Saturday, June 22, 2013

World War Z

Description from Netflix:
A U.N. employee (Gerry Lane) races against time and fate as he travels the world trying to stop the spread of a deadly zombie pandemic.  As the undead hordes gain strength across the globe, governments topple and Earth stands on the brink of total social collapse.

Notable actors: Brad Pitt, David Morse, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox (barely)

My thoughts:
Let’s get some preliminary stuff out of the way.
I covered some of this in my post about the trailer, but I’ll repeat some of them here.
I love zombie movies.  I’ve seen a ton of them over the years.  Some of them terrific.  Some of them terrible (I bet I’ve seen more terrible zombie movies than good ones, but that’s the sacrifice I’ve chosen to make).  My all-time favorite zombie movie is the original Night of the Living Dead.  My point is this: I think I’ve built up a lot of zombie cred.
All that being said…
I have absolutely no issue with fast zombies.  None whatsoever.  I realize this is kind of a no-no among zombie purists, but I honestly don’t care.  If it’s a good movie, I don’t care what the zombies do.  The only thing I ask is that the rules that are laid out for that movie stay consistent throughout the movie.  If the movie starts with slow zombies, they stay slow zombies.  Don’t change the rules halfway through the movie.  (I saw this recently in Dead Season, and it annoyed me to no end.)

I love the World War Z book.  I read it right after it came out (actually, I believe I started it shortly before it came out, as I was able to snag an advance copy).  I have listened to the abridged audiobook twice, and am currently working my way through the newly released unabridged audiobook.  (If you have not listened to it, I highly recommend it.  It’s amazing.)

Seriously.  Buy this now.

So I was excited about this movie, but I knew it wouldn’t cling too closely to the source material.  It was pretty much impossible.  The only way to really stay close to the book would be to do some sort of PBS style documentary series on it.  (If any company is interested in hiring me on to help develop this, I’m easy to reach via email/Google+/Facebook/tin-can-and-cups).  After seeing the preview, I figured the movie would use Brad Pitt’s character (Gerry) as a way to connect some of the scenes/characters from the book, but that would be about it.  And, after struggling with that idea for a while, I found that I was okay with it.  I didn’t really care how closely it followed the book.  Honestly, I didn’t even care if it was a “good” movie.  All I really wanted was an entertaining movie.
Which it was.

But I found myself kind of shocked by how good it actually was.  It was extremely fast-paced.  There isn’t a whole lot of set-up involved.  A quick scene setting up Gerry and his family situation, then violence and zombies.  So much violence and zombies.  And once it started, it didn’t really let up.  This basically felt like a collection of huge action scenes, with the slower scenes added for the sole purpose of setting up the next big action scene.  It was exactly what I figured a blockbuster zombie movie would be: more action movie than atmospheric zombie movie. 
But there’s not really anything wrong with that.  I don’t always need a thought-provoking zombie film.  I don’t always need a zombie film to be making a statement about society.  I don’t always need the zombies to stand for something.  To paraphrase a (possibly made-up) Freud quote, “Sometimes a zombie is just a zombie.”  Sometimes I just want to see a lot of zombies.  A lot of people killing those zombies.  A lot of destruction. 

Which we got.  We got a lot of that.  A lot of intense, violent scenes.  But not much blood.  To get a PG-13 rating, they had to dial down the gore we’re used to seeing in our zombie films.  (I suspect an unrated version will come out on DVD with all of that blood and gore added in, much like what was done with Live Free or Die Hard.)  But, even with the extreme lack of blood, we were still treated to some good zombie-killing.  Just because we didn’t see the crowbar go into a zombie’s face doesn’t mean we didn’t feel it.  (Still, I would’ve liked to have seen it.  Because I’m a monster.)

There was one major difference between this film and a lot of other zombie films.  The vast majority of zombie films follow a small group of survivors and their varied attempts at survival.  Some decide to take refuge in a house or some other establishment (this seems to be the majority of them, due in no small part to Romero kicking the modern zombie film off in a farm house, to a wonderful claustrophobic effect).  Others find the group moving from place to place, desperately trying to find a place they may be able to settle down (The Walking Dead is currently doing this, which makes sense.  You can’t spend an entire television series in one location.  No one wants to see 7 seasons in Hershel’s farmhouse).

But I’ve never seen anything on such a grand scale as this. There were still some moments that found that panicked claustrophobia (the scene in the apartment and the scene in the medical lab were both fantastic).  But, for the most part, this was a movie that took place on a huge, global scale.  We weren’t following a small band of survivors: we were following one man, desperately trying to find a way to defeat the zombies.  It was a different feel for a zombie movie.  Most zombie films allude to the fact that the virus is widespread, but we don’t actually see how widespread it is.  In World War Z, we see it.  We don’t need to hear that the world has been taken over by zombies, because we’ve seen it.  Even though I had good feeling that Gerry would find what he was looking for, it still felt kind of hopeless.  There were so many zombies, and they had decimated the world in such a short time.  Even if a solution were found, none of the damage could be undone.  The world would never be the same.  I had never seen something like that before in a zombie film, and it was pretty amazing to see here.  (28 Days Later does an amazing job of showing the destruction of London, but that’s just one city.  Romero’s world shows different areas of zombie infestation, but only very small sections in each movie.  And so on.)

 This was not a deep movie.  This was not a thought-provoking movie.  But it was an extremely fun, action-packed movie, filled with lots of zombies and lots of people killing those zombies.  It was tense and chaotic throughout the majority of the film.  It had some depth and heart to it as well, but make no mistake: this was a big movie, crawling with zombies.  And it was a joy to watch.  I was positively giddy walking out of the theater.

And only part of that giddiness was due to watching Brad Pitt for 2 hours

I have a few gripes with the movie.  But most of them are nitpicky, and writing them down makes me sound like a heartless fiend, so I’ll refrain from doing that at the moment. 

Rating: 5/5

Zombie talk:
As mentioned numerous times already, these were fast zombies. 

Gerry’s main goal in this movie was to find a way to defeat the zombies.  He travels around the world in an attempt to figure out where/how the virus originated.  The idea being that finding the origin would allow them to find a way to beat it.  There’s not really a cure, but he is attempting to find a way to defeat the zombies.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but I really loved what he found, and what that meant in the fight against zombies.  It was a cool little wrinkle in the film, and something I had never seen before.

This is also one of the few movies where the characters refer to the zombies as “zombies”.  Not really a surprise considering the source material, but still pretty cool to see.

I really loved some of the “preparing to face zombies” stuff they did here.  In an early scene, Gerry tapes some magazines to his forearms to ward off bites, and duct tapes a knife to the end of his rifle.  That stuff had me grinning like an idiot.

Again, please buy the audiobook as soon as possible.  I cannot stress this enough.

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