It’s been a strange roller coaster ride of emotion when it comes to my ever fluctuating expectations of what would soon become the biggest of all zombie movies. It started out all those years ago with a bidding war between Pitt’s Production Company, Plan B and Dicaprio’s Appian Way. Alas it was Plan B that would create what had been my all time most cherished book, a book so enthralling I have returned to its pages many a time. Frenzied excitement infected me, this was to be The Godfather of all zombie movies, a trilogy that would change zombie lore forever. Then, after years of false starts, re-writes and countless horror stories surrounding the production of WWZ, we were given the first trailer. I detailed my thoughts on this abomination early on, which can be found here: https://leeshausoftherisingsun.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/is-this-world-war-z/. I felt cheated of what was to be something that felt mine. I say this because I’m a lover of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and all the Marvel and DC heroes, but these works of fiction never felt my own, belonging to a generation decades past. I know of course Zombies have been around since even before Romero set the mold, but Brooks’ World War Z still felt like it belonged to me.
Several other more fleshed out trailers followed, and I began to accept I wouldn’t see Brooks’ vision brought to the big screen. The battle of Yonkers and the famed LOBO would never make it to Forster’s film. The slow shambling antagonists of the book had given way to its faster more lethal cousin, these creatures more akin to ants than the groaning undead of Romero’s “Dead” films. Nevertheless I was happy to look past this, because even without a well done book to film adaption, we still had a high budget zombie epic starring Brad Pitt. So I was still excited for this, why shouldn’t I be, I love zombies (running or walking), Brad Pitt is a brilliant actor and seeing the more recent trailers on the big screen of the cinema made me as enthusiastic for this project as id been prior to the circulating bad buzz.
Before I finally get to the film, it’s worth one more time mentioning the book. Most people would agree that the books story would have panned out better if the film was adapted more akin to the Steven Soderbergh film Contagion. The multinational, multi-narrative made for a great watch and would have suited World War Z’s story arc down to the ground. This was not to be, the clinical paranoia of Contagion was given way to huge battle across the wall of Jerusalem (not that I’m complaining to much). It sounds like I am moaning too much at the under use of the source material, but I swore I wouldn’t let it get in the way of my viewing pleasure. So to all those pissy fan boys out there, WE GET IT, this isn’t Brooks’ WWZ, its Hollywood’s. Enjoy it on its own merits.
Split into four distinct sections, WWZ goes all out on the first three. The opening, set in Philadelphia introduces us to Gerry Lane, his loving wife Karin (Mirreille Enos) and two daughters. A tense escape from the crowded streets ensues and we are introduced to this worlds undead, a convulsing, bitey and lightning fast monster that dives head long at our protagonists, jaws set to snap. It should be noted that the film uses the right amount of CGI for the Zekes (as they are called in the film), as we all know CGI isn’t scary, ask the bald headed crazies from I Am Legend. After ditching his family off on an aircraft carrier, Gerry heads off to find the cure for the virus that seems to be eating up the entire planet. After a tense night time shoot out in South Korea that introduced us to a few colorful characters, mainly James Badge Dale as a pretty bad ass army captain and a toothless CIA operative that gives further light on how the wider world is fighting WWZ. The most talked about scene soon takes place when the team arrive in Israel. Not long after they take a tour around the walled in City, those indomitable biters come piling over the walls of Jerusalem, and by God is it a sight to behold, worth the ticket price alone dare I say. The fourth and final part of a film that so far had kept me staring in amazement was to be the films biggest surprise. After the introduction of a female Israeli soldier named Segan (a character I am glad stuck around), and a mid air fight for survival we are plonked at a World Health Organisation research facility in Wales that apparently holds the cure for the dreaded plague. I won’t go into it for fear of ruining the film for those that haven’t seen it yet, but suffice to say, the movie went in the right direction instead of trying to top its previous scene with an even more epic set piece. Less is often more, especially with monster movies.
So I exited those cinema doors a happy man. like all things, it had its faults, such as certain lapses in how believable the whole scenario was (the planes crash landing within walking distance of the research facility). The lack of gore will also be a sore point for many, especially the lopping off of a particular characters arm which fell a little flat. Even the sidelining of Gerry’s family felt like a wasted opportunity to line up a little more with the feel of the book. I kind of wanted his wife or kids to interact with a few of the survivors on the ship, perhaps hearing some of the horrifying tales of the other survivors, just to give a bit more human emotion to the plot. I could even forgive the complete lack of any use of the source material, why? Because I could easily foresee from trailers alone this wasn’t the route the movie was taking. A few small references here and there to Brooks’ novel, but this is a completely different animal masquerading under the title of its source material. Ultimately we are given a brilliant blockbuster film, which is what it was always meant to be. I hear now that the opening weekend has been financially successful; sequels are being talked about, although the conclusion of this film would lend some challenges to the natural continuation of both Gerry’s story line and the overall war with the undead. I can consider this film a success on its own value, and we can all consider this Z War One… Z War Two may be being fought in cinemas within the next few years.