The modern summer blockbuster has come to mean a movie with a ton of action, and a barrage of explosions topped off with awe-inspiring special effects. World War Z is no different. In fact if those elements were all that was needed to make a great movie, World War Z would be one of the best.
World War Z is visually stunning with some of the best special effects money can buy. The shot of thousands of zombies piling on top of one and other to get over the top of a massive wall and into one of the last safe enclaves on Earth is as breathtaking as it is horrifying. This zombie behavior is such that we have not seen on screen before and it could be the stuff of which nightmares are made. But if you expect more from the movie than things that go boom and cool computer graphics, World War Z absolutely disappoints.
Zombie movies, like any other genre, should be about telling a great story. That story can be funny, suspenseful or horrific but the best stories are character driven. WWZ opted out of all of these choices. In an effort to secure Hollywood’s current ‘holy grail,’ the PG-13 rating, every choice was watered down, every punch was pulled. Most of what could have added to the horror took place just off screen, unseen by the audience. There was no suspense built because every zombie attack happens just when you expect it to and in the way you expect. As for comedy, there are a few laughs, but mostly due to asinine plot holes and terrible dialogue.
Since director Marc Forster opted out of making a horror movie, a suspenseful thriller or a comedy, that just leaves a character driven drama. This would have been a great concept; however, the characters were all two-dimensional, stock characters who show absolutely no ability to grow. Brad Pitt takes this opportunity to recall some of his earlier acting styles and portrays his character with just one emotion. Pitt in the role of Gerry Lane, a retired UN spy, shows no passion, anger, humor, angst, desperation or even boredom; Lane is just some guy doing a job. And when that job is done, he is the same guy he was when he started. He did not grow in any way or learn anything about himself because WWZ is not about characters; it is about eye poping special effects and some neat makeup.
—– Spoiler Alert—-
All of this would be forgivable if there were an interesting plot to tie it all together. WWZ uses a ridiculous conceit that, of course, we can cure any viral infection if we can just find “patient zero.” So they find the one true bad-ass secret agent, who had to be pulled from retirement (because aren’t ALL the best secret agents retired at 40?), and send him out to find the origin of the virus. There is a reference to some incident which convinced Lane to ‘get out of the game,’ but we never find out what it was. (Hate to add unneeded dimensionality to the character) This mission implodes at the first stop when the one and only virologist on the planet who can make a cure gets whacked, but our hero keeps going. Lane chases clues to finding “Patient zero” all over the globe.
Early on we learn that zombies are attracted to sound and very attracted to loud sounds. But nobody thinks to use sound to herd the pesky little critters into holding pens or some big zombie grinder. Even in the climactic scene when Lane is attempting to infiltrate a zombie infested building, nobody thinks to use the phone system to attract the zombies away from the areas our hero is headed into.
During his world tour, Lane notices there are some people who the zombies do not attack. All of these people are very slow moving or not moving at all. So of course, based on no other information than this observation, from a distance, Lane assumes each of these people had a terminal bacterial infection so the zombie virus found them to be unacceptable as a host. Of course it is not that the undead zombies are fooled by objects that stand still; it is that their virus can tell if you have an infection! The long sought after solution to this zombie apocalypse is to give every person on the planet a terminal disease! Nothing could go wrong with that.
The saving grace of this movie is the outstanding visual effects. But every second worth seeing is in the trailer. Save yourself two hours and ten bucks just watch the trailer, at least it doesn’t have plot holes you can drive a truck through.
My apologies for the spoilers, but really, this film was spoiled the moment Forster shouted “Roll ‘em!”