I am continuing on with reviewing movies based on books that I haven’t read. While I have heard all of the really negative things about World War Z because it wasn’t like the book in anything but name, I’m actually glad I hadn’t read it before this so that I could judge the movie based purely on its own merits and not comparing it to the book all the time. Unfortunately I did read all about the rewrites and reshoots that they did for the movie and so I was constantly hyper aware of things like Matthew Fox only showing up in one scene with one line and then disappearing into the ether.
The plot follows Brad Pitt as a retired U.N. Investigator that I guess was really good at investigating because the military goes out of their way to save him and his family during the zombie apocalypse. He then gets sent out to see if he can find what caused the outbreak so as to make a vaccine or cure. This leads to a lot of zombie attacks in varied locals and set pieces. It feels pretty torn between wanting to be a story about a family struggling with the destruction all around them and an action-film about a globetrotting badass trying to save humanity. Apparently before the rewrites Matthew Fox played a soldier on the aircraft carrier the family was on that was trying to get his groove on with the wife. Ditching that story makes it much more focused on Pitt going from place to place but also makes it so the family ends up just being sort of a background reminder of “Hey, this character has something to lose” instead of them having any role of their own.
The acting in the movie isn’t bad despite the trouble that they seemed to have with production. Pitt doesn’t phone it in so we do get a decent performance out of him. While the other actors aren’t bad, they all end up being there to have someone the main character can play off of. We get a lot of soldiers and scientists and such that will come on screen, have some interesting dialogue or bits of information, and then are gone. This is probably the main failing of the film for me. For the first bit of the movie we have the family together trying to get to safety and it adds a greater level of tension. The entire point of zombie films is seeing how otherwise normal people end up dealing with the threat of annihilation. Once we get Pitt jetting off by himself, it ends up transitioning from a horror movie to an action/thriller that has more in common with something like Outbreak than Night of the Living Dead.
To be fair, the part of the movie that is more action/thriller actually ends up being pretty good for what it is. For some reason they decided to make the movie PG-13 so all of the death and mayhem happens just off camera or without any explicit gore. That ends up being easier to not be annoyed with when the movie is doing chase scenes and nick-of-time plane take-offs instead of the more personally violent zombie attacks. The concept of a globetrotting zombie movie is one that you at least don’t really see, so it has the fact that it is fairly novel going for it. The zombies themselves are the “fast zombie” type instead of the “Romero zombie” so, again, the movie is more inclined toward fast paced action than the standard inevitable, slow doom of a regular zombie movie.
In all, I didn’t hate World War Z but I also didn’t particularly love it. It felt disjointed and unsure of itself as well as suffering from a lack of anyone to give a shit about that wasn’t the main character. I’d give the movie a 3 out of 5 with a lot of that good will being that I enjoy watching Brad Pitt do pretty much anything.