Sunday 23 June 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

Zombies, love'em or hate'em. I've been through a few Resident Evil films, a post-apocalyptic view of the future. I laughed at the 2009 comedy Zombieland with Woody Harrelson. I watched the end of life as we know it in 28 Days. But I'm not a true aficionado. If I run down a list of all the zombie films ever made; I haven't see very many of them at all. However, I do see one glaring omission if I look at the entirety of the zombie opus: no Brad Pitt. Well, consider that oversight now remedied.

The film has the same name as the 2006 book by Max Brooks. For some reason I haven't yet discovered, the screenplay for the film is apparently different from the book. Unfortunately, I haven't read the book so can't give any insightful comparisons but have noted over the years that filmmakers sometimes feel their version of the story works better on screen than the book. Go figure. Maybe painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa would improve Da Vinci's masterpiece.

With a budget of $200 million, the film certainly aims to bring something to a genre which stretches back decades usually in the form of a low budget B horror film. While there are plenty of run-ins with the walking dead, the film does portray the breakdown of society. How quickly we go from working together to every man for himself. Okay, zombies might be a little far-fetched but the idea of a pandemic is not unbelievable. During the 1300's the Black Death in Europe killed an estimated one hundred million people. Between 1500 and 1900, 95% of the Native American population was wiped out by smallpox, measles, typhoid, etc. In the 1918 flu pandemic, 75 million were killed worldwide. AIDS, starting in 1981, is now estimated to have killed 25 million.

Center for Disease Control
If you are unfamiliar with the term zombie apocalypse... Wait. You're not familiar with this term? Holy cow, I would have thought it had entered mainstream media and everybody was using this as something of a humorous slant on a potentially bad situation. Back in May, 2011, The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention posted a blog entry entitled "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" written by Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan, Director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. The purpose of this tongue-in-cheek metaphor was to raise public awareness about emergency preparedness.

There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency. -Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan

Khan goes on to compare the up-coming hurricane season and possible pandemics to this end of civilisation scenario and says that answering the question "How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?", the CDC wants to share tips about preparing for real emergencies too.

Amusingly enough, the posting of the CDC blog occurred just a few days before May 21, 2011, the date predicted by the evangelist Harold Camping as the beginning of the end. (see my blog: May 21: The End of the World (Afterword May 22)) Obviously, Mr. Camping's prognostication did not come true but the media coverage certainly generated a lot of interest in the CDC preparedness blog. A sharp increase in Internet traffic supposedly crashed the CDC web site!

Back to Brad and the Story
Oops. I forgot to review the movie. Ha, ha! Pitt plays the part of a hero, and here I mean that in two ways. Yes, he saves the day but his character is the devoted father of two young daughters, the loving husband who has three ladies in his life and who would do anything to protect his family. If you're a woman reading this, you may now swoon. If you're guy, smarten up.

I suppose this film provides a few details about this zombie infection that struck me, at least, as new. While the direct transfer of blood seems to be the method of infection, the time to be transformed into a zombie can be as little as twenty seconds to ten minutes. In one scene (spoiler alert) a soldier gets bitten in the hand and Pitt, after a moment's hesitation, severs her hand with a chop from a large knife. Yes, she loses a hand but she doesn't transform.

Zombies seem to be hell bent on spreading the infection, that is, biting and infecting healthy human beings. Pitt notices that zombies sometimes ignore certain people and begins to speculate the zombies sense those people are unhealthy in some way. (Oops, another spoiler alert.)

When not running around attacking other people, zombies become dormant. They stand about moving little, and will only jump into action is they sense a healthy human being or hear a noise. Hmmm, doesn't the engine need fuel? Don't they have to eat something? Yes, they are supposedly cannibalistic but does this mean they eat each other?

The horror genre is a niche market. You've got to be something of an adrenaline junkie to enjoy getting the bejesus scared out of you. I'm not. I seat in the theatre trying not to jump out of my seat by repeatedly saying to myself, "The monster is going to come out now! ... Okay, now!" Sometimes it works; many times it doesn't and usually whoever is sitting beside me has a good laugh when I jerk in my chair. Yes, I'm hilarious. (Read more about me, the funny scaredy-cat, at another horror film: Movie Review: Prometheus (plus a recap of a few things Alien))

Final Word
I walked up to the counter to purchase my ticket and said, "I'm Canadian and I insist on saying World War Zed." The lady gave me an appreciative chuckle which was much better than the occasional nervous laugh I get meaning something like, "I wonder if he's out on a day pass and might be dangerous."

This film is well done; it's a good piece of craftsmanship. But it is a horror film so you have to have a special (read quirky) taste for this sort of thing. I have heard the book is quite original so if you end up seeing the movie and reading the book, be prepared for two different things. Good luck to us all for the zombie apocalypse. Don't forget, you should always go for a shot to the head.


Rotten Tomatoes: World War Z: 67%
It's uneven -- and fans of the book may be annoyed by how thoroughly it diverges from the source material -- but World War Z still brings smart, fast-moving thrills and a solid performance from Brad Pitt to the zombie genre.

Wikipedia: World War Z (film)
World War Z is a 2013 apocalyptic action horror film directed by Marc Forster. The screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan is based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a retired U.N. employee who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic.

Wikipedia: World War Z (book)
World War Z is a 2006 apocalyptic horror novel by Max Brooks. It is a follow-up to his 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Rather than a grand overview or narrative, World War Z is a collection of individual accounts, wherein Brooks plays the role of an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission one decade after the story's Zombie War. Other passages record a decade-long war against zombies, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the religious, geo-political, and environmental changes that resulted from the Zombie War.

Similar in style to Warday by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka, World War Z was inspired by The Good War, an oral history of World War II by Studs Terkel, and by the zombie films of George A. Romero. Brooks used World War Z to comment on government ineptitude and American isolationism, while also examining survivalism and uncertainty. Critics have praised the novel for reinventing the zombie genre; the audiobook version, performed by a full cast including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, and John Turturro, won an Audie Award in 2007.

Wikipedia: List of zombie films
The following is a list of zombie featured films or list of zombie movies with non low-budget. Zombies are creatures usually portrayed as either reanimated corpses or mindless human beings, in both cases cannibalistic.

Urban Dictionary: zombie
The Walking Dead. Scientific name Homo Coprophagus Somnambulus.

Urban Dictionary: Zombie Apocalypse
1. Zombie Apocalypse
A party or gathering at which a large group of elderly people will get up and shuffle around under the guise of dancing. [Ha, ha, ha!]

The Straight Dope
Why do the British pronounced the letter Z "zed"?
As usual in most of these matters, it's we the people of the US that changed it, not the other way around. "Zed" comes from the original Greek zeta via Old French zede, and pretty much all English speakers worldwide pronounce it that way.

Published on Sep 17, 2013 by Screen Junkies
Honest Trailers - World War Z
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Anonymous said...

I just read the book and wondered how they'd make a movie of it. It reads like a Ken Burns documentary (lots of individual stories strung together)and no real Brad Pitt character. Clearly, it was re-written for the $200 million movie version!

William Quincy Belle said...

I bet the book is better.