Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z (2013)

So I took advantage of an opportunity to go out and see the big new zombie movie that's out in theaters. After what I read about it, I was partly expecting it to be a jumbled, disjointed mess. As it was, it turned out to actually be a really good, coherent story. I'm not about to rate it the best zombie movie ever, but it's not the worst, either, and if you get a chance to see it, I recommend it.

One thing World War Z does is take a slightly different approach to the zombie apocalypse. In the beginning, it builds up a really convincing panic state as the shit hits the fan, and for a while, it feels just as much like one of those blockbuster disaster movies (like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow or what have you). But, the disaster is zombies.

The narrative takes a very smooth and interesting path starting from one family's experience of the apocalypse. The father, Gerry (played by Brad Pitt), is an ex-UN agent, so he's at an advantage when it comes to having friends in high places who want to keep him alive. He and his family make it safely to a ship out in the ocean, but he's soon split up with them as he's put to work trying to fight this zombie outbreak.

The story then goes to various places as Gerry accompanies a brilliant young doctor to investigate an alleged patient zero, and try to figure out if the zombie 'disease' has a weakness. We also get to visit Jerusalem which, remarkably, has built a wall to keep out the zombies, and may well be the last human city to resist the outbreak.

From there, things get a little more personal, involving a plane ride, and a WHO (World Health Organization) facility, as Gerry desperately racks his brain to devise a way for humanity to fight back against the zombies. The solution he comes up with is actually pretty clever, even though it seems to highlight some of the premise's flaws.


Like, the part where the one doctor says they already tried to infect the zombies with known lethal diseases - but that it's impossible to get a dead person sick (because the disease agent needs a living host). But that, of course, leaves the question of what's causing them to reanimate. If it's a virus like everyone's saying, then how does it live in a dead host? They never get around to answering the question of what's causing the zombism, but unlike other films, this one is very scientific and down to earth which would seem to preclude a supernatural explanation.

Then we come to the solution itself, which I said was very ingenious. But the part where the zombies are somehow able to smell whether a person is infected with a terminal disease kind of stretches my suspension of disbelief. Still, the idea of using it as 'camouflage' is very clever and not one I think I've seen used in quite that way before.

End Spoilers!

Which brings us to the zombies themselves. As this movie is sort of a cross between a zombie movie and a pandemic movie, the zombies are not your typical shambling fare. They are fast and angry, like the zombies in 28 Days Later, but they move in what I couldn't help but consider unnatural ways. This is allegedly one of the movie's strengths - as it presents a new kind of zombie we've never seen before, one that swarms like insects - but frankly, I found it to be largely unappealing. As I said, it didn't seem natural, the way these creatures threw themselves around, they were more like indestructible supermen than reanimated corpses.

But, the rest of the movie has enough going for it that it doesn't totally spoil the experience. And as I said, it's interesting to see zombies that are different than the ones you've seen so many times before. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit; it has its share of tension and fear, and a good deal of intelligence, too. In fact, I feel inclined to read the book it was based on now, and feel kind of guilty for not having already read it several years ago when my friend tried to push it on me. Then again, if I had read the book first, I might not have been able to enjoy the movie adaptation as much (which is kind of what happened with The Hunger Games).


  1. Thanks for the review, I was wondering whether or not to see this. One thing I do like about this is that it seems to cover the actual zombie apocalypse. A lot of the best zombie stories seem to focus on the aftermath (Walking Dead, 28 Days), whereas for me the most interesting part is that initial outbreak and the fall of society.

    The zombies you describe remind me of the absolutely terrible zombies from The Devil's Playground, where they were like acrobat/gladiators who would jump around doing ridiculously unnecessary sports moves while they chased people. All it made me think of was Spaceballs, "Too bad this isn't the wide world of sports!"

    I'll probably end up watching this in the Fall sometime. I know you don't like comedies but I heard Warm Bodies was really good too.

  2. Well I gave Shaun of the Dead a chance, so I'll probably watch Warm Bodies sometime.