Saturday, June 22, 2013

World War Z: hope is the answer

This review is brought to you by Grandma, because if she wasn't here to babysit, I wouldn't have been able to go.

To you, the fanboy, who believes every adaptation must remain as faithful to the source as possible, I offer my condolences that you probably won't like World War Z. That is your loss. While busy griping about how different this (or any) movie is from this (or whatever book/comic/TV show) book, you will have missed a good a movie. World War Z is not perfect, but hey, who is? What World War Z is, however, is a good ride through a war zone.

I completely bought into Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane: the concerned and protective father, the guy with connections, the one guy who could kick enough ass to save the world. In a way, he captured the essence of what makes Bruce Willis in Die Hard so believable. He's just a dude who happens to have seen some shit go down and is in a position to make a difference. While the job of a U.N. investigator isn't exactly the most blue collar gig in the world, Pitt sells it by making pancakes for his kids.

I saw a 3D screening and by now we all know how I feel about 3D. As such, I hesitated to see World War Z it this format. Due to scheduling, I didn't have a choice. Early in the film, the effect bothered me. The zombie attacks happened so fast that the zombies became blurry. I wanted to see the make-up, but all I got was a blur. One scene redeemed the effect for me. Gerry makes his way to South Korea where a group of surviving soldiers lead him to the remains of a death chamber. Burning the "zekes" is the best way to make sure they are totally dead, one soldier explains. The air in the room--and thanks to 3D, the theater--is filled with floating ash from the burnt-out zombie corpses. The gray particles in the darkness add a layer to the scene that would have been lost otherwise. One could choke on the flakes of fallen zombie soldiers.

Like the ash in South Korea, Marco Beltrami's score is oppressive. It beats you down and reminds you that trying to save even one person is a lost cause. It's relentless in the same way Hans Zimmer's contribution to Batman Begins is. You are moved along on a ride that you can't get off of unless you succumb to the fate of so many others. If you give up, it will end.

There are plenty of kudos to hand around to the supporting cast, mostly in noting how they never get starstruck by Pitt. Particularly impressive is one zombie late in the film. When he clicks his teeth together, scenting out a victim, it's bone-chilling.

World War Z is not the end all, be all of zombie films (although I will admit that part of me was hoping this would be the movie that finally helped zombies jump the shark). Much like its take on the novel it is based on, it is one tale out of many, but one that should stand out. Go with high hopes and have them met, for the most part. Go with low expectations and have them exceeded.

THREAT LEVEL: RED Seriously. What else are you going to do? You've been waiting for this movie for a long time, why wait any longer? And yeah, spring for the 3D.

World War Z is rated PG-13, directed by Marc Forster, written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof, and starring Brad Pitt.

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