"World War Z" (2013)

World War Z (2013)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Running time: 116 minutes

I am going to come out and say right now that World War Z has gathered a lot of criticism due to fans of the original book (written by Max Brooks) being annoyed that the film seems to barely resemble the source material. And while I suppose I can agree that it is frustrating when an adaptation of a novel to the screen does not follow the same path as its predecessor, one cannot simply throw the film away based upon this complaint alone. An example I would like to bring up would be that of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, one of my favourite films, which was based upon a novel written by Christopher Priest. It is a novel I have not read, however I have gathered from various sources that the only correlation between the book and the film would be that it revolves around two 1800’s magicians who have a deadly rivalry over an amazing magic trick. The book is told from the perspectives of the magicians’ ancestors in present day, reading their diaries, and begins to involve supernatural things such as incorporeal spirits, which do not feature in Nolan’s film. My point is is that while a fan of the novel might be irritated that The Prestige deviated heavily from the structure and specific events of the novel, the film still turned out to be an excellent piece of cinema in its own right.

Furthermore, I haven’t actually read Max Brooks’ “World War Z”, so I find myself again in the unique position to look at the film on its own! I clearly need to read more books…

Now Showing this week is World War Z, directed by Marc Forster.  Ex-United Nations peace keeper Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family find themselves in the midst of a sudden zombie apocalypse. After an initial extraction to an aircraft carrier, Lane is given the task of travelling around the globe to find the cause of the sudden zombie outbreak, in exchange for keeping his family safe aboard the aircraft carrier while he is gone. What follows is an epic world tour of various countries and experiencing their solutions to the zombie problem, all while Lane is chasing not only a cause, but hopefully a cure.

My first impression of World War Z  was that it was a kind of zombie film that I had never seen before. In comparison to other apocalyptic films, I would say that most zombie movies are like War of the Worlds (2005) and World War Z is like Independence Day. By that I mean that most zombie movies focus on a civilian/s surviving in the outbreak but with little to no way of viewing the big picture from their perspective, whilst World War Z focuses on the big picture from a government/military viewpoint of the outbreak. I found this new approach to the genre to be quite refreshing, especially in witnessing (or at least hearing about) various different nations’ and cultures’ methods of avoiding infection. It also allowed for some very large scale, helicopter-extraction-at-the-last-minute set pieces! The way the infected seemed to flow like a flood, crashing into everything and anything in its path, was awe-inspiring and terrifying! But what this grand, military perspective lacked was what makes the zombie apocalypse genre so powerful: the human condition. There are no stories of what people had to do to survive; what becomes of us as a society when the food chain is flipped; no groups turning to cannibalism; nothing like that. In fact, it seemed like the event really quickly (and unrealistically) united every country in the world against the zombie horde. Essentially what I’m trying to say is World War Z is about the zombie apocalypse, while every other zombie movie is about the characters (Resident Evil: Retribution notwithstanding).

I will say this, I have always been a fan of fast zombies, and that is the type of zombie that World War Z has gone with. Zombie “purists” have criticised fast zombies due to the original view of zombies being un-dead, rotting and not overly mobile; but I find I prefer fast zombies due to the heightened nature of them as a threat, and the fact that they are a far more believable type of zombie. Looking at 28 Days Later as an example, the infected were not un-dead in anyway, they were simply people infected with a contagion that resulted in extreme aggression. Thus their bodies were un-compromised, enabling them to move at speed. To put it frankly, if a zombie virus scenario were to happen, these are the kinds of zombies we would most likely be facing. And that’s why “runners”scare me the most: because they are possible! World War Z took the fast zombies one step further and seemed to have modeled them off insects. The way they swarm together and are calm when not “stimulated” reminded me very much of bees. Whats more, their speed and aggression made crowd scenes very scary, as the distinction between who was infected and who was not became blurred in the chaos. In essence, the World War Z infected were cliched yet with an original twist and definitely a highlight of the film.

Acting wise, the film is nothing special. I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone performed badly in it, but nobody stood out either. Majority of the characters were cliched archetypes for each given scenario, and those roles were performed with the basic energy required. There were the soldiers, the scientists, the politicians etc, all of whom behaved exactly as one would expect. And for a film like this, I find that level of acting quality is enough, given human stories are not the focus. Brad Pitt does a good job being yet another action hero, and there really is not much more I can say on that.

World War Z may barely resemble the original novel, but putting that aside, the film becomes a grand zombie epic; a part of the genre we have not seen before. Couple this with moments of genuine terror and a clever use of little gore, and World War Z is an enjoyable film experience. I would recommend watching it for fans of zombie apocalypse films, if for nothing more than seeing something a little bit different.

See you next time!

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