World War Z | D+

2013 | Marc Forster

Zombies, as has been the case for a while, are incredibly overused as the centrepiece for films with no depth and a more-than-popular reason for human apocalypse. Obviously this particular film is far from original material; it’s adapted from the epistolary novel of the same name (written by Mel Brooks’ son, Max), although it’s not exactly faithful. Instead of a collection of individual accounts, the film centres on Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former UN Investigator who sets out to assist in ending the plague so as to ensure his family’s safety.

After the plague hits, spreading rapidly, civilization predictably crumbles and begins to fall into ruin. Gerry leads his family through the chaotic streets, grabbing supplies and making their way to the roof of an apartment building, where they will be evacuated by Gerry’s old UN boss Thierry Umontoni (Fana Mokoena) and taken to safety on a military aircraft carrier. This isn’t without ulterior motive however, as Thierry wants Gerry to assist a team of scientists in discovering the source of the outbreak. As the aircraft carrier has no room for civilians, if Gerry refuses to help, he will be treated as such and kicked off the ship.

With or without the shallow plot device, World War Z is neither a particularly interesting or memorable film, and neither are the zombies. They’re incredibly aggressive, fast and unusually organised, but the film fails to capitalise on how compelling an army of angry, organised zombies can be. The best we get is an amusing attack on Jerusalem, as zombies endlessly pile on top of each other to scale large walls built around the city.

The choice of Marc Forster as director is the film’s high point of intrigue, given the director’s back-to-back action failures in Quantum of Solace and Machine Gun Preacher. Forster has proven his dramatic instinct with films such as Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland, and said ability is prevalent in all his films, with character investigation remaining a strong point in Quantum of Solace, but such ability and technique is not seen in World War Z, which is ultimately where the film fails. With such shallow motivation and zero real emotion, it’s a film which knows where its success is coming from.

World War Z is soulless. It’s a story about human survival with no viscera (physical or metaphorical). Its overly glossy visual style and watered down plot ensure this is film exists solely to capitalise on pop culture’s latest craze with no personal intent. It’s a poor movie and one can say, quite confidently, it wouldn’t be a film at all, if not for the presence of zombies.

Although one can respect screenwriters Damon Lindelof (Lost, Promethus) and Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Angel) for calling zombies what they actually are. Writers have been treating the word ‘zombie’ with the same level of taboo as politically insensitive remarks.There’s walkers, biters, geeks, ghouls, infected and roamers, and the dreaded “z” word is rarely mentioned. Perhaps it’s time for us to admit it’s not just the word which has become boring.

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World War Z | D+

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