The world changes in an instant as something is infecting and turning people into raging monsters.
What They Say:
When former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family get stuck in urban gridlock, he senses that it’s no ordinary traffic jam. His suspicions are confirmed when, suddenly, the city erupts into chaos. A lethal virus, spread through a single bite, is turning healthy people into something vicious, unthinking and feral. As the pandemic threatens to consume humanity, Gerry leads a worldwide search to find the source of the infection and, with luck, a way to halt its spread.
Based on the world of the novel of by Max Brooks, World War Z is the latest summer big budget film to hit that wants to try and set up for more material in what is a potentially engaging world and situation. The film, like John Carter, has received plenty of negativity about it from the get go, from the way the film doesn’t adhere to the book but rather takes place within the world, essentially just licensing the name for it, to the reshoots and additional material that they had to go back and do for whatever reasons. Add in a big name actor like Brad Pitt who helped produced it and you get a good little storm where the online reaction to it is going to be negative, and can have a larger impact with perceptions overall. And some weak trailers at the start didn’t help much either with some seemingly unfinished CG work and a different kind of zombie to it. I went into this film with my mind as open as possible since I want to judge the work on its own merits.
And I came away enjoying it quite a lot. The premise is simple in that the world goes to hell pretty quickly as an outbreak started that has spread across the globe in a couple of weeks, though it was hard to see at first but the indications where there. When it hits critical mass though, it spreads like the virus that it is and people are getting infected quickly through the bites of others that are infected. When someone is bit, they turn in just about twelve seconds, which makes it something that can turn entire groups in quick order. And you end up seeing cities falling quickly as the infected at like waves as they race across, acting almost like bacteria that are gobbling everything up in their path. It’s an intense visual overall and with the above view that we get for a lot of it, I loved seeing the waves of people running around against the uninfected.
The primary focus of the film is on that of Gerry Lane, a former UN hot spots specialist who had quite not so long ago in order to spend more time with his family rather than going into bad places around the world. Because of how quickly things go do, a bit of luck and some connections has him being brought on board one of the Navy carriers where operations are being run from and he’s given the chance to try and figure out what’s going on by assisting the scientists that are working on the problem. His participation will allow his family, a wife and two daughters and a tagalong they picked up in their escape, to stay safe. If he doesn’t, they’re all off the ship to some supposed safety zone. The idea that only those that contribute to the effort stays on the ship is a harsh thing, but it fits with what they’re dealing with and what they have to do.
With the family safe for the moment, they team Gerry up with one of the scientists and a few Navy SEALS and off they go, first to where they think things started at a military base in South Korea and then on to several other spots as each place and situation leads them to something new, or just a need to get away quickly and land wherever they can. The feature moves around a lot and what I rather like is that after the initial aspect with Gerry and his family getting out of Philadelphia and caught up in some bad moments in New Jersey, they’re left on the ship and are separated from each other for the majority of the rest of it. It’s not a situation of his family constantly being put in danger, but they’re in a certain danger where they are and it allows a motivation to work for him in getting his job done.
The film has gotten plenty of criticisms but the one that hits the most is that Gerry is pretty much a non-character here as there’s no real development for him and who he is outside of being defined about his family and his job. While I can certainly understand that, I wasn’t looking for a character driven film here like The Walking Dead. And like other similar films such as 28 Days Later, it’s not about people trying to survive and being holed up in place to place until they can get somewhere truly safe. Here, it’s about a man with a varying sized team that’s going into the danger zones directly and trying to discover what’s going on or some other information to help with the larger problem. Most zombie shows and films deal with those that are just struggling to survive and this one goes in the opposite direction. It’s about a pro doing his job and just focusing on the issue at hand. Could they have expanded him a bit more than the blank slate Brad Pitt we get? Sure. Would it have added much or made us resonate with the character more? Probably not by a lot. And in fact, I suspect that I’d find such material focused. It’s his being kept from his family and just their existence being a motivator that works rather than him doing all of this with them in tow.
Having read and seen so many interpretations of the undead before, I had little issue elsewise with the film when it comes to the portrayal of the zombies here. I liked the conversation among the scientists about whether that word should be even used because it at least makes it something where they can have a baseline idea of what’s going on. So many shows pretend that zombies or science fiction entertainment doesn’t exist in that world that they do stupid things instead of remembering, say, Alien or something else and not doing said stupid things. With that and the kind of insane horde style zombie attacks we get here, we get to see a variety of situations for it, from the American cities to military bases to foreign cities where things seem safe but in the end go badly. The film mostly works on going with the larger scale attacks, but when it slows down for smaller and more personal ones, it takes the right approach. The time in the W.H.O. facility for example, we see Gerry and others smartly covering up their arms and legs to prevent easy bites that could cause them to turn. Simple, kind of ugly looking, but hugely effective and quite smart when you get down to it.
With the prospect of more films being bandied about and this being a launching point for going into more of how the world reacts to such a situation, World War Z certainly has a place to fill within the larger variety of zombie films, books, comics and TV shows out there. There’s a lot of ways to work with the zombie concept in general and this one does some very fun things for me. I loved the global approach (and I’m sure international audiences will as well, which is a big motivator behind a property like this) and I definitely enjoyed the more professional response that’s going on. Generally, everything is kept to the local level and we get that exploration of how society survives. Here, it’s the midst of the war and it’s all about what the professionals are doing. That’s often not explored so I definitely liked it and enjoyed the movie a good deal. It certainly sets a lot of potential here for more, and I’m definitely hopeful for that after watching it. It’s easy to understand the criticisms of the film and what it does, but I left it enjoying it and wanting to see more, as did those I went with to see it.