Zombies are nothing new in popular culture, especially with the recent revival of the genre. There’s very little that hasn’t already been done from Night of the Living Dead’s zombies as social satire to 28 Days’ fast zombies (“infected,” whatever) to Shaun of the Dead’s deconstructed, absurdist zombies. For World War Z, it’s international zombies. Nonetheless, the film works far better as an action thriller than a zombie movie and even then too often struggles with stupid logic and mistakes that only characters in early zombie movies would make.
Whereas zombie movies in the past often innovated through a creative lack of budget, World War Z attempts to innovate by flaunting its enormous budget, primarily in massive waves and towers of CGI undead that storm its international locations. Zombies gather together like cartoon bees forming bee bombers and dropping bee bombs on Daffy Duck. Unfortunately, these enormous piles often look about as realistic as 70’s WB cartoons. While individual zombies move in what can be imagined as realistic ways, snapping and twitching like deranged squirrels, the sped up, erratic movements of the crowds give an unreal, plastic quality to the image, reminiscent of people in early Pixar pictures. This isn’t to say the film looks bad exactly, just not believable.
Brad Pitt is serviceable in his role as the single most important person in the world (after an unintentionally hilarious scene with the previous most important person in the world) providing an emotional epicenter for the inevitable countdown to destruction that follows him everywhere. Meanwhile every other character is either family/friend or just as disposable as the tens of thousands of formerly living people gunned down in one of Z several spectacle pieces. There are times, particularly when the scope narrows, that Z turns in a tense, well-paced sequence, but unfortunately those moments are forced into the film by a series of foolish choices. For seemingly smart characters, these folks do some dumb things, enough so that the film borders, at times, on comedy.
World War Z has the star, the budget, the scope; all it needs is a smarter script and the will to be better. Done correctly, zombie movies don’t need ripped throats and smashed heads to be good, but they do need guts and brains. [subscribe2]