Monday, July 1, 2013

Film Review: Marc Forster's World War Z

Now I have not read Max Brooks' best selling novel upon which this film is based, so I am not among those who are up-in-arms about how drastically the story was changed when going from page to screen - and it was apparently altered quite a bit, from everything I have read and heard on the subject - and because of this, I cannot judge the film as an adaptation, but only as a zombie film, on its own merits.  Doing that very thing, I can say that World War Z, as a zombie film, on its own merits, ain't half bad.  Granted, I had expected more out of the film, but what I got, what we all got, the aforementioned nay-saying source material lovers aside, was a fun Summer blockbustery romp, that may not go down in the annals of film history as one of the apex-setters of its genre, but is surely something with which to waste an afternoon in the dark. 

That being said, I must make one note, repairing a misconception that is only made more evident by that big blaring Z in the title, and was even added to by my own necessitative use of the word in the above opening salvo.  World War Z isn't exactly a zombie film per se.  Yeah, yeah, the Z-word is used more than a few times in the film, and I assume, in the book as well, but this film, this sub-genre if you will, is much more akin to something like 28 Days Later than it is to the likes of George Romero's gut-wrenching oeuvre or AMC's The Walking Dead (best damn show on TV btw).  World War Z is an outbreak movie more than a living dead film, but then there I go again, griping about apples and oranges, when I should just be reviewing the damn movie.  And speaking of that, as an outbreak movie, on its own merits, World War Z is a damn fine romp indeed.  Perhaps not great (the aforementioned 28 Days Later being the apex-setter of that genre) and perhaps lacking the depth of The Walking Dead or the balls-out intensity of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, but still a fun film.

As for the acting, there are some fine actors hiding away in this film, but let's face it, this is Brad Pitt's show, and there is nothing wrong with that.  One of the more overlooked actors around (he's too pretty to be truly talented seems to be the general, subconscious response), Pitt is actually quite the chameleon.  From 12 Monkeys and Kalifornia back in his early days, to Moneyball and Inglourios Basterds as of late, Pitt can more than stand his ground with the best working today.  Granted, there really isn't all that much acting needed in a film like World War Z - the CGI-action, sometimes good, ofttimes not so good, is the real star here - but Pitt still gives it what he's got (see Brad run below - run Brad, run), and the grand scale entertainment is let loose.  Even so, the film never quite reaches the heights it is most likely aiming for here.  Apparently Brooks' novel is as much an indictment on government corruption and isolationism as it is on balls-out zombie action, and it would have been nice to see more of that aspect in the screenplay, a screenplay that has been written and rewritten several times, including by Cabin in the Woods' Drew Goddard (he also did a lot of work on Buffy and Lost, if that is your thing) and comicbook writer J. Michael Straczynski (he had a great run on The Amazing Spider-Man and his current recurring book, Ten Grand, currently on sale via Image Comics, is one of the best comics of 2013), but flaws and foibles aside, it is still a more than competent take on the subject matter.  

In fact, flaws and foibles aside once more, there are several moments in the film that can be called rather breathtaking.   From the taking of the walled city of Jerusalem to the airplane ride from hell to the penultimate set piece taking place inside a World Health Organization facility overrun by those damn Z's (the latter is actually some of the best use of subtle intensity on film in a long long time), and even if the film doesn't quite deliver as much as this critic had hoped for, it is still a damn fine piece of popcorn entertainment.  And in the throes of a long hot summer, what more could one ask for?  Okay, that was a rhetorical question, but hey, the film was fun, so who am I to complain?  I'll leave that up to those who have read the book and are crying bloody apocalypse.

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