Friday, 28 June 2013

FILM: World War Z (7/10)

Why did I watch it?
World War Z was my most anticipated film of 2013 (2013 anticipated films).

What's it all about?
After escaping Philadelphia with his family in tow, UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is tasked with tracing the source of a global zombie pandemic that shows no signs of slowing.

Should you watch it?
I am going to dedicate one paragraph and one paragraph only to the subject of the film being massively different and inferior to the book it is allegedly based upon. Max Brooks' novel is a collection of accounts of the worldwide war against zombies and covers social, religious and political repercussions stemming from the global war. Marc Forster's film is a zombie based action film led by Brad Pitt with occasional references to locations (Israel) or terminology (Zeke) from the source material. The term 'based on' has never been so loosely used. Being a massive fan of the book, I lowered my expectations for the film to match my disappointment after finding out that the screenplay was not staying truer to the spirit of the book. Anyway, that's out of the way now and this review will now attempt to assess the film on it's own merits.

The film wastes no time, racing out of the traps with only a few minutes used to introduce the Lane family, father Gerry (Pitt), mother Karin (Mireille Enos) and two daughters, before the zombie outbreak takes over Philadelphia. From this point it's all zombie tension and action, including some well shot action sequences in an eerily lit apartment complex, until Gerry gets his family out to the UN fleet off the coast of America. This domestic introduction to the outbreak gives way to a more global perspective as the UN look to investigate the source in order to develop a vaccine. I felt this worldwide globe-trotting series of locations and discussions of the differing strategies of different nations following the outbreak was much more consistent with the spirit of the book.

Red light district
In my mind, introducing the zombies so early on in the film (we discover the world is overran within thirty minutes) underlines that Forster saw the film as more of a global thriller investigating the world's ability to cope with a zombie outbreak more similar to the likes of Contagion rather than a true zombie horror flick like Dawn of the Dead. I had no issue with this, and neither did I have any complaints (as I have seen consistently made) with either the lack of gore (only a 15 in the UK) or the speed of the zombies. Firstly with the gore, I personally don't see it as a prerequisite for a zombie film, if the director (or studio I imagine) choose to include it then so be it but I think there has been enough on The Walking Dead to see me through to the next season. Secondly with the zombies, there are some inconsistencies in their relative speed and intelligence and they did look very similar to the vampires from I Am Legend, but the fast nature of the herd is a change from the norm and does lead to some awesome looking scenes. Also, I don't think the film ever really confirmed that the infected were zombies or the undead, only that these were literal translations of terms used in other countries.

I found the film capable of a decent level of tension and suspense in places although I really did begin to get frustrated with the repeatedly clumsy nature of the cast as they banged into everything in their way and attracted the attention of zombies. Doesn't anyone look where they are going?

Brad Pitt's chopper takes off after a day's shooting in Glasgow
I thought that the rehashed ending (courtesy of rewriters Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof) lost it's way in comparison with the more international nature of the film's first two acts and became more of a typical zombie film without being anything special, and this act was definitely the film's weakest part.

Considering the delays and re-writes, World War Z is a success, in that it made it to the big screen at all and I actually enjoyed large parts of it. However, it's inconsistent writing and ending, not to mention the huge divergence from the book will always be a source of frustration to many.

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