There's a saying that goes, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." That couldn't be more true for World War Z. For months, this film was lambasted on the internet by movie nerds who heard all about its infamous budget problems and drastic script issues that were so bad that they needed to bring in new writers to completely rewrite the last act. Everyone was positive that this horror-adventure starring and produced by Brad Pitt would be a massive flop. Well, those low expectations seemed to have made everyone leave loving a movie that is really only worthy of liking at best.
The source material for this is a book by the same title by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks' son actually) which came out in 2006. It was insanely popular and one of the better horror novels in ten years. The book follows a character who travels the world to talk to what's left of humanity to chronicle how the zombie apocalypse happened. The movie isn't the book and it doesn't try to be. The film version features Pitt traveling the globe trying to piece together clues on how to stop the zombie plague from killing everyone.
One of the problems that World War Z might have ran into was selecting Marc Forster to direct it. He has had success like Quantom of Solace and Monster's Ball but more missed like Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction and Machine Gun Preacher. Even if they all were homeruns though, I'd never think that this was the guy to tackle such a massive project. The film feels like it's a Made-For-TV project; from the opening credits that have odd music and random stock footage, to the mega cheesey freeze frame and voice over that closes it out. Something of this scope needed someone steeped in something of this scope and Forster wasn't it.
The film does have it's great moments and is relentlessly tense. An outbreak on a plane carrying survivors is one of the best, which doesn't let you breath until the whole ends with a terrifying outcome. But overall it lacked heart and gore. Unfortunately for World War Z, since Pitt bought the film rights to it almost seven years ago, AMC's The Walking Dead has come out and set the new standard for zombie entertainment. Not only does it splatter you with as much gore as the censors will allow (still not sure how it gets away with what it gets away with) but also infuses so much heart and emotion into the characters that you forget it's about zombies. World War Z does neither.
It wanted a PG-13 rating and never once tried to push the limits to get it. I understand that some people feel that less is more when it comes to horror and I'm not one to disagree with that; but when you're dealing with the zombie genre, you can't skimp. Not only is there zero blood but the zombies aren't even scary. The script is also so butchered and passed around that not a single character is someone you care about and they're fine with that since they don't seem to care about each other. Pitt's scenes with his wife, played by Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad, A&E's The Killing) are horrible. You get the sensation that those two were on the edge of divorce anyway so why bother caring if he ever makes it home to see her again?
Maybe I'm a little jaded because I loved the book and the film was anything but what made me love it. That might be it but I feel like it's more than that and the shortcomings of a bad script, bloated budget, tired crew and an in-over-his-head director are what made this mildly entertaining overall with a few moments of "Holy S**T!" Such a pity since a big summer blockbuster starring an Oscar-nominated A-lister about zombies was something I've been hoping for my whole life; too bad it felt more dead than the undead. World War Z (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-