Maybe you’ve heard about Brad Pitt’s World War Z and have low expectations of the film, but hold on you’re in for a shock. Although the production was plagued with problems from budget to re-shoots, it is rather surprising that this film actually made it to your local movie theater this weekend. The real shock is it is ACTUALLY A GOOD SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER.
The film is an apocalyptic spectacle that doesn't let up until the end. "It is epically scaled, but it's not a messy, noisy, CGI-bogus, throw-everything-at-the-audience sort of blockbuster. It's thrillingly controlled, and it builds in impact."
In the end, it's pretty much what you'd want in a summer blockbuster: scary but not-too-gross zombies, a fast-paced journey to exotic locales, a few quite thrilling action scenes, and did we mention Brad Pitt?
The film may feel like a travel itinerary at times since it follows United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt) traversing the world in an attempt to stop a zombie pandemic that threatens all of human existence. He is forced to leave his wife, Karen (Mireille Enos), and two young daughters, aboard a safe haven aircraft carrier somewhere in the Atlantic. Although it's not clear how Gerry's experience with terrorist actions in Chechnya and Africa make him the world's No. 1 go-to guy to solve the zombie problem, the bearded, long-haired Pitt is instantly dispatched to rainy South Korea. He visits Israel where they are winning the war against the living dead, but eventually ends up at a top-secret medical research facility in Wales.
The final act had to be rewritten and reshot at considerable expense with the scale and focus of the film narrowed in the climactic 20 minutes. The recipe of the story is fairly simple: sneak across enemy lines (a zombie-occupied building) to grab the secret potion (a substance that may hold the key to stopping the war). The quiet, paired down ending is in deep contrast to all the action that's gone before, which is not a bad thing, but the very ending wraps everything up very quickly.
Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), World War Z won’t be remembered come Oscar time, but the film does redefine what a believable and smart zombie flick can be. Yes, the apocalyptic thriller features a slew of computer generated zombies that, unlike the undead of yesteryear, do not slowly meander but instead swiftly move in packs in a sort of tidal wave of rotting flesh more like the mania of 28 Days Later.
The film is loosely based on Max Brooks' science fiction novel, and as they say, if you liked the book, you will not appreciate this water-downed big-budget Hollywood version of the original complex sociopolitical commentary. Pitt himself has bemoaned that the book is simply not compatible with the financial imperatives of a big-budget blockbuster. In the Brooks’ story, the zombie outbreak began in China, but filmmakers decided that China should go unmentioned if they wanted it to be shown in theaters there.
But before you write off the weakness of the current story compared to Brooks’ book, the filmmakers never intended to capture the comprehensive and a political intrigue of how and why the international calamity (Zombie War) played out the way it did. Their goal was to tell the simple story of a father who is forced to save the world in order to save his family.
To sum it up, writer Drew Goddard said that the film is a simple story told on an epic scale. Within the first 20 minutes, you see strong themes of family and humanity that can be lost amongst the CG and epic scenes. While Gerry’s family is facing certain death by zombies, they find refuge in an immigrant family's apartment. Not only is Gerry's family kept safe, but they are fed, given supplies and comfort. This very simple scene seems to hint at Pitt's personal quest to help humanity. Not only that, but his short powerful message, which almost stops the film for a moment, reminds us all that even in the face of impending doom, we can survive if we just open our doors to strangers.