The end of the world is really boring: “World War Z”

June 22, 2013


Okay, so what’s up next this summer? World War Z? Wow, what a lousy movie. Crud! I’m supposed to  build to that. Goddamn, I’m a bad reviewer after four beers. Okay, let’s start this again: World War Z is the big-screen adaptation of Max Brooks’ well-regarded novel, starring Brad Pitt. The film (as with the book) posits the scenario of total global breakdown in the face of a zombie apocalypse. It takes us from a crumbling US to a darkened South Korea, through a heavily-barricaded Israel, and finally finds a glimmer of hope in Cardiff. And boy, is it a crappy movie. Damn! I did it again! This is why I switched to water? Ah, the hell with it, let’s just dive in…

So, yeah, that’s World War Z. If you read Max Brooks’ novel (incidentally, Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft—how much you wanna bet he doesn’t pick up his own bar tab?), then you know his book is written as an oral history in the manner of Studs Terkel’s accounts of World War Two or Michael Herr’s Dispatches (yeah, I was an English major). Now, if you have a scintilla of common sense (more, it should be noted, than the makers of this movie) then you recognize right away that this really doesn’t lend itself to a blockbuster summer movie format.

So, how does director Marc Forster (he of the sub-par 007 outing Quantum of Solace) and a regular screenwriting gumbo handle this? Well, they all pretty much ignore the source material and just tell a wan story against a world zombie takeover. Yeah, that’s…that’s a bad idea.

Okay, so in WWZ, Brad Pitt stars as a former UN…uh…I’m not real sure. They never make it clear. He’s not a doctor—he says that explicitly. Does the UN have underwear models? Maybe he’s one of those. Anyway, he gets called into action when zombies overrun his home in Philadelphia. Now, ordinarily, this would not be a huge issue—I mean, is anyone really gonna miss Philadelphia? For most of my life I just assumed Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were the same place. They’re both largely-unimportant cities in Pennsylvania that begin with P…yeah, but the rest of the US is also boned, so this is kind of a big deal.

Anyway, Pitt and his wife (The Killing’s Mireille Enos) and their useless kids get airlifted to a UN flotilla, which is running the rescue operations. Because that’s how things work, right? There’s a major crisis and the UN just steps in and handles it. Yeah? No? Well, at this point you’ve already been eating your popcorn, so just go with it.

Pitt gets recruited on a mission to South Korea to find Patient Zero, who, hopefully, holds the key to the zombie virus. Except this mission turns out to be a bust. From there, Pitt jaunts to a heavily-fortified Jerusalem, and eventually to Cardiff, which, it should be said, looks nothing like the city shown in Torchwood. In the end, Pitt never finds Patient Zero but he does realize that the zombies ignore sick people, so he infects himself with, uh, something, and it camouflages him from the zombies. Yay! We win, right? Or not? The movie is not real clear on this.

Yeah, World War Z is a real mess. It had a famously-troubled production history which jettisoned its big-scale climax for a low-stakes sequence in which Brad Pitt sneaks past one zombie. It was subject to an eleventh-hour rewrite by Damon Lindelof—and let’s just think about that for a moment: bringing in Lindelof—he of the narratively-incoherent movies Cowboys and Aliens and Prometheus—to clean up your script is a little like bringing in Boss Tweed to implement your anti-corruption initiatives. On top of that, the studios mandated WWZ would have a summer-friendly PG-13 rating, ensuring that the zombie decimation of the world would be as bloodless as possible. Truly. A PG-13 zombie movie is like making a porno film for NBC. You’re never gonna get the goods. And this movie proves it. I mean, sweet crap, it’s more bloodless than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—the PG movie that created the PG-13 rating. There is nothing scary or thrilling about this movie. Shit, Gremlins 2 was PG-13. You seen any of those little bastards eating people’s guts?

Man, gremlins would have totally made this movie better.

On top of that we have stupidity like:

* Talk about bloodless, Pitt cuts the hand off a IMI soldier to keep her from being infected. Not only does the battlefield amputation not bleed, but apparently it also requires no tourniquet,  just a bandage. I guess those things don’t bleed, right?

* David Morse plays a batshit-insane CIA operative held prisoner in a cage in the US Air Force base in South Korea, showing that the filmmakers have no idea 1) what Air Forces bases do, and 2) how the CIA works.

* In one scene the Pitt family raids a drug store for food and medicine. It’s important to remember what Hurricane Katrina taught us about such things: it’s not looting if white people do it.

* When Pitt makes his big breakthrough, one scientist exclaims, “If we infect our troops with a deadly virus the zombies will ignore them. They’ll be perfectly camouflaged!” Yeah, uh, I can think of one big flaw in that plan.

* And yet, they implement it anyway.

* Finally the movie with a big, “Well, yeah, I guess we win. Sure. Just imagine it.” Hey, thanks 200 million dollar movie.

That’s World War Z. Man, this movie isn’t even worth catching on Netflix. Read the book instead.


  1. honestly when i went for the movie , i have no clue that z stands for zombie and i really thought it would be something really good , however,its is obvious that books are always better and more specific than movies but overall yes i agree the movie could have been better or it was kind of boring.

  2. This was not a book that could be made into a movie very easily. I don’t know why they tried. Well…yeah, I do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: