Things haven’t been easy for World War Z, have they? This movie started filming in 2011, had to stop production for bullshit reasons, finished filming, but then the entire third act was rewritten and re-shot to make a “better” movie. With a movie that was so highly anticipated in the horror community, the length of the shoot, reshoots, and skyrocketing budget caused lots of shit talking, as those burdens generally don’t bode well for a film. Before it could even be released, people were judging it for what a failure the production was, and when it was released, the response was all over the board. I’ve spoken before about how a film’s marketing or early word of mouth can change your perception of a movie, either for the better or for the worse, and World War Z is certainly no exception. If you’re not interested in reading all of my thoughts on the film, I at least hope that you realize that the film is a PG-13 rated science fiction thriller with lots of action sequences and that if you approach this movie as a horror film, you’re going to be setting yourself up to hate it.
“Wait….what do you mean all the hair salons are closed? I’M STUCK WITH THIS?!”
While bringing his family to school in Philadelphia one morning, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) notices problems with traffic possibly escalating to road rage. Sadly for him, his family, and the entire human race, this is an epidemic of people turning into rage-filled monsters. His training with the U.N. and in many hostile countries allow him to get his family to safety and gets in touch with a former colleague who’s willing to make sure his family stays safe. The only stipulation is that Gerry must go back out into the field in hopes of finding some sort of cure to this disease. Gerry travels from Hong Kong to Israel to Wales in search of a cure and finds different countries handling the zombies in different ways since they’ve all had to deal with different levels of outbreak. Through all of his traveling and observations of the zombies, Gerry does think he’s found a weakness to them which might not eradicate everyone infected, but will at least hopefully give the human race a decent shot at survival.
Didn’t anyone tell Brad Pitt that he can’t adopt adults, even if they are from Israel?
I remember reading World War Z a few years ago and really enjoying it and was really curious how they could turn that into one movie. The structure of the book followed different groups of people in different parts of the country throughout different stages of the outbreak and how they managed to fend off the zombie outbreak. In that sense, the film version of the book was able to capture that idea of multiple perspectives on the outbreak, and even though every single one of these sequences featured Brad Pitt, we got to see him in multiple different countries in multiple different settings. Whether it be how he tapes magazines to his arms to make it harder for zombies to bite him or traveling by bike through a thunderstorm as to remain as quiet as possible or handling a zombie outbreak on a plane, we got to see people handling the outbreak in both small and large scales. Not only was the film influenced by the segmented storytelling of the book it was based on, but you’ll also find influences from Max Brooks’s other book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Max Brooks knows there won’t be a zombie outbreak, but he wrote that book as a “What if?” full of helpful information. Things like going to your attic instead of your basement because it would be harder for zombies to travel up stairs as opposed to down them. Or the fact that something like guns or chainsaws might seem like badass weapons to have, but considering the amount of noise they make and reliance on bullets or gasoline make them really impractical. In every situation that Gerry was in, he took the most practical approach to defending himself, and the film didn’t need long sequences showing Gerry trying to come up with a strategy. I feel like other films would have required exposition of “How am I going to protect my arms from being bitten? Oh! I know! I’ll cover them in magazines!” I think this also made sense by giving Gerry the background of being involved in hostile territories, so he might be able to handle things better than your average guy, but also prevented him from being some sort of one man army.
Apparently I’m going to the wrong grocery store. They never have enough scared white children in stock.
Without a doubt, the biggest strength of World War Z would be the size and scale of the zombie outbreaks depicted. Even though a lot of die-hard horror fans are disappointed with the PG-13 rating and the lack of gore, there’s no way a movie could have gotten as high of a budget as this film if it wasn’t going to be able to reach as high a demographic as possible. Even though there are plenty of R rated horror movies that take place in a world where zombies have completely overrun the entire planet, World War Z was really that first movie that had a high enough budget to show you each stage of the world being overrun. Even though the Romero films each take place at different stages of a zombie infection, it can really only tell you about how the world has been affected, whereas World War Z can show you all of those things. I think the closest an R rated movie, let alone any movie, has come to showing the sheer volume of zombies and their destructive power would be sequences in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, specifically that film’s opening sequence. From seeing zombies completely overtaking the streets of Philadelphia and jumping onto helicopters to flipping over buses to swarming so densely that they climb over one another’s bodies to get over walls, we really haven’t seen anything like it in zombie lore, and these sequences completely take away any romantic idea of how “cool” a zombie invasion would be.
Certain parts of my neighborhood looked very similar to this a few nights ago with the Blackhawks one the Stanley Cup. Well, except those people were probably more drunk and were wearing more khakis.
A lot of horror movies, especially zombie horror movies, also have a lot of humor in them to counteract the tension that’s so frequently built up. There might have been a few moments of levity in World War Z, but I can’t really remember anything being at all funny. Not saying that horror movies NEED humor, I’m instead trying to emphasize that zombies movies often include physical comedy because of how ridiculous the idea of a zombie even is. World War Z took itself 100% seriously in moments where it could have just poked fun at itself. Even the fact that this movie directly referenced the infected people as zombies, when so many other horror movies refuse to acknowledge what the creatures are, was something I thought was really cool. Going along with the serious tone of the film, they didn’t try to say it was anything supernatural or some sort of nuclear issue, but vaguely referenced it as being some sort of mutated virus and the “cure” was researched as such. Whereas a lot of people were going into World War Z thinking they’d get 120 minutes of Brad Pitt crushing zombie skulls, the film plays out much more similarly to a film like Contagion or Outbreak than 28 Days Later or Night of the Living Dead. The zombies in the film aren’t really treated as beings that were once human, but rather the embodiment of an infectious virus. The creatures drew some direct comparisons to something like I Am Legend, mostly in how frenetic and chaotic they were, and it certainly wasn’t helpful that both films were really heavy on CGI. If gore and blood and guts is what you demand in your zombie movies, then you should definitely skip this film, but if you’re interested in seeing how fucking awful a zombie apocalypse would actually be, then World War Z is definitely worth checking out.
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