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The Zombie Apocalypse as U.N. agitprop – World War Z

June 21, 2013

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  1. This has nothing to do with the film itself, but there were an inordinate number of trailers attached to this thing, including one for the impossibly stupid-looking White House Down, a Roland Emmerich/Channing Tatum/Jamie Foxx blowup-fest. It looks to combine the “U.S. President as Action Hero” nonsense of Air Force One with the intellectualism of Sylvester Stallone’s arm-wrestling drama, Over the Top. It’s one to mark your calendars for, as it may wind up being the worst thing ever barfed onto a motion picture screen.
  2. And after the trailers, then came the company logos before the credits. You know how every studio, every production company has its own little signature that plays at the opening of the movie (the 21st Century Fox searchlights, the DreamWorks kid in the moon, etc.)? I think I counted six before this got started. There’s an old adage about too many cooks in a kitchen. I don’t know if it applies here. In light of the rewrites and reshoots, it might.
  3. The opening scenes do their damnedest to get us to care about Gerry (Pitt) and his wife and two daughters. We get a glimpse of their happy home life, and then we lurch full on to a downtown Philadelphia outbreak. As a result of our (merciful, actually) plunge into the World War of the title, we never really develop that much interest in the distaff side of Gerry’s family — not that we would have anyway. As they largely disappear from the movie after the first act, it’s a big whatever. But much of the emotional family heft that’s supposed to be foisted onto us falls flat. (Pitt is one half of Brangelina, parents of so many children I often think of them as The Celebrity Power Couple That Lives in a Shoe. I wonder if he flips pancakes for them all at breakfast time?)
  4. Matthew Fox, of Lost fame, was once in this movie — I think. Good luck finding him, though. Since old Lost writers Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were the two specialists brought in to “save” the flailing product by cutting out and reforming great lumps of runtime, there’s much irony in this.
  5. Pitt is serviceable enough as a U.N. investigator pressed into finding the cause of the global super-rabies that’s consuming the world’s population, and some of his scenes are rather inspired. (One, coming after he figures out how long it takes for a bitten victim to become one of the undead — it’s seconds — and he’s bitten himself is as solid as anything else.) And, by God, his unisex salon hair looks magnificent throughout. (As a man who’s head has become a cue ball in the best of times, I’m insanely jealous of his ability to maintain a coif in the worst.) But everyone around him (well, almost everyone — see the next point) is a cipher. A shallow, empty cipher, spouting dialogue that you can hear rattling around in your ears before they even say it. The zombies don’t utter a word (they just lurch around at high speed, like the uber-zombies of 28 Days Later— didn’t I just mention that movie?), but they’re more lifelike.
  6. Gerry-Pitt picks up an unlikely partner in Israel, a female soldier named Segen. Played by Daniella Kertescz, she becomes the only character in whom you can become remotely invested. She and Gerry share, how shall we say, a moment of separation, and then they’re off into the brand new ending cooked up by the rewrites. There’s more verve in her performance than any of the others. I’m not saying that this is a star-making turn for Ms. Kertescz, but the fact that she seemed into it is appreciated. She and her buzz cut kept me awake. At least there’s that.
  7. The United Nations and its adjunct, the World Health Organization, are made out to be the glue binding together forces trying to save the world. With all due respect to Pitt (and by association Angelina Jolie, a U.N. goodwill ambassador — whatever that means), if the day ever comes when the survival of our species depends on the faceless, ineffectual bureaucrats at the U.N., it’s put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye time.
  8. I usually can find ten points for discussion in any movie. I can’t for this. That says it all.

If you’ve seen any of the trailers, then you’ve seen every action money shot there is in World War Z. Literally — this isn’t hyperbole. If you crave zombie fiction, then sure, buy yer ticket and takes yer chance. If you’re an average schlub, you may want to Redbox this bad boy, if at all. Pitt and the studio hope that Z the first installment in a trilogy. Good luck with that.

One and one-half flaxen waxen heads of glorious Brad Pitt hair out of five:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary Morrison permalink
    June 21, 2013 7:49 pm

    I absolutely love the book. This movie looks like a train wreck. Point #9-The god awful decision to make the zombies fast. And I wholeheartedly agree with point #7. In the book it was the US that pushed the war to defeat the zombies.

    • June 21, 2013 10:54 pm

      In fairness, if the zombies had been slow as death I might have gone into a coma. And while the U.N. isn’t as front and center in the plot as I may have indicated, it felt that way.

      I have a feeling lovers of the book who aren’t Pitt fans are going to be sorely disappointed.

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