Remember how I said I can tell how a movie’s going to turn out just from the trailer? Yeah, World War Z was exactly what I thought it would be. A hot mess. But you didn’t need to analyze the trailer to know that World War Z would be a hot mess. All you had to do was read the news about its production.
Script changes. Director, producers, and screenwriters constantly fighting. Filming expenses going way over-budget. This is exactly what Jon Stewart would call a clusterf**k. And actually, I’d say the expenses going over-budget is the major red flag here.
Just like loans for cars and homes, filmmakers eventually have to pay back the money they’re loaned to create their movies (If you’re ever curious who loaned them the money, count the number of production companies, executive producers, and producers attached to a film. By the way, there were 11 various producers for this film). Now, obviously, when a filmmaker keeps borrowing money, the amount they owe continues to rise. So, if the movie doesn’t make enough money in theaters, not only does it not yield a profit for the cast and crew involved, it also means several backers are out a ton of money. And they will be pissed. See the problem?
Considering the filmmakers behind World War Z aren’t Gore Verbinski or Michael Bay—who are notorious for spending a shit ton of money on their films and somehow pulling a profit out of nowhere—I have a feeling there are going to be some angry producers. And hey! Maybe if the filmmakers had spent more time on their story and less on expensive CGI, then they wouldn’t be in this situation. But let’s save that for the spoilers section.
Here’s how Paramount describes the plot: “The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.”
Are you tired of zombies? I am. I think it’s because the concept isn’t new, and we keep getting the same movie over and over in a different package. That’s why Warm Bodies was so refreshing. It was a new take on the traditional zombie. But World War Z is back to the zombie virus infecting the world population scenario. *yawn*
World War Z was actually a book written by Max Brooks, who also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide. So dude loves his zombies. Also, did I mention that he is Mel Brooks’ son? Because yeah, that’s awesome. Any way, Brooks’ book was a poignant social commentary on the ineffectiveness of government and the ridiculousness of the human race in the face of the apocalypse. Of course, WE NEVER SAW THAT. Because explosions, CGI zombie piles, and airplane stunts are way cooler. Yes, indeed. These jackasses changed the script so much that Brooks’ novel was lost to another bloated action film script (Congratulations, Hollywood! You did it again!). They might have well just thrown in Vin Diesel, eight pairs of tits, and some sick Subarus because this movie delivered no thought-provoking message about our society, other than that filmmakers think we’re dumb enough to pay to see shitty movies (which, ironically, I did just so I could tell you about this movie).
You might be thinking, “Gee, Bailey. That’s awfully harsh.” Bitch, it’s not harsh enough. There weren’t even characters with whom to empathize. I mean, sure, there were people on the screen, but I wouldn’t call them characters. Characters require backstories, identifiable personality traits, and names (Yeah, half of the people you meet in this movie don’t even have names. Are they making a point about how expendable human life is? No, the writers are just lazy). You meet Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family for about five minutes (literally) before zombies start attacking. Tell me, how does knowing nothing about these characters make me care about them? (Hint: It doesn’t). In fact, I’d even argue that the only reason we meet Lane’s wife and kids (whose names I can’t recall because they were said maybe all of two times) is because they’re essentially just a motive for Lane’s actions throughout the movie—and a weak one at that.
Given that the only things we know about Lane are that he has a family, he used to work for the U.N, and he’s skilled at things that are never really shown (or mentioned, for that matter), Brad Pitt delivers a nice performance. He does exceptionally well portraying Lane with a sense of rationality in the face of fear. The best example of this would be the moment at the W.H.O. facility when he comes face-to-face with a zombie and manages to keep his cool despite the palpable terror. But Pitt is the only actor who is able to convince me of his character because he is the only one with a somewhat dimensional character. Or, at least, dimensional for this movie.
Now, what I was saying about meeting Lane’s family for five minutes applies to the rest of the movie’s events, too. Even though there was nearly a two-hour run-time, everything felt rushed. We followed Lane to Philadelphia, New Jersey, the Atlantic Ocean, South Korea, Israel, wherever the W.H.O facility was, and then to Nova Scotia all in the movie’s time frame. By the time Lane landed in each location, we were thrown into action sequences, barely having time to catch up with who he was talking to, what they were talking about, and why it mattered before he was off to a new location. And to make matters worse, there was something off with the sound editing because I couldn’t hear a damn thing being discussed between the characters in this movie (Ben complained about this, too). Again, we return to the “Why should I even care?” question.
And then there’s the zombies. I will give credit to the costuming and makeup department because, up close, those zombies were goddamn freaky. The hazy eyes, the dirty teeth, the ragged clothes, the broken body look—all of these things worked to scare the living hell out of me. But a lot of that fear was diminished by the overuse of CGI. Now, I think we can all agree that fast, shrieking zombies are way more terrifying than slow, groaning zombies. And clearly, you can only do so much with your extras before the “fast, shrieking zombie” stunts get too dangerous. That being said, it really takes away from the terror of being chased by the creepy things we see in the close-up shots when we see them CGI-piling and tumbling over each other. In fact, it’s almost laughable…even more so if you put circus music with it. Just thinking about that makes me giggle.
Okay, I should end on something good. The action sequences were well-executed, even if the story and character development weren’t. And the climatic scene in the W.H.O facility was seriously intense. Predictable, of course, but intense nonetheless.
Overall, World War Z was a sloppy attempt at what could’ve been a decent social commentary. This is thanks to the filmmakers who decided to go the “blockbuster” route when their material wasn’t written for blockbuster appeal. While the action sequences are good, and the zombies up-close are freaky, this movie’s biggest problem is that everything was executed from a big picture standpoint when it desperately needed more intimate moments to give it balance. Rather than have good character and plot development, this movie had “zombie” characters (who just filled space onscreen) and a weak story to supplement an overabundance of CGI and stunts. I guess the best way to describe it is that it’s one of those movies that would be much better as a rerun on a TV channel that’s muted in the background while you fold laundry.