World War Z review

World War Z review 2 bananas: average!

It’s a fact that a zombie movie is in the process of being made every sixty seconds. Actually, it’s not a fact. I made it up. But I’d be surprised if it wasn’t true.

They’ve transformed over the years. From shambling undead — Night of the Living Dead and their ilk — through to 28 Days Later — super fast brain munchers that run like the wind. Director Danny Boyle would disagree that his rage infected victims are zombies, but they are really, whatever he might say.

The fast variety of zombie seems to be the current favourite among film makers, and its slow cousin is becoming a rarity, finding a more comfortable home in TV shows like The Walking Dead. The episodic nature and long story arcs of TV seem like a better fit these days. The zombies aren’t always present. But they can lurk in small groups, pulling the nasty, classic zombie movie trick of lulling the human protagonists into a false sense of security. Humans are faster, but fewer, and one wrong move through over confidence can result in being overwhelmed by larger groups, or being caught off guard by the lone zombie they don’t see walking slowly behind them.

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World War Z, the book, written by Max Brooks (son of Mel), focuses on the slow kind. So you’d be forgiven for thinking World War Z, the movie, would do the same. But no, it’s the fast sort. Which I imagine is something of a sore point for fans of the book. I haven’t read it by the way, but I have read its prequel, The Zombie Survival Guide, an excellent book which plays it totally straight. If there was such a thing as zombies, I genuinely think I’d stand a chance against the undead hordes. Sounds daft, but it’s true.

All I know of World War Z, the book, in terms of structure, is that first and foremost, it’s a novel, and consists of different characters of different nationalities and their stories about fighting the zombie menace, with all of it pulled together by a central narrator. Hope I’ve got that right!

With that in mind, you can see why the film makers of World War Z decided to concentrate on the narrator (Brad Pitt) and his globe-trotting adventures, rather than a mix of characters. It might have been too messy and disjointed. Having said that, I found the film to be disjointed anyway, mainly because it doesn’t stay in one place too long.

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Overall, it’s a somewhat bland, bloodless exercise in watering down horror to appeal to a wider audience. The version I’m reviewing here is supposedly the “Extended Action Cut” which has a bit more gore thrown into the mix than the cinematic release.

But other than a gruesome amputation to stop the zombie virus taking a fresh victim, it’s honestly not that bloody. Even then, director Marc Foster seems almost reluctant to show the true horror of the amputation in any great detail, the camera twitching nervously, eager to be somewhere else, with dollops of obviously CGI blood spurting from below the screen like they were added as a cynical afterthought to sell more blu-rays to those who were disappointed first time round. The extra blood in the rest of the film has little impact too, the camera never daring to linger for more than a nanosecond. For a horror film, it’s extremely tame.

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Of course, you might argue that horror can be just as scary with what it doesn’t show, and you’d be right. But the best examples of the horror genre know how to build mood and tension, the director laying the ground work, with your imagination filling in the rest.

World War Z jettisons all of that, and makes the big mistake of thinking that if you just pile the zombies up, and shake the camera around like a Bourne movie, it’ll be scary. Hordes of zombies swarm across the screen, jumping around with superhuman strength, headbutting cars, jumping off buildings, tumbling over each other in waves, even using their combined might to scale huge walls. They look faintly ridiculous, far too fast, and just improbable in the way they move. As a result, tension and scares drain away with each subsequent attack.

Another problem is that it’s hard to give a shit about the central character, as it’s quite possibly the most boring Brad Pitt has ever been. Admittedly, the broken up narrative doesn’t help him much. It follows a template of new country plus massive zombie attack, over and over until it becomes repetitive, before ending with a whimper in Wales. Yes, Wales! And it’s curious how in their search for a cure, nobody ever stops to think, “Hang on, every time this Brad Pitt guy turns up, the shit suddenly hits the fan, and we get attacked by loads of zombies! Mmmm, I wonder…” He’s basically the Jessica Fletcher of zombie movies.

I think I’ll end it on that note.

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BANANA RATING: 2 out of 5

16 Comments

  1. theipc says:

    It’s beautiful!! The post that is. And Monkey Boy. And Murder She Wrote.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    After all of the infamous stories about production, I’m glad to see its “okay”. Good review.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      Thanks! The production stories sounded like an absolute nightmare. Would be nice to see the original ending on a future edition, as I believe they shot a lot of it.

  3. Mark Walker says:

    I actually really liked this Monkey. I expected it to be garbage but in the end found that it held my attention throughout.

    “the Jessica Fletcher of zombie movies” – great line, man.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      I did wonder what you would think of this review, as I know you quite liked it, Mark. I guess some films just don’t hit the spot for whatever reason, despite a lot of people seeming to enjoy it.

  4. Nick Powell says:

    Sad you didn’t like this one as it’s one of my favorites of the year. Sure, there are parts that are ridiculous, but overall, it’s very intense and pretty smart for the most part. I’d link to my review but my site’s as fucked up as a Thai whore post-navy in town… probably not the best expression.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      I’ll pop over and have a read of your review. I’m sure I must’ve already read it anyway, at some point! :)

    • Monkeyboy says:

      Ah, I see what you mean about your site. Just tried it, and getting an out of memory message. Probably because you stuff your site so full of articles, WordPress can’t keep up! I mean that as a compliment. Hope you get it fixed soon, buddy.

  5. Nostra says:

    Yeah, Pitt really is like Fletcher isn’t he :) Enjoyed it a lot more than you seemed to do…really was a fan of the viciousness of the zombies.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      I guess I just found it a bit bloodless for my taste. I’m not a huge fan of the mental, super fast zombie. As good as 28 Days Later is, Danny Boyle has a lot to answer for. Although I’m sure there must be other zombie movies prior to that where they move fast.

  6. Nice review but i think 2 out of 5 is not fair, i saw this movie and it’s worth of watching. At the end all depends on a individual taste…..

  7. tafkaga says:

    I haven’t written a review yet, but I thought World War Z was pretty intense. I thought the opening sequence was particularly effective in establishing HERE and NOW as the setting, which lent a scary sense of urgency to events. More than the actual zombies, it was the sense of dread from watching our world decimated in a matter of days by this pandemic. I felt hopelessness and despair, not necessarily for Brad Pitt but for mankind as its overrun and without a clue as to how to fight back.

    • Monkeyboy says:

      Interesting that you got a sense of hopelessness and despair, as they’re areas I think could have been improved on. For me, I don’t think the repetitive story structure helps to build that tension, quite the opposite really. Plus, considering the world is supposedly getting decimated, as you say, in a couple of days, they sure built that massive wall (for what good it did) in Jerusalem pretty sharpish!

  8. In the timeline of the movie, someone probably became a zombie in the movie every 60 seconds — on average. One thing that confused me is how can the zombies run like Olympic athletes without eating or drinking anything? Unless I missed something, they only bite people.

    World War Z is about how to deal with a pandemic. They don’t even need to be zombies for the story to work. What I liked most about the film is it reveals three key principles in problem solving. I wrote a short post on it. Here is the link if you would like to read it: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/world-war-z-2013/ I am open to any constructive feedback.

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