveling before you with a zombie-like numbness.  That understood, for as much as I felt WWZ did right, there were also a few items that left me scratching my still-functioning cranium.

 

–          Head Shot Only:  We all know a well-placed head shot takes out zombies, but what about falling from a 200-foot wall?  I’m sorry, but that kind of drop is going to break some appendages on any carcass you throw over it (dead or alive), but it seems the virus allowed zombies to push forward despite potentially traversing with broken limbs.

 

Ant Wall 2

“They take a lickin’ and keep on not bitin’.”

 

–          Lack of Emotion:  It seems that any humanity left in mankind was ripped away during the outbreak.  Pitt and crew did a fine job with the roles given, but there just wasn’t enough screen time allotted to them to create any on screen chemistry between each other given the limited time devoted to the character segments of the story line.

 

Family Boat

I’d be depressed too if I lost a husband that was a ringer for Brad Pitt.
It’s all down hill from here…

 

–         Dino-Virus?:  What is the deal with undead humans sounding like a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park?  I’ve noticed it in The Walking Dead on occasion also and wonder if maybe there is some sort of prehistoric connection I’m missing with the zombie apocalypse.

 

–          No Virus 411:  Approximately zero seconds were spent on discussing how the virus worked.  I’m no scientist, but there were some in the movie and it would have been nice for a little info on how specifically the virus affected the body and why all affected acquired super powers.  That also plays into finding out the virus’ weakness at the very end of the story.  True it’s an interesting twist, but I would have liked them to bridge that gap with a tad more information.  Without a few additional details it seems like a reach, but then again, so am I.

 

World-War-Z-Zombies Survivor

Someone has a secret… although I wouldn’t call it a good one.

 

–         City Living isn’t Healthy:  Has anyone else ever taken notice of the fact that in most disaster movies, if you live in the city you may as well kiss your gluteus maximus goodbye?  Of course the more lives at stake is what creates a disaster of biblical proportions, but it seems as if the country folk do escape most of the dangers of alien invasions and viral outbreaks.  I have no personal issues with that per say, as it actually may prove more realistic, but it would be nice to see some chaos effect EVERYONE outside of a metropolis once in awhile.  I digress though, as my search for a new home in the middle of the wilderness begins.

 

–         Sound Kills:  Since everyone in the film (especially Gerry) is well aware zombies have better hearing than your eavesdropping neighbor that annoys the living dead out of you, why on earth would he leave his cell radio on, particularly right after he got off the phone with his wife moments earlier?  Also, while I was proud of my Jewish roots in Israel building a huge anti-undead wall, how did an amplified speaker system – which was seemingly in use prior to the music celebration scene – all of the sudden cause the zombies to use their heads – literally – to create a human ladder?

 

Ant Wall

The Good News: The Guinness world record has just been set for largest dog pile.
The Bad News: Every Guinness employee is in it.

 

(FUN FACT 3:  Apparently, Matthew Fox (of Lost fame) played a bit part as an unnamed paratrooper during the movie.  Which begs the question, what the hell happened to that guy’s career?)

 

Where WWZ shines, however, is in the way the viral outbreak is represented in terms of a global pandemic, spreading faster than a tweet from Taylor Swift about her next future ex-boyfriend and the accompanying hit-single.

 

In contrast, a show like The Walking Dead has so far only showcased a localized glimpse of a zombie apocalypse via parts of Georgia, which in turn provides a very regional viewpoint of society’s demise.  Granted, the TNT undead series makes up for this by focusing on character development and a cast of superb actors.   What WWZ lacks in the gore and human connection, it makes up for with its fright-filled approach based more on the psychological aspect of the consequences of a fast-moving plague could potentially have on the big picture – human existence.

 

World-War-Z-special-effects-helicopter-zombies-Israel1

“Did any one order one million meat lovers pizzas, hold the cheese, extra meat?”

 

In one very poignant scene during the early goings of the film, the Lane family make a pit-stop at a local Walmart-like superstore in hopes of finding an inhaler and some much-needed medicine for their asthmatic older daughter.  What follows is incredibly frightening, but has nothing directly to do with the zombies themselves.

 

While I’ve never been part of a riot caused by mass hysteria, seeing the breakdown of society and the chaos (and in some instances, depravity), was a disturbingly real glimpse into how a significant portion of the population may potentially act during a time when the human instinct of self-preservation rears its instinctual head.

 

Market 2

With death knocking at your door, don’t forget to keep the one thing near you that helped to get you through life… a case of cold Bud.

 

In no way am I suggesting that this film offers any type of life-like situation where a zombie-like virus will spread through the population like wildfire, in turn causing mass hysteria.   However, it’s hard not to think about how a majority of the worldwide population would carry itself in light of an extinction event that was swiftly taking place in real-time.  It’s that thought alone that makes World War Z a frightening piece of cinema.

 

Note to self:  Start looking for places to live out to in the countryside… immediately.

 

4 Spurs

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