Dissecting World War Z: Keeping The Undead Alive Or Back In The Grave?

World_War_Z headerLauren: World War Z is (not really) a film adaptation of the book of the same name, about the end of the world, zombie style. And apparently there is only one man who can save us.

Brad Pitt plays that guy. Well technically, the guy behind that guy before unforeseen circumstances come into play. Traveling to a few places across the globe, Pitt searches for the answer to save humanity from the walking dead.

Warning: There will be spoilers littered throughout this discussion.

For those that loved the book, know this is not the adaptation you probably wanted. Other than a dog barking once I really didn’t make too many connections, and the feel of the book is definitely lost. Choosing one character to follow helped me connect to the story, which I am glad for because it wasn’t always easy in the novel, but the scope of this being a world war is completely lost. Yes Pitt travels to a few places across the globe, but he is just one man. We don’t get to see the different stories of how humanity fights back, which is definitely missed. So if you haven’t read the book and love the concept, go ahead an do that. I bet Zac would even say do that instead of seeing the film, as opposed to experiencing both stories.

Zac: I haven’t read the book, but love the concept of it and would have much rather seen that film. In fact, a Steven Soderbergh directed mini-series of the book could be awesome (you would get your zombification of Contagion!). But we are talking about this film, and this film I found exceedingly unbearable as it went on. I love Brad Pitt, and he is fine here, but he can’t save this film in the slightest.

Gosh I don’t even know where to start.

The effects are mediocre, the set pieces become duller and duller as the film moves along, I don’t feel the emotional stakes for Pitt or the world, the creature design is uninspired and pales compared to The Walking Dead, and worse, drew laughs in the final act. The biggest problem with the film, though, is that it isn’t remotely scary and is neutered by its PG-13 rating. Zombies are scary because they rip you to shreds and these super zombies had the ability to cause massive carnage, but we see none of it. They instead try to scare us with volume (an appropriate adjective for the liquid like movement of the zombie horror), and it doesn’t work. The first 2/3 of the film also has no practical zombies that I can see, and isn’t the zombie make-up half the fun?

Lauren:  Surprise surprise, another film Zac and I don’t agree on. I loved the water inspired movement of the zombies because it wasn’t supposed to be so much about the walking dead as the representation of the spread of a virus.  These effects didn’t always look perfect, but moments like seeing the zombies in the background climbing over each other to pull down a helicopter were pretty cool. And they really have no thought of self preservation as they run towards their target.

As for the set pieces: the problem when you think about it is that the film is basically a cycle of the same set up. We get a new location, we get zombies. Which was why I was actually surprised they never showed up on the ships at sea. Just like in Jerusalem when they thought they were safe, the zombies should have climbed up the anchors and dug in. Pretty sure I remember this detail in the book, so why not add it to up the stakes with the family?

I’d say my biggest disappointment was with them. The family gets moved off the safe ship and causes a lot of stress for Pitt for about 5 minutes, and then nothing happens with them. They’re just safe in the end. Lame. But I cannot say I was disappointed in the set pieces because knowing exactly what was coming had me emitting a lot of excited “EEEEEE”s in each scenario. Especially when I saw the dog on the plane. Zombies on a plane!

Zac: Zombies on a plane are cool, the execution here is what isn’t. A couple people turning, a couple headshots, a lot of screaming, and that’s it. And don’t get me started on the crash. OF COURSE Pitt and his one hand lady are the only two people to survive the crash (and only remaining bodies by the way) plus why the hell were they not eaten by the zombies in the meantime? They should have been overrun by them. [Lauren: But they were littered across the country as they were pulled from the breached hull!] And don’t try to tell me that it was because they were both severely wounded and the zombies avoided them because they were weak hosts (UGHHHHHHHHHHH that contrivance for a cure) because the zombies at the facility had no problem trying to eat them.

