So in the end the Hollywood hype machine managed to brainwash 50% of Team Jetpack. Celeste managed to escape to Glastonbury while Paul somehow remained strangely indifferent to the idea of paying 1,250 of the Queen’s finest pennies to watch a film which he knew wasn’t going to be particularly good. Sadly Craig and myself lack Paul’s iron resolve and so found ourselves dumbly reaching for our wallets and shambling in the direction of our nearest cinemas.
Here’s what I thought about Hollywood’s latest flirtation with the living dead. Craig’s review will follow later this afternoon.
So, World War Z . . . Well, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared it might be. I love the novel and right from the start I’d been dubious of a film adaptation, and my doubt evolved into derision as the film seemed to stagger zombie-like from one problem to another during a well-documented period of development hell. Drafting in Damon Lindelof to rewrite a script that had been rewritten once already seemed ominous, especially considering his involvement in the shambolic Prometheus script. Basically, I had seriously low expectations.
Which is perhaps why I actually quite enjoyed the film.
Not that it’s particularly good; there’s plenty wrong with it. Brad Pitt’s character, Gerry, could have been cut out from a cereal box for all the depth he has and the relationship he has with his estranged family feels flat and emotionless. The plot decides early on to dispense with logic, shunting Gerry around the world for flimsy reasons that mostly don’t make a whole lot of sense. Some of the story’s revelations are beyond ridiculous and several times I was forced to deploy the subtle-cinema-facepalm maneuver. The last third is strangely low-key and the narrow focus seems at odds with the rest of the film. It feels like a separate scenario that’s been bolted on, though there is some continuity in the sense that it defies logic just as much as the rest of the film. The ending is a big disappointment; a messy montage that feels rushed and superficial.
And yet despite all this, World War Z is not a bad film. For all his character’s lack of depth, Pitt remains watchable. I normally dislike films that open with a lengthy credits sequence, but this time around it effectively sets the underlying tone of the film. The opening sequence is handled well and gets bonus for featuring zombies headbutting car windshields, which is something you don’t see every day (and fortunate too, as it’s pretty terrifying). Some of the more claustrophobic moments successfully generate a degree of tension, helped by effective use of lighting. The movie is easily at its strongest when it adopts a wider, panoramic scope that shows the zombie hivemind in all its terrifying glory – which is why the Jerusalem sequence is easily the best part of the film. This is the one fresh element that the film brings to the table, so it’s a real shame (and a missed opportunity) that it’s only really deployed once. The smaller-scale sequences are mostly far less effective.
Overall, World War Z – for all its flaws, and there are many – is a decent Hollywood apocalyptic action film. It’s big, very dumb, but also strangely fun. If you go in with low expectations, and accept that it’s totally different from the book, then you might just enjoy it. Bonus points are awarded for the psychotic running zombies (I have to disagree with Max Brooks here; running zombies are way more terrifying than their shambling cousins).