World War Z (2013)

World War Z (2013) movie poster

directed by Marc Forster
viewed: 07/06/2013 at Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, SF, CA

I’m pleased to tell you that Brad Pitt will single-handedly save us from the zombie apocalypse.  No need to worry.  And thanks, Brad.

How do I know this?  Well, I watched World War Z over the weekend and witnessed a gnarly, fast-paced zombie onslaught not only shot down by Pitt’s fatherly, protective defense of his family, but once the smartest guy in the movie goes down, Pitt is the one and only guy who figures out how to defend ourselves against the agro undead and ultimately conquer them.

If that is not enough for you, World War Z was adapted from a novel by Max Brooks, also author of The Zombie Survival Guide so if anyone should know, it’s Max Brooks, right?

Frankly, World War Z was not on my list of summer movies.  Director Marc Forster’s filmography didn’t suggest anything promising and trailers for the film didn’t inspire interest either.  But this summer has been a particularly poor one, and I’d recently read an article that recommended a short list of movies to see and movies to avoid and the list of movies to see was a list of movies that I had decided not to see (in the theater anyways).  And it had gotten decent reviews largely.  Maybe that is what made it something “to see”.  Decent may be as good as it gets in summer 2013.

The zombies of World War Z are not long dead.  They owe a lot to 28 Days Later (2002) in which zombies didn’t have to shuffle around but could run and diseases were transferred rapidly.  In WWZ, it only takes 10-12 seconds to go from bitten to zombie.  And then zombies move with computer-enhanced alacrity.  Besides a clever clacking of the teeth that the zombies do (they act like birds or dinosaurs), the main contribution to the genre are the epic images or zombies attacking cities like swarms of ants (hyperbolic ants).  They are so fast and so numerous, it doesn’t seem like there is a flicker of a chance for humanity.

Except for Brad, of course.  See, he’d worked with the United Nations in some seriously dangerous survivalist situations but he’s a really good family man who quit his job to make pancakes for his wife and two girls and doesn’t want any more of that crazy world chaos and violence.  That is until the zombie virus breaks out and he’s got to save everyone.

I used to be less interested in Brad Pitt.  But since his work with Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) and Killing Them Softly (2012), I really think he’s been making a lot of good career decisions.  Great directors can use movie stars to their best advantage.  Dominik and Pitt have a good two film history, but Pitt’s work with Quentin Tarantino, Terrance Malick, and even lesser directors in the past ten or so years has evolved some of his best movies and roles of his career.  That said, World War Z is not necessarily exemplary.

It’s a decent movie.  It’s epic in scope but I think one problem it has is that it doesn’t have strong peaks and valleys.  The zombie threat is shown in great extent early on and doesn’t get worse or more intense as the movie goes on.  The image of the zombie ant pile breaching the walls in Israel may be the movie’s key image, but the best sequence is actually on the plane when Pitt throws a hand-grenade and blows up the back of the zombie-riddled vehicle.  It’s epically not bad.  That’s the best I can say for it.  And sadly that may turn out to be one of this summer’s high points in the theater.

Post Script: The film is incredibly violent, though not gory exactly.  There has been a lot of criticism lately regarding the MPAA and PG-13 movies in what registers a rating versus an R.  This was a film in which I couldn’t recall if it was PG-13 or R while I was sitting in the theater.  I actually thought it was or should have been R-rated.

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