Film Review: WORLD WAR Z (directed by Marc Forster)

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by Kevin Bowen on June 25, 2013

in Film

ZOMBIE FILMMAKING

There are huge citywide vistas of rambling crowds in World War Z, which may be the first film in which the cast seems to exceed the actual population of the planet.  Most of these people are infected with a zombie virus that turns them into rattlesnakes with overbites and clammy hair.

Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of WORLD WAR Z, from Paramount Pictures.

The fantastic opener, set in a traffic jam in downtown Philadelphia, is a huge pay off thanks to the zombie hordes.  Amid startling car-smashing, Brad Pitt and the crowd sprint through vehicles like frightened deer.  Director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) – who never lets a shot last longer than an eye blink – makes the chaos freshly organic.  That the rest of the film never lives up to this intensity is quite a shame.  As is the case with most studio blockbusters, World War Z promises more than it delivers.

Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of WORLD WAR Z, from Paramount Pictures.

In that opener and other early scenes – such as when the genius doctor chosen to solve the virus mystery gets sent to the showers early  – World War Z teases you with the idea that it could shatter clichés and be something else, if not something more.  But each time, it ends up back in the same zombie chase.  After a while, you realize it really isn’t going anywhere except the normal places.

Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of WORLD WAR Z, from Paramount Pictures.

What caused this outbreak of zombie movies?  I suspect they started during the pandemic fears around the SARS outbreak of the late nineties.  Originally in movies such as 28 Days Later, this gave the zombie movies a new pandemic twist – people as incubators for disease.  Those twists have congregated into a new normal, with a routine of rules all their own.  Having a star of the magnitude of Brad Pitt laconically swing through these motions represents the simultaneous crowning and bottoming of the genre.

Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of WORLD WAR Z, from Paramount Pictures.

There’s something brilliantly metaphorical about Pitt strolling with immunity through a charging zombie wolfpack.  In a sense this is no different than the rest of the movie, and points out why the best zombie flicks tend to have unfamiliar actors in starring roles – you have to believe deep down that they really have a chance of being eaten.  I also wonder, when did horror films stop developing great scores?  Marco Beltrani’s efforts are pedestrian, and the cues are conventional.

Kevin Bowen's Stage and Cinema review of WORLD WAR Z, from Paramount Pictures.

On a fun level, World War Z should be next in line for the hang ‘em high treatment for the movie logic police – those Internet comedians who go through movies like Prometheus shot for shot and debunk the choices made.  For instance, if entire cities were taken over by zombies that cannot survive fire, why don’t the survivors just set the ghouls ablaze?  Perhaps there’s a zombie firefighter brigade we’re unaware of.

photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

World War Z
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions
in association with Hemisphere Media Capital and GK Films
rated PG-13 / 116 minutes
in wide release on June 21, 2013

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