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.


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.


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.


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.


BANANA RATING: 2 out of 5


  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!

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