World War Z (2013) a (mildly) belated review

On the surface and just before it was released, World War Z (I’ll refer to it as WWZ from here on) looked like a disaster in the making.

First, you had a modern zombie film that, completely against the grain, choose to go PG-13.  A very daring choice, considering that ever since the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead ushered in the modern movie zombie, showing ample amounts of gore appeared to be one of the stronger elements present in all these films.

Next, there were reports WWZ went way over budget and strong rumors emerged that the studio was unhappy with the final product.  This produced a secondary rumor, that director Marc Foster and star/producer Brad Pitt had a falling out.  Eventually, we learned a whole new ending was belatedly made for the feature.  Finally, when WWZ approached its formal release, the early commercials showed us zombie attacks that looked way too obviously CGI…and somewhat silly to boot.

So when the film finally was released last summer, there was little wonder many figured we were looking at a potential mega-bomb.

Such proved not to be the case.

Indeed, World War Z became one of the bigger box office successes of the typically busy summer movie season, and while I remained skeptical, I was happy to give the film a try.

Would I fall in with all the others who enjoyed it?

In a word: Yes.

Granted, it remains strange to watch a zombie film that features almost no blood and absolutely no guts at all.  In lieu of this, WWZ tries -and for the most part succeeds- in instead being a large global adventure with several tense action setpieces.  The set up is simple and not all that different from all the other hundreds of zombie films out there:  A zombie plague has hit the world and live humans are becoming an endangered species.  These zombies, unlike those in almost all the other zombie films, are much, much quicker than any seen before.  Worse, these speed demons act like ravenous ants and are as a group single minded in their pursuit of living flesh.

Finally, infection is quick as well.  If you are bitten, you have roughly ten seconds before becoming a zombie yourself.  Therefore cities and countries fall very quickly and it is up to Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) a one time “hot zone” investigator for the UN, to figure out how to stop -or at least slow- the zombie invasion.

We first meet Lane and his wife and two daughters as they make their way into New York City.  They wind up experiencing first hand the zombie plague and barely make it out of the city with their lives.  It is during this first attack that we are presented with a first hand/first person look at Lane’s powers of observation when he realizes how long it takes before a person becomes infected.  We will come back to his observations again, and this proves to be a very clever bit as it allows us to effectively enter Lane’s mind and see the world as he does.

There’s little need to get into the specifics of the plot.  Suffice it to say that Lane travels around the world seeking the key to solve the zombie dilemma.  Each visit presents Lane with allies and dangers and each is, in my opinion, handled well.  WWZ, in the end, is a film that gets going quickly and never stops yet manages to stir sympathy for Lane’s plight and his fear for not only his family’s survival, but that of humanity itself.

Yes, one can quibble and say the film goes overboard in showing Lane’s near supernatural ability to survive  The criticism is valid…Lane does manage to survive some pretty long –very long- odds in his quest.  Yet in Brad Pitt we have a hero worth rooting for, a quiet, intelligent family man whose mission is one everyone can sympathize with and hope for his ultimate success.

World War Z may not be your typical zombie film but there is plenty there to enjoy…even if you aren’t a big fan of CGI zombie hordes.  Recommended.