Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z by Beth V

You guys might have noticed that I missed a few days last week. That's because I still feel like crap and am exhausted from working too damn much. The doctor just called in a second prescription for this thing that I suspect is actually killing me and I took yesterday off of work. I don't feel like doing anything.
Luckily for me, Beth is back with her review of the controversial movie World War Z. Controversial because it has absolutely nothing to do with the book it is "based on".
The zombie apocalypse dies with a whisper of “rosebud”. Later, a reporter tries to piece together the full story of its life by speaking to those who shared it in an effort to tell the story to the world and preserve it for the future. That's either Citizen Kane or the book World War Z. It's funny how I didn't realize that until talking about it leaving the theater.

Granted it's been several years since I read the book, but I'm not sure I saw the right movie. There is no reporter crossing the globe to collect stories of horror and/or human triumph over the greatest adversity mankind has ever faced. In the book the zombie war is over, and since we almost lost someone goes out to get the story from those who survived. It wasn't really about the zombies, it was about the people. What makes The Walking Dead (both as a comic and a show) so engaging is it's that it's the story of what people do when the world falls apart. The zombies are secondary. That could have worked for World War Z as a movie. Instead we get 2 hours of Brad Pitt saves the world.

He plays some sort of former U.N. employee (I don't know if they ever said exactly what he did there) who retires to spend time with his family. When the zombie shit hits the fan his old pal gets his family out of dodge in exchange for helping to find the cause or cure or something. He's not a soldier, but he's a crack shot and tougher than all of the real soldiers he meets. He's not a doctor, but he can cauterize a wound and figure things out faster than the top W.H.O. scientists. We hardly see his family after the first third of the movie, but he puts himself and a lot of other people at risk in order to keep them safe. It's a movie filled with strange paradoxes. Like why put Matthew Fox in there just long enough for us to say “hey, isn't that Matthew Fox?” and then never we see him again? Most of the characters pop in and out so quickly that you don't really miss them when they're gone. Halfway through Brad Pitt gets a female soldier sidekick, but all we know about her is that she's pretty bad-ass. You never get to know any of the ancillary character's stories so there's no point in their death other than to increase the body count.

Speaking of body count, I have to say that this is the largest scale zombie apocalypse that I have ever seen on film. Because we're following Brad Pitt across the globe we get to see much of it overrun by the zombie plague. City after city goes down under giant waves of the undead. As much as I don't like fast zombies the way they are used in this movie was just great. I have never seen zombie hordes used like this before, and it really gives the movie some of it's best moments. Instead of the usual generic mobs here the legions of the dead flow like water across traffic congested streets, pour over giant walls, and even ride the crest of their wave to bring down a helicopter.
It's all done extremely well, and you can tell that a lot of time and thought went into making this look unique. My one complaint about the zombies is that we don't get to spend much up close and personal time with them. I know I said it was the story of the people that makes it engaging, but I also want a little blood and guts in my zombie movie. They are flesh eating monsters after all. It doesn't have to depend upon that solely, but everything takes place on such a massive scale that sometimes you forget that the waves are made of dead people. The first and last half hour are the only times we get to see anyone fighting zombies on a small scale. And it's easy to tell that these parts weren't invested in nearly as much as the large scale stuff. The one on one zombies are fine really, but nothing that we haven't seen before.

Then comes the ending. I'm so curious to see what the original ending was like because the one they went with felt so tacked on. Again, it wasn't awful, but after so much build up it was just a bit of a letdown. Which kind of sums up how I felt about the movie overall. Not bad, but I waited a long time to see it. I was so excited when I first heard that they were going to be making this into a movie. I was concerned that Brad Pitt's involvement (and insistence on being the leading man) would change the story, but I was hopeful that it would all turn out okay. I assumed that they would be sticking closer to the book than they did, but that's what I get for assuming things. Of course, that hype all started in the days before The Walking Dead came to television. If the people involved in making this movie had gotten their shit together a few years earlier it might have had a completely different impact on me than it did. Instead they took so long, and changed their minds so much that the genre had already passed them by before it was finally released. If you live in a world of fast zombies you better be prepared to move faster than they do.

All in all it's not a bad movie. If it had been called something else and Max Brooks’ name (anyone else notice how quiet he's been about this movie?) had been taken off I might have liked it a lot more. As I said when it was over: “hey I read this great book called World War Z that would make a really good movie”. I have certainly read enough books that became movies to know that there will be changes. If they were identical all movies would be between 4 and 6 hours long, and no one would ever be surprised in a theater again. I just didn't expect what I got. I don't know if it's $12 of movie, but certainly worth the price of a matinee. Save your full price movie night for This is the End. That way you're laughs will be intentional, and you'll care when people die. You'll laugh hysterically, but you'll care.



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