World War Z

God that's stupid looking.
The War is Here (IN IMAX 3D!!!!!!!).

Hey everyone welcome back to The Tagline! It's October, and I've been listing into the horror genre since early September, so I figured I'd keep the ball rolling and finally watch World War Z, a movie I'd previously avoided because it had some of the shittiest trailers I had ever seen. Were I to judge based solely on the trailer, I would assert that World War Z were the shittiest movie about zombies ever made, and let's be honest here, that is a pretty damning statement all things considered. Fortunately, this movie isn't THAT stupid, so we're all spared from me having to compare it unfavorably to a movie called zombie poledancers from hell or something. Let's all at least take solace in that. World War Z is a zombie movie made by Brad Pitt, with Brad Pitt, and for Brad Pitt, cashing in on the best selling book of the same name. Allow me to assert an important point however, which is that this movie has little to nothing to do with World War Z, save that they both involve some variety of 'zombie' and also sometimes guys call zombies 'zekes' I guess. In order to get anything but rage and chagrin from this movie, you must forget that there is a book by the same name. Taken as an adaptation World War Z is a ridiculous failure. Taken as just an action movie about zombies, it fares considerably better.

Panicky people in the streets... you know how this ends.
World War Z stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, an agent of the United Nations who is called upon to help the remaining provisional government determine the source of the zombie plague, so that a possible vaccine can be effected. This mission takes him on a world tour of bloodshed, carnage, and general unpleasantness. Imagine you decided to go on vacations to a variety of tourist destination cities around the world, and every time you got to a new one it was just full of zombies and explosions. That's kind of what this movie is like. As a actiony hero man, Lane doesn't disappoint, but at the same time he is clearly a survivor and not a great fighter. He isn't a superman, and as a viewer I felt that he and I were both very aware that he was still alive thanks to a literal mountain of courageous and very dead individuals. One can also not discount the very real role that luck plays in Gerry's survival. Some people took issue with the fact that Brad Pitt was so dominant in the film (his character is pretty much THE ONE that we are concerned with) but I didn't really have much of a problem with it. In particular I was glad to see the end of his wife and daughters' involvement in the movie, because as much as I like watching a guy and gal try and cope with two screaming little girls while being chased by ravening zombies, it was going to start seriously straining credulity if they kept not dying (to be fair his wife was perfectly competent, but if she stuck around with the kids tagging along it would have been a much shorter movie). The children stay on a UN ship safely off-stage while Gerry is thrust into a series of missions and scenarios that could be charitably categorized as suicidal.

Now there are plenty of complaints that one can leverage at any work, and I'm sure that I've approached this issue with the same phrasing before. You've probably guessed it, but I'm about to launch into an enumerated list of complaints about this movie that are trivial and stupid, and then talk about why they hold no importance to anything ever. This list was taken from an article posted on Examiner.com, and was more a crowd sourcing of issues rather than the author's own views it seemed, so I'll let them off with a warning this time.

1) The book was a UN guy collecting stories after the war had ended: Okay yeah, that's true, but on the long long list of arbitrary changes made between the book and movie, this is not one of them. No one wants to watch a movie where a guy talks to a bunch of people about all the scary, tense zombie action that happened IN THE PAST. That is not compelling cinema. For the mob's zombie obsession to be satisfied, obviously this movie has to take place WHILE all the zombies are eating everyone. This problem will segue perfectly into issue number two.

Waiting around every corner with a fire axe is Brad Pitt.
2) The movie is just about Brad Pitt's character, whereas the book was a bunch of individual stories about a variety of characters: Time and again, people demonstrate an almost total inability to understand the form limitations and differences between books and movies. What makes a good book often makes a piss poor movie, and this is definitely one of those times. A two hour long movie about a bunch of different, unrelated zombie incidents would be a mess, devoid of pacing, or overall meaning. There would be no time for anything, no character development or plot resolution. As it stands, packing a global disaster scenario like this into two hours basically only leaves time to really develop one character, the main one. You can resent that or say Brad Pitt is full of himself, but even if he wasn't I'd still have made the same call in the director's chair. Better to have a relatively tight narrative focused on one character, than several unfocused ones for the sake of adding variety or something. I am Legend is a perfect example of how this can work to a movie's benefit if the lead is a strong actor (and I can't deny that Brad Pitt has the chops for it).

3) Instead of using traditional special effects and make-up, this movie uses basically all CGI for its zombies!: This is true, and would be really damning if you spent a lot of time looking at zombies close up. As luck would have it, you basically spend NO time doing that in this movie. Most crowd shots are mid to long range, and even the up close zombie action is all pretty snatch-away, rather than stopping to linger on the grisly details. Gore aficionados will no doubt be disappointed by that, but I sure as hell wasn't. Frankly at this point, zombies eviscerating people isn't shocking or scary, it's just really gross, and I've had just about my fill of it. I'm comfortable moving along, and using all the images from the rest of our zombie-soaked pop culture to fill in the blanks with images of intestines being gnawed by a crowd of screeching revenants. The body pile featured so prominently in the trailers could pretty much ONLY be accomplished by CG, but again this is mercifully a thing that happens for like 5 minutes in the movie, and not every 30 seconds like the trailers made you think.
The only thing worse than corpses is wet corpses.

4) Why are the zombies running instead of shambling like the ones in the book: This is easily explained again as a problem with form. In a two hour movie, it is a lot harder to develop a tense running from place to place narrative with slow zombies. The fear and danger from those zombies is that over time they amass, and you get trapped, and their sheer numbers and constant moaning eventually overwhelm survivors mentally and physically. There is absolutely no way you could do that in a feature length film, without forcing the main character into a situation where he would be guaranteed to die (by surrounding him with zombies say) so the movie creators did the sensible thing and made them Dawn of The Dead style sprinters, which allows the movie to be filled with tense moments that are quick to the murder point. While your watching, imagine Brad Pitt running and zombies just kind of stumbling listlessly after him, trailing ever further behind. Not a super interesting scene.

5)America the Beautiful:  A lot of critics seemed to feel that the movie was doing a lot of flag waving, but I found the final cut to be pretty much devoid of that kind of patriotic rhetoric (for flag waving please see my review of OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN). If anything, this movie is a propaganda film for the efficacy of the United Nations, because Gerry Lane is not operating as an agent of the US, but rather as a special consultant for the UN. The movie also spends relatively little time actually in the US, so I really think people just love to hate any sign of an American being competent I guess.

Some lady as: Not Brad Pitt.
Now there are plenty of shortcomings that this movie has, not the least of which is that we really don't need another movie about a global zombie crisis, maybe ever again. That being said, From the general negative reactions I had heard on the internet and from word of mouth, I'd expected a substantially worse film than what I actually ended up with. Do you need to see this movie? No probably not, I think you probably get the drift of the whole zombie thing by now, but there are certainly worse movies out there on the subject. For those wondering, this movie grossed almost 600 million dollars, making it a tremendous score for Paramount despite a ballooning budget and the whole crew almost being arrested in Hungary for illegal arms importation (no seriously). Thanks to its success, Paramount announced they were moving forward with a sequel.

Join me again on Thursday for a bad history lesson!

1 comment:

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