World War Z movie poster
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World War Z
World War Z movie poster

World War Z Movie Review

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World War Z is about zombies. The "Z" in the title... yeah, that stands for the word "zombie." The movie trailers have tried to hide this fact as best they can because, you know, zombie movies shouldn't cost $200 million. Or star Brad Pitt. Or be PG-13. But more on that in a minute.

The movie is based loosely on the excellent book of the same name by Max Brooks, and I use the term "loosely" loosely because all that remains of the original novel - which was an "assemblage of stories" from people who survived the zombie wars - is the title. In essence, that's fine, but if you're going to spend $200 million or more on a zombie movie, you better make World War Z the most amazingly awesome zombie movie ever.

First rule about making zombie movies: gore. Lots and lots of gore.

How much gore is there in World War Z? So little that one scene that involves Brad Pitt getting his crowbar stuck in a zombie's skull is shown completely off screen, with very little interesting audio to make up for the absolute lack of gore.

Second rule about making zombie movies: have fun. And be creative while having fun.

Whether you're playing it serious - Dawn of the Dead - or not - Shaun of the Dead/Zombieland - you have to make the movie fun. World War Z is a serious movie about a global and deadly outbreak of zombies, but that doesn't mean it can't have fun with the fact that most of the world's population has been turned into flesh-eating corpses. The movie is as straight-laced as they come, and the result is a film with very few, if any, memorable moments.

Third rule about making zombie movies: be entertaining. And here, World War Z succeeds. Somewhat. A little. The movie is not the disaster its multitude of production problems suggests. It is generally fast paced with a good amount of action. Brad Pitt does his best considering the forgettable nature of the movie's contents. And Marc Forster, who after Quantum of Solace still needs to prove to me that he can adequately direct big budget action movies (on second thought, just stop), manages to evoke a few thrills, especially in the claustrophobic third act which was completely reshot after the powers that be allegedly decided the original ending sucked rotting intestines.

But the third act defines the film's biggest problem. The third act is the best act because it's about a few characters trying to evade a handful of zombies. Great, except that describes every zombie movie made in the last 20 years. World War Z is supposed to be bigger than that - it is about the world's response to a zombie invasion - but Forster has assembled what is at best a glossy disaster movie without much spectacle or suspense.

The movie suffers from several smaller problems, too, including characters doing stupid things like leaving their cell phone on when they are trying to hide from noise-sensitive undead, or a WHO scientist who is dumb enough to make every loud sound possible, or Brad Pitt detonating a grenade on a jetliner to survive (never mind those poor pilots, who might have survived otherwise), or a complete lack of character development. Why introduce that little kid early on only never to use him in the rest of the movie? And what about that Israeli soldier (Daniella Kertesz), who is almost a major character but never is treated as such?

World War Z is, in the end, harmless, but it's unclear who the movie was made for or why it even exists. It's relatively entertaining, but a PG-13-rated zombie movie with no gore won't do much for zombie fans. And everyone else... there's a reason why they don't watch zombie movies in the first place. World War Z isn't bad, but it just isn't very good, and a $200-million mediocre movie is the result.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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