As World War Z finds itself in theaters this week, its almost a miracle that it ever did reach theaters. World War Z had serious pre-production hell, with a large amount of problems happening behind the scenes while filming. The script has been completed since 2008, and since then, has been severely edited, with over eight writers having their hands in the project’s final product. The film suffered from extensive re-shoots, with even a giant scale Moscow battle ending cut from the film.
Filming itself was hell, with Paramount rushing director Marc Foster and crew to finish the movie, and finish it quickly. The film ended up getting delayed, from its original December 21st, 2012 release date until June 21st, 2013. There are even rumors that Pitt had argued with and distanced himself from director Marc Foster, who has been at the head of the blame for the post production craziness. Although it seemed almost impossible for this movie to be any good, World War Z is somehow one of the summer’s best films so far.
World War Z, unlike the book its based on, follows Gerry Lane, a former UN employee who has successfully escaped zombie-occupied America, but is being sent on a mission to find a source from the zombie plague, and a potential cure.
Brad Pitt as always is great here. Pitt is by far one of the best actors working today, and he is able to play this normal joe character Gerry with conviction, which is hard for big stars like Tom Cruise and Will Smith to achieve. Pitt at this point in his career could play a rug and probably would still give an Oscar nominated performance.
Pitt’s performance really lays the groundwork for the film. His charm and realism gives the film a central protagonist that feels grounded in reality and likable. Having a protagonist to care about in any type of summer blockbuster type film is key, which many summer blockbusters seem to forget (looking at you Fast 6).
What is great to see in a zombie movie is a new take on the zombies themselves. The small new threads on the zombies give a fresh feeling to them. The whole idea of a person turning into a zombie twelve seconds after bitten is great, and adds more intensity to the fact that unlike in most zombie movies, there is no time to mourn. Also, the amount of zombies adds a true feeling of helplessness, as nearly thousands of zombies at a time are rushing.
The action scenes in this movie are just spectacular. The opening with the initial break-out may be one of the most intense action moments of recent memory, that had me right on the edge of my seat. While the zombie CGI in the trailers looked a bit wonky at first, they actually looks really refined and realistic. Also, there is a nice mixture between CGI zombies and make-up zombies, which makes the close-up zombies look far more scary.
When it comes to the action front, most of the action is actually in the realms of realism. Aside from a plane sequence, which was just to much fun to really critique, the action has a genuine bite and tension, with the zombie threat feeling very real, because the scenarios themselves feel very real. The tension is great throughout the film, and creating tension is a true skill that is hard to pull off. Credit must be payed to Marc Foster, who really improved after the confusingly shot Quantum of Solace.
The story in the film is rather well told; aside from one problem that will be discussed later, the film largely takes a Contagion-like approach at telling about the outbreak. Putting more emphasis on the reaction to it all in a realistic way rather than most zombie films was nice to see. The film ends up boiling down to more of a thriller as Lane looks for answers, rather than being the typical survival horror film.
Also one element about the film to respect is the fact the film is a PG-13 release that really isn’t for the typical PG-13 audience. Most kids really shouldn’t see this movie because its able to create a lot of tense and hard-hitting moments, and did this without the easy way out of having a lot of blood and an R rating. Along with that, the film really takes its time pacing wise. The movie is about 115 minutes long, but is rather slowly paced, which could be a turn off to most, but really added to the tension of it all.
Part of the problem of the film is also the story, mainly, the film’s ending. While the film’s final act moment was intimate and thrilling, the point of conclusion itself is rather weak. It seemed like a very messy, poorly thought out conclusion that had little to no sense to it. The ending itself is just really jarring, and its lack of sense is perhaps due to the infamous David Lindelof having written it.
The film has quite a few moments where the pre-production problems are shown. Some scenes that feel tied together by a string along with awkward cuts show the film’s messy behind the scenes nature. There is only so much that can be made over, and while the movie does a mostly good job, not all of the problems are hidden.
A minor problem, one of the sequences in the film that involves a helicopter escape was shot very poorly. It almost felt as if the audience was being visited by the ghost of Forster past. With the red color and many cuts, there was almost no way to tell what was going on.
This summer’s most intense and enjoyable blockbuster so far, World War Z delivers on what a summer movie and a zombie movie should. Ignore the pre-production problems and see it for yourself.
Take a Drink: anytime a zombie makes a clicking noise with its teet
Do a Shot: for a character that slips and shoots themselves; now that’s a fail.
Do a 320z: for the zombies pulling down a helicopter, how awesome was that!