World War Z

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Yeah, I went to see it, and you know what? It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but it really wasn’t bad and had enough  fun moments and interesting choices that made this an entertaining couple of hours. I would expect the 3D version probably was a heck of an amusement park ride.

WWZ was never going to be an easy story to translate for screen, and the movie has been mired in controversy over how it went about it. However, in the end, they did manage to preserve the episodic nature of the book in some good ways by travelling the world to hear stories that provided clues to the plague. In this way we got various folks stories via Pitt’s character. It isn’t a perfect balance, but it was a game attempt.

Where the movie slacked for me was the fight scenes, which were just not filmed well. And the overall feel was a little too earnest. So much so that by the last 30 minutes of the film, you started laughing at moments that really weren’t intended to be funny. It was very reminiscent of the flag pass that was meant as symbol in War Horse, but became almost laughable, because you knew it generally meant the death or destruction for the recipient. Pitt became the red flag in every scene… for all his efforts and attempts to help, everyone around him just kept dying. I applaud the fact that the carnage was immense… it needed to be to capture a pandemic of the magnitude the story intended. But even Shakespeare knew a tragedy needed comedy to survive.

The fast zombies, a subject of much discussion and objection for many people, worked for me. I liked the idea of a human masses as, essentially, a living virus. I wish it had been a bit more of a super-organism as it became a little too close to more typical Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later (another [first?] fast zombie movie) style fights.

The cast were all good but, like the book, you don’t really get to know any of the characters for very long. Enos (The Killing) was solid, and a great choice as Pitt’s wife, but she didn’t have a lot to work with. Pitt, himself, was the focal point of this world-spanning tale and managed to serve the story well. However, as an audience member, I didn’t feel much of connection to him either. They came close, but I just never cared about the situation; it all felt a little hollow for me. A friend had suggested this would have been a better mini-series. However, I disagree… I don’t think the audience is there anymore for an anthology series, which is what it would have  become if it was avoid feeling like a Walking Dead ripoff (which was a ripoff of so many other things before it anyway).

While director, Forster, certainly  has added to his diverse c.v., I wouldn’t rate this entry as one of his best given his past. However, against all odds and press, he pulled out a hit for Pitt’s Plan B studio. The issue is that I don’t think he recognizes where scripts are weak. Where he has a good script (Monster’s Ball, Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland) he can knock it out of the park. When the script is lacking (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, WWZ) he doesn’t seem to be able to fix it with editing or directing even if he manages to make something worth seeing. There are numerous issues with the WWZ script, from science to dialogue issues… but sometimes you just have to let all that go and enjoy a film for what it is. They can’t all be Pitch Black, for instance.

Overall, this is a reasonable ride for your money and an entry into the zombie lore that will likely endure for what it has added to the pantheon. For the year and genre, I’d still place Warm Bodies above this as a must see, but as a big screen adventure, it works. Still, if you haven’t read Max Brook’s original book, you need to remedy that situation at some point. Appreciate this film for what it is, but get to “patient zero” of the material, as it were, to really appreciate why so many wanted to see this done right.

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