Dial Z for Zombies
Based (very loosely) on the 2006 Max Brooks novel of the same name, here lies Marc Forster’s take on the zombie genre. A genre well and truly done to – well – death. So the burning question that nobody asked remains: what does World War Z bring to this table of unimaginative set-pieces and brainless narratives? Very little, it would seem.
Producer Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. employee and doting husband and father who is drafted during a zombie pandemic of gargantuan proportions. Five minutes in, and the film begins promisingly, treating the audience to a fantastic exposition, demonstrating absolute pandemonium in Philadelphia as Gerry and his family fight through hordes of manic civilians. And thus, the premise is set: there are but 12 seconds of separation between the bitten and the biters. So far, so good.
Some horror films in the past have portrayed crowds of zombies, some even few and far between. Here we have masses, tidal waves of rabid bodies lurching forward ceaselessly, whilst others plummet from buildings like fleshy hail from the sky. It’s The Day After Tomorrow – zombie edition – and with the help of some surprisingly efficient CGI, it’s an impressive apocalyptic spectacle.
However, like the infected, the film suddenly appears to lose all sense of identity, especially during the latter half. Beginning as a conventional action-thriller, before mutating and manifesting as a survival horror more akin to 28 Days Later, this uneven pacing is undoubtedly representative of the troubled development of the film, and the ending, somewhat noticeably, appears tacked on: a severed appendage of post-production. Not to mention the fact that the plot will quickly eat away at fans of the novel, with an attention to its source material (or lack thereof) rivalling Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of I Am Legend.
To completely tear this film limb from limb would be unfair though; like The Day After Tomorrow, it is frequently entertaining. Despite prosaic supporting characters, such as Gerry’s escort soldier (who can’t help but channel Natalie Portman circa V for Vendetta), and enough generic conventions to make you groan louder than the crazed undead, it is a solid performance from Pitt, who carries friends, family, and indeed the whole film, offering salvation in light of its many flaws.
To suggest that such a genre deserves to stay dead and buried, like the ever-present Paranormal Activity series, isn‘t totally necessary. Indeed, the recent Playstation 3 exclusive The Last of Us proved to be a breath of fresh air, delivering harrowing realism and peerless character interaction like an emotional shotgun to the head. Unfortunately, World War Z manages to dig this genre a deeper grave with this gutsy, but ultimately banal attempt, best summarised in the style of The Simpsons’ Troy McClure:
I hate every zombie film I see,
From World War A to World War Z