Whelp, the reviews are out on World War Z, and like my review of Man of Steel, the critics got it wrong, but in the other direction this time. If there was a movie to bash this summer, it’s World War Z. Weak plot, zero character development, plot holes, thrill-less, white washed, and anticlimactic. And yet while Man of Steel is at 56%, World War Z is enjoying a 67% rating. That’s almost a C! I dedicate this review to explaining why this film was F worthy, and how much potential was wasted in this endeavor.
The following article may contain spoilers. I refuse to tread carefully around a movie that lacks suspense, doesn’t immerse the audience in the story, and just isn’t worth anyone’s time.
World War Z, the movie is the story of Brad Pitt saving the world from the Zombie Apocalypse single handedly. No, seriously, they really ran with that idea for the movie. Brad Pitt plays an investigative reporter that’s assigned to a task force to find the origin of the zombie plague and develop a solution. This team falls apart almost immediately, and Brad Pitt has to travel to a couple of locations around the world, witness the zombie apocalypse just as it takes over those regions(conveniently), and develop a medical solution despite absolutely no scientific or medical training. SPOILER ALERT: he totally does, because he’s Brad Pitt of the Master Race. END SPOILERS
I didn’t mention Pitt’s character’s name, or any of the characters’ names because it doesn’t matter. I guarantee you will struggle to remember a single name throughout the movie. There is no real character dialogue, no development. Characters exist as tools for the plot, and have no life of their own. Pitt’s character has a wife and two daughters. He interacts with them to demonstrate that he’s a family man and we should sympathize with him. Other than that, Pitt’s family serves as nothing but an accessory to his character, no depth, no substance. The wife serves to be caring and protective and a woman. The daughters exist to be cute and white.
There is a definite racial imbalance in World War Z, with the vast majority of the cast being white, and racial representation being either non-existent, or downplayed by nearly irrelevant placeholders passed off as characters. The family picks up a vaguely latino boy that was recently orphaned when his family was attacked and turned into zombies. This boy displays no emotional struggle, and no attention is paid to this child’s trauma. Meanwhile, we get to watch Brad Pitt bitch about his family not getting to stay in the absolute safest of places on earth and being kept in a mere “protected zone”. This little boy lost everything, his entire world has collapsed around him, but we’re expected to give a damn about a consistently over-privileged white family that has continued to be 100% intact. Then there’s a moment when the film presents a candidate more qualified than Brad Pitt to build an understanding of the zombie virus only to kill him off because he wasn’t white enough to be the hero of this story.
The various characters that appear to assist Brad Pitt range from scientists to soldiers and they all feel expendable. They deliver lines to progress the plot, but have no personality whatsoever. In addition, they seem to disappear without notice. Sometimes they get killed off as an afterthought, sometimes you just don’t see people again. This film just doesn’t seem to care about anyone that isn’t Brad Pitt.
Special mention is deserved for the female Isreali soldier played by Daniella Kertesz. Once again, very little interaction with her character, her name becomes forgettable, but Kertesz manages to show brief glimpses of potential as an action star. Kertesz has the presence of a badass while also displaying enough emotion and maturity to become the most human character in this movie. World War Z would have benefited from more of Daniella Kertesz. Plus, she was kinda cute. If it weren’t for the shaved head, she’d look like an actress in a John Hughes movie.
Possibly the biggest issue of the movie comes from the concept behind it’s zombies. Minor spoiler, these zombies don’t eat people. They bite people, infect them, then move on to bite the next person. Aside from this being lame as hell, it takes what little logic zombies have, and discards it. How do zombies sustain themselves if they aren’t eating? These are fast, superhuman zombies too, so where are they getting the calories needed to walk and attack people, much less smash windows in and scale massive walls while sprinting non-stop. And just wait until you get to the ending. Brad Pitt’s solution to the zombie apocalypse brings the concept of zombies to new levels of dumb.
But was the movie at least entertaining? Well, somewhat. It’s an action movie with action sequences so there is entertainment to be had. The dialogue is forgettable and boring, but not much more than in most action films. But even the action doesn’t pack the punch that it should. Zombies are supposed to be terrifying, but in many cases, the World War Z zombies are just silly. I watched this movie in a well-filled theater with the audience ranging from teenagers to middle aged men and women. There were a couple gasps and screams, but much more laughter.
Leaving the theater, I listened to the reactions of other viewers. With any decent film, viewers will leave with a euphoria that causes them to think much higher of the film than they would on subsequent viewings, or viewings in less cinematic locations, like the home. With World War Z, the people I scanned seemed to walk out with a resounding feeling of “meh”. I overheard a teenage girl say, “It wasn’t really scary, it was actually kind of funny.”. When you make an action/suspense/horror film and you can’t build a sense of intensity and fear in a teenage girl, you have failed miserably.
To understand just how shamefully bad World War Z, the movie is, we must examine the phenomenally well written World War Z, the book. Before the film was the book, World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War. Imagine the zombie apocalypse has ended, and what’s left of National Geographic has organized to send a writer around the world to collect stories from the survivors to piece together a well-rounded cultural history of the fall and re-emergence of man. That’s the feel of the book. It’s a collection of intimate and personal short stories about people around the world, soldiers, home makers, politicians, people in all walks of life. The narrator serves as a bridge between these stories, doing his best to explain to an audience that has lived through the apocalypse how it began, how the world survived, and what ultimately ended it. It was a beautifully written retrospective that lends a maturity and a new perspective to the cliched but pervasive subject of zombies.
The book stressed it’s social and political messages. The writer addresses the obvious anxieties we have with uncontrollable, unpredictable mortality, which he believed is what makes zombies such a popular subject as one of the ultimate in indiscriminate uncontrollable destruction and death. Zombies survival strategy has become its own sub culture in our world, and the writer explored the implications of our obsessions with surviving the most extreme conditions. Maybe the best issue addressed in the book is government, and how (poorly) it serves us in times of crisis.
In comparison, the movie adaptation covered the important issues of…. nothing. There was no message to the movie. World War Z, the movie is as mindless as the monsters it portrays.
If you haven’t seen World War Z yet, don’t bother now. This movie is crap, and a message needs to be sent so when the obligatory sequel comes out, they put something better together than this pile of crap. But please, read the book, it’s fantastic.