Loosely based on the bestselling novel of the same name written by Max Brooks, World War Z is the story of Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a retired UN employee who chose to leave his job to spend time with his family. However, when a regular day is suddenly disrupted by attacks by aggressive zombies, Gerry is brought back in by the UN Deputy General to escort a young doctor investigating the disease, in the hope of finding a cure before countries are completely overrun by the undead.
Unlike other zombie movies, where zombies are portrayed as slow moving and not the sharpest monsters in the bunch, World War Z’s zombies are much faster, more aggressive and more organized than their predecessors and television counterparts. They also behave differently — instead of grunting loudly and dragging their feet, they make sounds like small dinosaurs and zoom by in hordes, making escape almost impossible. This is quite a cool innovation that drew most audiences to the movie as the chain of undead mounting a giant wall was among the highlights of the trailer, along with thousands of zombies seemingly participating in Mexico’s annual run with the bulls. It was just nuts.
That being said, World War Z did not waste any time in getting to the heart of the movie. In the first ten minutes, Philadelphia already found itself overrun with the whole city in a panic, with Gerry herding his family to safety at every turn. It was pretty obvious that Brad was very comfortable with playing the head of the household, perhaps because of his real life experience in dealing with six children of his own.
However, aside from the spurts of action in strategic parts of the movie, I felt that the movie lacked the intensity and grittiness of another book adaptation — The Walking Dead. Because they were super fast, the speed worked against the suspense because everything was happening too fast and the blood and gore resulting from the undead chomping on their victims became a missed opportunity. In some cases, the zombies proved to be more funny than menacing. Compared to even the weakest Walking Dead zombie, World War Z undeads were generally unremarkable — all speed and no substance.
The family man angle also seemed out of place in the setting. It seemed as if Gerry, despite his background in the UN and his knowledge of the magnitude of the problem, was not focusing on his mission as well as he should be because he kept thinking of how his wife would feel, and this of course, came at a cost. I think the film would have benefitted from establishing Gerry’s background in the first place so his actions would have made more sense. If people knew his expertise and what made him quit his job, they would have known what to expect from his character.
The resolution at the end, I admit was quite original and it sort of pulled the movie together but not quite enough to deliver an impact that could make World War Z reach the level of epic-ness of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead franchise.
All in all, Brad Pitt did not disappoint as he carried the movie effortlessly with his excellent acting and his specific brand of characterization. Unfortunately, from the onset, World War Z was already operating as a disadvantage because of the bevy of zombie movies that has preceded it that set the bar for what zombie movies should be like. Sadly, while it delivered new innovations, I think that for a zombie apocalypse movie of this level, the film could have pushed harder to live up to the hype. I think that the horror component of the movie was sorely lacking. Given its $200 million budget, had it gone that extra mile, it would have kicked ass, but as it stands, it ended up as a run off the mill undead film.