The movie with the worst reported production in the history of film, “World War Z,” hit theatres June 21, against the anticipated sequel “Monsters University.” The Brad Pitt film, plagued by rewrites and reshoots that went over-budget to the tune of $200 million, and over-schedule after reshooting the entire finale of the movie, was a surprise hit despite all the news surrounding it.
Based on the Max Brooks book of the same name, Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, an ex-investigator for the United Nations. When humans begin behaving like rabid animals (the movie even opens with what appeared to be footage from the “zombie” attack in Florida), Lane is sent out to find the source of the disease.
Lane and his crew first land in South Korea, where the first use of zombie was used in describing what faced them. The soldiers stationed there told Lane stories of the first encounters and the believed “patient zero” and the slowed infection time seen in the area, as opposed to the ten-seconds witnessed in the larger populated area.
Clues from South Korea send him to Jerusalem, where the infection was contained with massive walls. When hordes of zombies breach the city, Lane realizes what may be a weakness to the creatures.
The third act of the movie is where the mid-production rewrites by David Lindelof (scribe of “LOST” and “Prometheus”) become clear. What was originally a large-scale battle in Moscow becomes incredibly small scale, taking place in a World Health Organization compound in Wales. Here Lane hopes to confirm his suspicions on the weakness of the zombies, but not before facing a dormant horde of them inside the compound.
As no great fan of the zombie genre, I don’t have much to compare this movie to. Instead of the shuffle-moan zombies of pop-culture, these zombies are quick on their feet and combine to make mountains of bodies to keep searching for human flesh. The first 15 minutes of the movie set up the zombie aspects, and as such the popping up of undead faces is startling in the dark settings, and unsettling for one who does not attend horror movies, ever.
The movie is in no way a true horror movie, due to the PG-13 rating. With an R-rating, more flesh eating probably could have been expected, but here the zombies serve as a plot device rather than an adversary. The real adversary here is human shortsightedness, also a theme from Brooks book, when nations refuse to recognize a fanciful threat like zombies becoming an actuality through disease.
The first two thirds of the movie are filmed in the shaken-cam style, which makes the abrupt change in the third act all the more focusing. Instead of adrenaline pumping maneuvering by Lane, the audience waits with baited breath as Lane ventures through the compound, without a few potentially deadly trip-ups, literally.
My main problem with the film was the unresolved feelings I had as I left the theatre. Between the unfulfilled societal undertones dealing with the inability of the human race to prepare for advance threats, the ending provided a small resolution, but not one for the overall arching zombie problem, clearly setting up for a sequel.
Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane was an interesting fit. Much like other upcoming sci-fi releases with actors you wouldn’t quite imagine, like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in “Gravity,” Pitt was never one I imagined to face off against the undead. He provides a focus for the film much as he has in his previous works, keeping the audience in tune with the human aspect as well as the dangerous one.
This was one movie I was extremely skeptical going in to, and came out fairly surprised at how well it worked, given its history. Had the battle of Moscow been kept, it would have ruined the feeling the movie built up of desperation and hope as Lane finds a resource they can use and is able to reunite with his family in a refugee camp.
I give this movie a high-B, with the knowledge that it is the immensely improved, yet stitched together version. For a movie that should not have worked as well as it did, it will only lend emphasis to those already stockpiling for the zombie apocalypse due to its realistic feel.