If you keep up with any kind of movie news on a regular basis then you have at least heard some horror stories about the filming of World War Z. Brad Pitt’s production company gained the rights to the Max Brooks book in 2007 and quickly hired J. Michael Straczynski to bring the zombie apocalypse to the big screen. To make a long story short, Straczynski’s script was re-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and filming began in 2011. The budget blew up way beyond the $125 million the studio handed out and production even ceased at one point. Damon Lindelof was brought on to rewrite the last third of the script, but due to scheduling conflicts could not, so his Lost co-scribe Drew Goddard finished it up and Brad Pitt and company went back in the fall of 2012 for seven weeks of reshoots.
With the film’s budget creeping near $200 million and press for the zombie flick not exactly on the positive side, one would easily write this off as another big budget disaster that a star could not escape, but a weird thing has occurred.
World War Z is actually entertaining.
Now I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, but I am dating a certified zombie lover and fan of his work so I did not go into this movie blind. The way World War Z is written does not lend itself to a movie narrative well so we get a singular story starring Pitt as former U.N. worker Gerry Lane. He has been out of work for three years and is a stay at home dad with a working wife. One day as they are stuck in Philadelphia traffic on the way to school all hell breaks loose. They narrowly escape the city and, using Gerry’s connections in the U.N., secure themselves a spot on an aircraft carrier.
Gerry is recruited to go out with a SEAL team to try and track down the genesis of the disease and by “recruited” I mean the government tells him he has to go or his family gets a one-way ticket back to the mainland. A dick move, for sure, but when you think about it, not that far-fetched for a government fighting against the end of the world. Gerry then begins a jet-setting adventure all over the world trying to discover what was the cause of the outbreak.
During these sections to South Korea and Israel, World War Z moves along at a brisk pace. It will feel a little “by the numbers”, but it did not distract me from the overall scope of the movie. Pitt is believable as the reformed family man who is trying to do his best to get back to his wife and kids while having the weight of the world on his shoulders. It won’t win any Oscars, but it is good for the material presented.
When the around the world trip stops is when you can tell Drew Goddard came on to help with the rewrites. If you did not know about all the production problems going into this then you will not pay this a second thought, but knowing made me get a distinctly different feel from the movie and the weird part is that it actually kind of works. World War Z goes from a quick pace to a tense, slow moving corridor explorer like Resident Evil (the game, not the movie). That is just one of the many things that confounds about this flick. This should not work! To completely change directions and stick the main star in a zombie filled lab instead of using the $12 million big battle in Moscow that was thrown away? Let’s just call it one of Hollywood’s great mysteries like, “why do people complain about Bane’s voice not knowing what an idiot he would have sounded like Mexican?” or “why were all the characters in The Last Airbender the wrong race?”.
I do wish World War Z would have upped the jump scare quotient and been a bit more gory. I will admit to having a small jump to begin the movie, but there were none to speak of after. Maybe that was because of the giant scope of the movie where zombies are seen in such great numbers that they do not hold the same scare as a one on one (or two or three) encounter in a confined space, which does happen in the final act of the movie as I said. As for the gore, don’t get me wrong, I am not asking for Saw levels of blood spillage here, or hell, even The Walking Dead but even for a PG-13 movie this is an almost bloodless affair.
When all is said and done, World War Z is a tale of everything going wrong in every way and ending up with the best possible results. This was a passion project for Pitt and while it may not be on par with a lot of the zombie fare that is saturating the market, it does have a big movie feel and is the very definition of a “popcorn flick”. Just go and have some fun with it…even though the world is ending.
NERD RATING- 7.5/ 10