Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
World War Z

Title: World War Z

Christ, Another Zombie Movie? Your lousy puns aside, I have it on good authority the federal government has mandated every third movie must be undead-related by 2016.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three cricket bats out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: The dead rise. Brad Pitt runs.

Tagline: "We've lost the East Coast!"

Better Tagline: "The life of a repo man U.N. investigator is always intense."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Giving new meaning (or maybe the original meaning) to the expression "viral phenomenon," a global outbreak that turns humans into ravenous, undead parkour aficionados in a mere 12 seconds has mankind reeling. Their only(?) hope is retired United Nations war crimes investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who must somehow trace the virus's origin if humanity has any hope of finding a cure.

Seriously, they had *one guy* they could use?

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Rent it, unless watching Jerusalem getting overrun by the living dead is something you've always wanted to see on the big screen, you anti-Semite.

"Critical" Analysis: I'm a big fan of Max Brooks's book, upon which Marc Forster's movie is oh-so-loosely based. I appreciated its global perspective as well as Brooks's Studs Terkel-ian oral history approach.

That being said, if you've also read the book and are expecting familiar characters or plot details, please drink a liter of grain alcohol or fire a nail gun into your eye or do whatever is required to erase every memory of it from your head meat. Because if you're the type of person who obsesses over a movie adaptation's similarities to the book, you're going to go clinically insane.

For example: no Battle of Yonkers; no slow "Zekes"; no Windsor Castle fortress; patient Zero has been relocated to South Korea instead of China (what possible reason could they have for that?), etc. etc. ad nauseam. I can't even remember if there was a character in the book named "Lane."

If none of that bothers you, then the sort-of good news is: World War Z is 2/3 of a fairly solid action/horror movie. After the brief introduction of Lane, wife Karen (Mireille Enos), and daughters Rachel and Constance, the shit hits the fan. Lane and family barely escape their hometown of Philadelphia -- not only is Lane an ace investigator, he has the luck of the Irish and nine lives -- to a flotilla housing what remains of the U.S. military's command structure. Since Lane was so good at his job, his friend Thierry (Fana Mokoena), an Under-Secretary at the UN, secures lodging for Lane's family aboard the cramped ship, on the condition Lane accompany a scientist and a SEAL team to South Korea, where they believe the virus originated.

And so we're off. If the first act is standard (yet often still harrowing) zombie apocalypse boilerplate, the second introduces more political elements as Lane travels to Jerusalem to learn how they were able to anticipate the crisis. Along the way, screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan (and possibly Pitt himself; it's impossible to precisely tell with celebrity pet projects) also injects some environmental commentary regarding possible reasons for the outbreak.

It's in the third act that everything comes to a screeching halt.

Leaving aside obvious stupid questions (The closest WHO facility to Israel was in Wales? Did Lane quit, or did he get fired because of that douchey haircut?), I'd be veeery interested to see the original ending that was so unsatisfying it prompted Paramount to switch gears from "balls-out action flick" to "shelved sequence from the first Resident Evil movie."

Worse, the movie just *ends.* I could understand a tonal shift if Forster and company were maybe planning to give us the blockbuster ending he'd presumably been working toward for the first hour, but there's no follow-up. I never say this about movies anymore, but I really would've appreciated another 30 minutes to wrap things up satisfactorily. At an hour and 40 minutes (plus ten minutes of credits), World War Z ends with a lot of questions left unanswered, presumably to allow for a sequel. Given the tortured process of getting the movie off the ground in the first place, better everybody takes whatever money they've made (I'm not getting a Man of Steel box office vibe here) and goes their separate ways.

There's nothing here you haven't seen before. Less, in fact, considering the PG-13 rating and monstrous budget. If this is the kind of movie you're inclined to check out, feel free to do so. Otherwise, go rewatch the last season of The Walking Dead.

World War Z is in theaters today. With their tanks and their bombs, and their bombs and their guns, in your head, in your head, they are crying.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar