Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Frightening Zombie Sequences, Violence and Disturbing Images
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof
(based on the novel WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale & David Morse
WORLD WAR Z received a lot of hate and negativity before it even hit its eventual long-awaited release. Plagued with production problems and a tame PG-13 rating, this was almost guaranteed to be a massive flop and a slap in the face to zombie fanatics everywhere. Then the reviews came In and they were largely positive. Then the fans began hailing the movie as solid summer entertainment. I put my reservations aside and gave the film a chance. While others are saying it’s really damn good, I was left feeling completely indifferent. If there’s anything a zombie movie should never do, it’s leave the viewer feeling apathetic. WORLD WAR Z may have not been the disaster everyone was expecting, but I found the film to be painfully mediocre. In other words, this movie took the title of one of the biggest critically acclaimed horror novels of the new millennium and stripped pretty much everything cool or original away from it.
Gerry Lane is a former UN employee. When the zombie apocalypse breaks out, Gerry and his family must be resourceful to stay alive. After a friend rescues him and provides shelter for his wife and two daughter, Gerry is called back into action to investigate the origins of this zombie virus and find a possible cure or defense against the undead menace. This mission takes him to multiple countries and puts him in different degrees of peril.
The first red flag about WORLD WAR Z comes with the fact that it’s a PG-13 zombie film. Now, I am not one of those people who advocates an R rating on every single horror movie. I think PG-13 horror films can be great, if the rating comes naturally and the film isn’t potentially scaled back from what it could have been. WORLD WAR Z should have been violent. It should have been gory. It wasn’t and I was surprised how much it suffered for that. We hardly see any zombies biting people and we get some violence that is just out of frame of the camera. By just out of frame, I mean you could have literally moved the camera down an inch and would have seen gore. This is more distracting than I ever could have imagined.
Then there’s the zombies themselves, which are CGI creations that look really cartoonish. There are a couple of moments involving real people in make-up, but there are far more using silly-looking CGI hordes of zombies. It probably cost more for all these CGI effects than it would just to slather some fake gore and blood on somebody, but then again it’s PG-13 (see the paragraph above).
All of this wouldn’t matter if the script was on a solid foundation, but it’s not. This is pretty much one big set-piece after another and they are loosely linked together with this flimsy excuse for a story. The best zombie movies take place in confined spaces with fleshed-out characters, but WORLD WAR Z has hollow cardboard cut-outs in place of actual people. I didn’t care if Brad Pitt lived or died. I didn’t care if his family became the undead. The side characters are forgotten in the blink of an eye, because they come and go so quickly.
If the movie wasn’t so concerned with playing it safe (characters are explicitly told in one scene not to kill the zombies) to appeal to a wider audience and were not focused more on big special effects than an actual story, then it could have been great! This could have been a zombie epic for the ages, but it’s PG-13 CGI-loaded lame blockbuster crap. It represents everything wrong with Hollywood horror movies this year. The only wide-released horror movie that I actually really dug this year was YOU’RE NEXT (which was an indie film) and that’s a sad comment on the state of big budget horror.
There is an obvious set-up for a sequel in the final minutes (oh, Hollywood, you rascal) and I’m sure that will bank. I felt like WORLD WAR Z was the equivalent of a TRANSFORMERS movie, but with zombies. Enough said.