World War Z Review
Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of June 2013.
Marc Forster’s World War Z, loosely based on Max Brook’s zombie novel of the same name, follows ex-UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) through the events of a deadly worldwide epidemic. Lane fights to protect his family and uncover the secrets behind the undead pandemic that is tearing civilisation apart, but does this summer zombie blockbuster leave you on the edge of your seat or at the end of your wits?
The film starts off sprinting, as do the zombies, and once the scene is set and the characters are briefly introduced things take a turn for the worst. You wont find any of Romero’s zombies here as the ravenous creatures hurl themselves at the crowd, even running and jumping with superhuman speed. Another radical change for Forster’s living dead is their motivation, instead of the usual desire to eat your brain or rip out entrails these zombies seem to just have a bite, and when their victim is bitten they move on.
There are a few moments where the frenzied infected will cause brief jumps in the audience, the zombies look the part and the teeth clicking is a great unnerving touch, but ultimately the tension is hindered by the toned-down gore and PG-13 action. In the place of nail biting suspense there are huge action sequences involving swarms of zombies, here the infecting becomes more a global game of tag than a gritty fight for survival. Even a scene where Lane has to save a soldier’s life by cutting off the source of her infection, it seems more of an inconvenience than a serious threat to her survival.
Although World War Z begins in Philadelphia, it quickly moves across the globe to various locations from South Korea to Israel as Lane single-handedly begins to prevent the extinction of the human race. Not only do the wide variety of locations allow for impressive set pieces to take place and some large-scale CGI to be used, but the sets also nod to the sheer attention to detail supplied by Brooks about the different methods of survival each nation would employ. These grand scenes are certainly exciting as zombies begin to form masses of flesh-eating waves beating against cities, but the film can’t seem to find the balance and shifts erratically between small skirmishes in hospitals and apartments to scenes that take place through entire cities, often moving on before the effects of the zombie plague in that area can be fully seen or appreciated.
There seems to be a nod to the zombie films of old with a concluding skirmish in a quiet and closed off environment, but it seems out of place in this large scale blockbuster. This global scale tale of a plague spreading across the world is definitely entertaining, and the plot itself is not lacking, but it seems that the film itself had not found its footing before it was released.World War Z sets out to thrill audiences in the broadest sense possible; it may be lacking a focus on the arguably essential horror element of a zombie movie, but as a global thriller about one man stopping a deadly virus it’s a fast paced and engaging film with plenty of action and sharp visuals to top it off.