World War Z

Brad Pitt, I suppose, deserves some slack.  He’s one of the world’s biggest movie stars and yet if you look at his page in IMDB it’s full of small indie films with good directors.  Sure there are some Oceans’ films, Spy Games and God help us, The Mexican, and a few years back he made an (unsuccessful) Oscar grab with Benjamin Button, but there are a lot of small interesting films that indicate to me he wants to stretch.  We won’t be putting World War Z in that last category.  Pitt is basically looking for another action/adventure star payday by throwing down with a couple of million zombies. That’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot.

This was a troubled production with rumors of friction between the star and the director, Marc Forster.  The last third of the film had to be reshot and it went over budget.  Their prop guns were seized by Hungarian rebels.  Who knew there were Hungarian rebels?

Troubled productions often lead to disasters.  But sometimes they lead to triumphs.  In the case of World War Z they’ve fallen somewhere in between.  This is an intense film.  There are a few scenes where the characters can let down their guard but these are short and rare.  Basically the film careens from one set piece to another.  The problem is that they don’t really build and the movie is a little one note but at just under two hours the film ends before this becomes an issue.

Pitt is enjoyable to watch as some kind of ex UN operative.  He’s competent, but not hyper-competent like a lot of action movie stars.  Acting-wise it’s not a very demanding role and he handles it perfectly well.

The effects are pretty good.  Swarming zombies, moving unnaturally fast and without regard to personal safety as they climb all over each other to get over hundred foot walls or bash their heads into car windshields, is a genuinely creepy effect.  This is a PG-13 movie so it can’t rely on gore like a lot of zombie movies, yet the make-up is very good.  There are some cheap shocks with sudden attacks and such but generally the film relies on the tension of the situations to provide suspense.

The end of the movie is a problem in that they don’t really solve the zombie plague.  During the movie Brad Pitt is traveling all over the world, putting together the pieces as to how this thing started and how do we stop it.  The last action beat is really just another piece.  So the ending isn’t an ending.  As I understand it the book is very long and the movie left a lot out.  And yet if the movie went on much longer it would have gotten repetitive.  The ending seems like a compromise. 

I wonder if this was what the behind the scenes conflict was about:  Is World War Z an epic or a zombie movie.

What they achieved finally is something in between, an enjoyable if flawed summer movie.


2 Responses to “World War Z”

  1. 1 Mark Anderson June 25, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I have read (in the long Vanity Fair article “Brad’s War” at that the makers of this film hope to follow it up with one of more sequels. In that light, perhaps the inconclusive ending is an effort to leave the door open for the next film in the series.

  2. 2 theotherebert June 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I heard about that article. You’ve got to hand it to Brad Pitt. I gather he tried to make it a lot more intelligent than it wound up being and it was by no means a dumb movie. I suppose a sequel is a possibility. It lost it’s opening weekend to Monsters University but there’s no shame in that and WWZ did pretty well. It did have significant budget overruns, so the studio may wait to see how it does on DVD before committing to a second one.

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