Chuck's Movie Reviews: World War Z

Charles Bryant

World War Z image World War Z

Hello, folks. Since the Man of Steel review was fun and well received I thought I'd keep the movie review goodness coming with my take on World War Z...


Let me preface this by saying that I have not yet read the book World War Z and this review is not in any way going to compare the two. I will also admit that I went into WWZ with somewhat of a tainted view as I followed, somewhat closely, the ongoing saga of what a mess this movie was during production. Here's a Hollywood axiom for you -- almost always when a movie is delayed and heavy hitters are brought in for 11th hour script rewrites and reshoots, it means big trouble. In this case, WWZ had third act problems (not good) and uber-writer Damon Lindelof was hired to correct them. They reshot roughly 40 minutes of the movie, delayed the release by six or seven months and everyone knew it. But sometimes that can work in my favor as I'd always rather go into a movie with reduced expectations and end up pleasantly surprised, which is the case here. Despite all my doubting ways, I really enjoyed the movie.

The first thing executive producer and star Brad Pitt did right was hire the excellent Marc Forster to helm the picture. Forster made a name for himself directing quiet, character-based films like Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland and the criminally under seen Stranger Than Fiction. After that he kicked things up a notch with a Bond film (Quantum of Solice) that prepared him for the larger landscape he found himself in with WWZ. The other good move Pitt made was bringing the story down to a human level. For all the zombie goodness and action the movie embodies, it's really a film about a dude trying to save his family. Personally, I find Brad Pitt immensely likable and a story about a man trying to save his wife and two daughters spoke to me, even if it's through the larger lens of stopping a zombie apocalypse. To put it simply, I believed him and I rooted for him. When you have that going for you in your protagonist you're in pretty good shape. Overall I found the action was pretty great, the tension was IMMENSE, and the pacing was spot on. It never dragged and didn't feel bloated like many big summer action movies. The third act worked for me too, so hats of to Lindelof and Drew Goddard for their work.

Now about those zombies, or "zekes" as they're called here. We've had several debates on SYSK about whether or not fast moving zombies are true zombies. I myself have argued that slow zombies are the way to go, but I have to say that I really found myself on the edge of my seat with WWZ, largely because these zombies move REALLY, REALLY FAST. The Philadelphia scenes early on were absolutely terrifying and I can't say enough about the airplane scene - definitely something I've never seen in a zombie movie before and total white knuckle territory. My one complaint with the speed is that the zekes are so fast that you don't get a real sense of what they look like for a while, but I have to say that overall the pace of the onslaught really worked for me. It should also be noted that they even satisfied the slow movers among us with a clever little plot device that made the zekes plodding and Romero-esque when they had no stimulus to excite them. This really helped the third act work well because it all depends on being as quiet as possible to avoid awakening the speed demons.

I've heard and read various complaints about the lack of gore and the fact that they were pretty obviously shooting for a PG-13 rating here. I admit that I like a bit of gore with my zombies, but the action and suspense were so well done that it didn't really bother me, and as a pragmatist I understand the value of toning it down for a wider audience. I say it beats relying on gore alone to pump up an otherwise flaccid story, something I've seen more than once. There were some minor things I might have changed with World War Z and while it's not a perfect film, I found it to be a fun summer movie that hit all the right emotional notes and really played the tension and suspense effectively. I give it a solid 7.5 out of 10.

What did you folks think?