Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Review: World War Z

Year: 2013
Director: Marc Forster
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale

Synopsis is here

God bless Roger Ebert. He may not have embraced modern video games as art but World War Z reminds me that while Ebert may not have got the appeal, he could see why gamers would value Left 4 Dead over films like this. The amount of engagement in Valve’s apocalyptic Zombie series is paramount to its fear, tension and enjoyment. Marc Forster’s troubled production is a nice enough distraction from the barrage of comic book releases. Yet the film, while chocked full of set pieces, is actually quite in-distinctive  There’s little in the film to make it stand out from the pack.

One of the reasons is despite its globetrotting scale, the social-political components which make the best zombie movies stand out, are mostly eliminated here. Purists have already mentioned how the film deviates from the Max Brooks’ hit book almost entirely. Yet this film version eschews so much of what makes the sub genre what it is, that the film itself is as toothless as one of the nations it references.

When humanity is in such peril, we expect the last remnants of the species to become the horror. One shouldn't expect the sobering mood of post-apocalyptic texts such as The Road (2009), but World War Z does little with its humans. Instead it concentrates on its strangely bloodless set pieces, which contain the visually impressive “river” of the reanimated.  While the argument of fast or slow Zombies still rings in the ears of genre fans, this snarling, gnashing swarm of the undead is quite striking.

World War Z does have an admirable sense of scale as it leaves the U.S to Israel, South Korea before ending up in good old Blighty, but it lacks the smaller, dramatic moments that make up all the films that WWZ borrows from. War of the World had its dysfunctional family to drive its narrative. 28 Days Later had a plague so diseased that even the rats themselves flowed through the empty streets of London trying to avoid the infected.

World War Z does give us a resourceful protagonist in the way of Gerry (Pitt) whose particular set of skills are a cheerful break from the large volume of brooding, yet impervious super heroes.  It is unfortunate that we must wait until the films much debated third act (which was reshot) before the film utilises the more typical tropes of the genre and gains a larger sense of risk. Many have argued about the films change of pace, however, I gladly welcomed the stronger sense of tension that came with the final third.
Despite its troubles, World War Z is nowhere near the disaster many had set it up to be. However, it does little to really leave its mark on the genre, be it blockbuster or B-movie.