The Z stands for “zombies,” of course, but World War Z is an action-thriller, not a horror flick. Like TV’s ridiculously popular The Walking Dead or 2009’s more-fun-than-funny Zombieland, it’s a watered-down depiction of the days and nights of the living dead — a zombie film for who people who can’t handle a “real” zombie film.
In other words, it’s a real summer crowd-pleaser, far from the trash heap as years of bad buzz have suggested. That said, it’s entertaining without approaching extraordinary.
Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), World War Z is based on Max Brooks’ 2006 novel of the same name. While that book — good, not great — was episodic in nature with oral accounts gleaned from across the globe, the movie opts to tell only one of its ostensible stories, and from a singular perspective: that of former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, who also serves as producer).
Gerry rather reluctantly leaves his wife (Mireille Enos, TV’s The Killing) and two daughters on a military aircraft while he trots around the globe, helping to pursue a cure to whatever virus has caused this pandemic. No matter his (thinly purposed) destination, super-fast zombies are present for a greet-and-eat. Repeat until the two-hour mark.
I give World War Z this: It wastes no time on setup. It doesn’t need any.
What it does need is — no pun intended — more meat. I understand a PG-13 rating represents the film’s best shot at recouping its reported $200 million-and-up budget, but the movie feels so neutered and toothless in its bloodlessness. Shouldn’t a depiction of a global catastrophe come equipped with a serrated edge?
And shouldn’t audiences be able to see all of it? It could be the fault of the completely unnecessary 3-D, which results in a darker screen, but comprehending any nighttime action sequence is difficult. Forster’s jittery camera and the Slap Chop style of editing only worsens the situation.
Although his hair proves a distraction, Pitt makes for a fine host on his travelogue of terror. Too bad Enos can’t be in the thick with him. She’s such a headstrong actress that it’s frustrating — demeaning, even — that her role in this World War amounts to moping on a cot. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• The Killing: The Complete First Season Blu-ray review
• The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray review
• Zombie Blu-ray review
• Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide: Second Edition book review
• Zombieland film review