World War Z (2013) — This could’ve all stopped if they wore masks

“Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one’s better. Or more creative.”

Justin’s rating: It’s more like World War Brad.

Justin’s review: An astute viewer of zombie movies will note that almost all of them hand-wave away the part of the story where the undead rise up and overwhelm the world, preferring to skip ahead in time to the point where humanity is in the vast minority. I guess it’s easier to sculpt a more contained story from that, but it’s also been done thousands of times. So why not a story that takes place when civilization is trying to cope with this initial uprising and frame it like the pandemic metaphor that it is?

That’s exactly the approach that author Max Brooks took in his 2006 novel World War Z. It helped make the ludicrous prospect of zombies more believable by documenting the “outbreak” of the living dead as it started to spread worldwide. Different countries’ approaches to the pandemic were examined, the new type of warfare was explored, and by the end it felt like Brooks managed to craft something new out of an old trope.

Then Hollywood took one look at the book and went, “Eh, let’s just tell the old story. But, you know, with a whole lot more running CGI zombies and little blood so that we can sell it as a PG-13 blockbuster.” So out went the vignette-skipping storytelling and in came Brad Pitt, Globe-Trotting Hero vs. computer NPCs.

This whole wanting your blockbuster cake and a realistic zombie outbreak tale is simply incompatible. I’m sorry, but it is. You gotta pick one, and studios always are going to go with the option that sacrifices integrity and originality in exchange for a half-billion in box office receipts.

Clearly, I’m not a good candidate to be in World War Z’s court. I feel like I outgrew the sprinting zombie phase a good decade ago. Track and field zombies are a lazy way to try to take humanity’s clear advantage away from the undead, and this movie is a good case to jettison the concept entirely.

Absent from World War Z are many of the novel’s more memorable concepts, such as conventional guns being all but useless (here, they’re plugging zombies left and right) and different tactics that the military tries to counter the threat. Really, you could replace the zombies with almost any other worldwide threat — a virus, aliens, the Kardashians — and this film wouldn’t change that much.

And that bores me. It shouldn’t, not with the concept, but when you play a global zombie disaster flick too safe, boring is what you get.

Didja notice?

  • Kid, shut up about your blanket. It’s not the most important factor in a zombie outbreak.
  • Why would you flee INTO Newark?
  • Duct-tape spear
  • Cannot wait until Brad ditches these kids

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