From the plane crash on I was ready to bail on this film at almost every turn. The tone of the film does a complete 180, and that would have been fine if they had executed the sequence. The sacrifice by Pitt has no weight because we know he is going to be cured, but above all the tension was killed by the hilariously terrible zombie that is “threatening” him outside the door; how was that guy not fired for that teeth thing? Also, again, infecting and curing people with a disease is really your cure for the zombie apocalypse?

The family stuff was a let down as well as I really bought into Pitt and his relationships with the girls in the brief scenes they had. It’s a shame we didn’t get more with them. The drama with them until they are rescued are the best parts of the film and I would have much rather watched a family survival drama then Pitt’s world traveling one. Though, I have to say, the disintegration of society happens rather quick here doesn’t it? I mean, rape in the middle of a supermarket mere hours after the zombie apocalypse? I don’t buy it. Oh yeah, this film also teaches us one important lesson, don’t befriend Brad Pitt abroad, you will soon be missing limbs or dead.

I also hate to be a nitpicker, but the movie is just constantly begging for you to dissect the living hell out of it. I already mentioned the logic of the zombies chasing Pitt and one armed lady, but even more egregious is Brad Pitt running around three days after having a giant pole taken out of him! Plus, why would anyone let those people celebrate so fucking loud in Jerusalem (and roll my eyes at the terrible Muslim/Jew solve their centuries of violent issues because of zombies)?  How clumsy can they be in those lab’s when their only job is to not make noise?  The zombies would never go dormant because they would always be knocking over shit and setting themselves off chasing false noises.  Sigh, I could go on, but granted these are the things you think about when you just want to leave the theater.

Let’s end this rant on a positive, Brad Pitt’s counting skills are, sincerely, awesome; I liked that bit.

Lauren: No, everyone thinks about them, just not everyone cares to let their blood boil because of it.  I can let the unnecessary 3D ruin my enjoyment, or details like the perfect escape vehicle just sitting in the middle of a pile up and abandoned for no apparent reason ruin the scene, or I can enjoy the extra dimension in pop out scares and the stress of the escape as the transformation grips the newly infected on the street.  And that whole too loud thing was just a call back to what the guy said about human nature being just that, not stupidity or hubris, but human nature. Jerusalem and that wall were the Titanic, and as soon as you saw it you knew it was going to fall anyway, so might as well have some ridiculous moment of “hey look how safe we are!” celebration to kick off the massacre.

You are right about one thing, though, because that counting bit on the edge of the rooftop was great, assuming you put two and two together to figure it out (I saw a couple confused faces at this point, though stereotyping tells me they weren’t big zombie fans going in).  A lot of my joy was in the little things: humanity’s last hope just shot himself in the face on accident, or that guy just sacrificed himself to make sure some zombies get taken out by a grenade as well, or Pitt’s off cutting hands from bodies like it was a timed test. I think I laughed the most at her still being around and kicking, and being sent on the most important mission with a limb missing. But hey, she’s got a baseball bat that she maybe used once during that scene?  We know she definitely gave up on the quiet and started shooting soon enough. So much for respecting the quiet.

So in the end, even with the flaws, it was about enjoying the ride for me, which I did. I can definitely understand why you didn’t like the section in between the start and the War of the Worlds anticlimactic ending that some say sets up a sequel even though that would be the dumbest film ever since the problem was basically solved in this one… Where was I? Oh yeah, I liked this new take on zombies, even with all of its flaws, because I turned my brain off and let the waves of zombies wash over me. And it has inspired me to read the book again, which really does have some great vignettes in those episodic chapters.

Zac: Boo Super Zombies!!! And boo the wasting of James Badge Dale; Rubicon Lives!!!

Lauren’s Final Grade: B-

Zac’s Final Grade: D

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One thought on “Dissecting World War Z: Keeping The Undead Alive Or Back In The Grave?

  1. I’d just like to say that this movie is actually nothing like the book. They bought the rights to the title so they could name the movie. The story they used has nothing to do with Max Brooks’ awesome zombie novel.

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