150 Movies in 90 Days: World War Z

June 29: #27, World War Z

I wish it had been boring, so I could make a 'World War Zzzzz' joke

The spring and summer months never have a shortage of trailers with plenty of “wow” moments, so I kept my expectations in check when I first saw the trailer for World War Z. Seeing hordes of zombies rabidly climbing over one another to mount a huge wall was quite a sight, though, as was the other memorable shot, which featured several zombies working together to bring down a helicopter.

The trailer hinged upon those two moments (and a “zombies on a plane” moment that led to zombies and people alike getting sucked out of the plane at 30,000 feet) so much that I expected World War Z to be a letdown (or as I put it, a “turd”). I mean, there’s no way that the rest of the film can do those moments justice, right?

A couple of days ago, the wifey and I went to see World War Z and find out for ourselves. What I ended up seeing was a surprisingly competent summer blockbuster which only suffered a bit from a bit of an anticlimactic third act and the kind of logical quandaries that, well, you usually find in summer blockbusters.

Now, I have not read the books and therefore, this is my first exposure to World War Z, period. This review is going to be free of the angst that accompanies just about any film adaptation of a beloved book, then. Also, I don’t really frequent movie news websites, so I had no idea about the completely re-imagined ending, production issues, and other problems that plagued the film on its way to release.

I wasn’t surprised to find that the original ending had been completely scrapped and changed, though, because the final third of the film, set at the World Health Organization, provides such a thematic shift from the larger-than-life action of the rest of the film. Generally, films like this build to a crescendo rather than featuring a tenser, subtler, more personal climax. Having said that, I read about the original ending, and it sucked.  The film is better for the change, even if it doesn’t lead as obviously into a sequel, which they are planning on doing, anyway. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the real ending, and it’s nothing like the original plan, so reading about how terrible the original ending was won’t ruin World War Z for you.)

The original ending would have featured a huge zombie battle in Russia, which sure, would have been cool. But it also would have featured protagonist Gerry Lane’s (Brad Pitt) wife and kids in a compromising situation where his wife, Karin (played well by Mireille Enos) has to, ahem, “barter” with her own body in order to receive protection for her and her children, which then apparently becomes a bizarre love triangle where the soldier who is “protecting” her encourages Gerry via radio to go find a fresh start and leave him and Karin alone. Riiiiiight. 

That’s beside the fact that Gerry is fighting in Russia simply because he got off the plane, had a gun thrust into his face, and was told he’s joining the army. We would have warped to a point in time months later, where he’s a commando badass type spearheading the battle against the zombies. Bleh to that, and a double-bleh to the well-worn, sexist assumption that in any post-apocalyptic situation, women either a) die, b) are liabilities, or c) become prostitutes to survive.

Anyway, the film has several jaw-dropping visuals, the zombies are awesome (yes, I am completely in favor of fast zombies- we’re supposed to believe that people can survive death until shot in the head, but not that they can run in such an undead state?), and the acting is sturdy enough for this type of fare. The ending is noticeably tacked on and doesn’t feel altogether satisfying or particularly great as a setup for a sequel, but whatever. 

The other head-scratcher here is that even though most of the world has turned zombie, things seem to be running more or less as usual. Everyone has electricity, people in Israel (with the high walls to keep zombies from getting in) are not rioting or panicking, etc. There is no real hint of the wider consequences of most of the population of earth simply ceasing to be around to perform their usual duties, which I've heard that the book addresses in detail. But hey, that’s just not what the film is trying to do. Grade: B+

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