I’m kind of late to the party on this one. It wasn’t high on my list of movies to see, to be honest, and we only ended up going today because no one was that excited by the other available options this weekend. (BUT NEXT WEEKEND IS PACIFIC RIM MOTHERFUCKERS ARE YOU READY OR WHAT?) Anyway, I’m a bit familiar with World War Z the book, in that I listened to the audiobook. (Which is abridged.)
I thought the audiobook was… okay. The production values were great (one of the voice actors was Allen Alda) but the content itself didn’t excite me. Part of the issue was that it was written as a memoir, which is not really my favorite format. Secondarily, I got annoyed that apparently the survivors of the zombie apocalypse were 80% male if you went by just the selection of stories told. But it wasn’t a bad book. It helped me pass the time in the gym pleasantly.
Anyway, I think I would have been better off if I wasn’t familiar with the source material. I might have ended up marginally less annoyed, particularly with what turned out to be the dealbreaker for me in the movie.
I came out of World War Z the movie feeling like it was somehow significantly longer than its two hour running time, which is a bad sign when it’s an action/suspense movie. And you know how I said I couldn’t believe I wished there were fewer explosions in Man of Steel? I wish this movie had fewer action sequences; they were predictable, clunky, and endless, squeezing out any development that might have helped me like the characters. Literally, every time Gerry goes somewhere, there is an action sequence involving a mob of zombies basically destroying everything, and he barely escapes with his life. Every goddamn time. There was no suspense to these action sequences because we knew they were coming by the third one.
Gerry was all right as a character, I guess? The main problem is, you never get to know him. You know he loves his wife and his two incredibly annoying kids. You know he apparently is the kind of guy that will randomly welcome an orphan into his family (hello, token brown child who is eerily calm). But what did he once do for the UN? We know it was important and badass and has apparently taught him the art of bayonetting zombies, but we never really find out once. His character is nebulous in ways that really make it hard to connect with what he’s trying to do and how he feels about things, because there’s no clear place from which he comes. Honestly, in the entire movie, the only one I really liked was Segen, a female Israeli soldier who goes through most of the film with only one hand and is incredibly badass while simultaneously being human enough to feel pain. The rest? Meh.
At least the zombies were suitably creepy. The way they moved was just viscerally wrong. That wasn’t enough to salvage the movie, though. Perhaps because there were just too damn many of them. There are some nicely creepy moments, but they often do not make any sense at all in the context of what the film has established. (e.g.: if you shoot zombies in the head and/or burn them, they die. Why then, do we see a corpse that appears to have been reduced to crusty ash wiggling its fingers? Creepy, but nonsensical.) The solution to the zombie apocalypse was nonsensical. As far as I could tell, Gerry (Brad Pitt) only had a family for the sole purpose of them screwing something up so an action sequence would be required.
Also, the fact that it literally takes only ten seconds from initial infection to a person becoming a full fledged zombie, while occasionally worked to creepy effect, is stupid.
Let me go into a few more details, so SPOILERS BELOW.
So, of the material from the book that I could tell was preserved, the only major points were that the zombies were attracted to noise (not uncommon in zombie lore) and that Israel had saved itself by building a wall early on and hunkering down. That’s really it.
Of course, the inclusion of Israel as seen in the book ended up being the thing that made me say screw this movie, I’m out. In the book, Israel has built a wall around the entire country (if memory serves) and invited not just all the Jewish people of the world to come and be safe, but anyone (including Muslims) who were originally born of that region. That’s one of the rather pointed ironies of the book, I think, that it takes a zombie apocalypse to bring peace to the Middle East. But either way, Israel survives the entirety of World War Z.
And then in this movie, this fucking movie, Israel gets overrun by zombies in approximately ten minutes, because Gerry showed up and everything he touches is destined to get eaten by zombies I guess. And the way they do it just really annoyed me. Gerry is being shown around by an Israeli guy, who is proudly telling him how they’re welcoming everyone inside the walls, because every person they save inside means one less zombie they will eventually have to kill. Sounds good. A crowd of what are presumably Muslim men and women come in and are welcomed. There is singing. And then somehow, a couple of the women get microphones (how? doesn’t matter! we need an action sequence!) so they can sing over the PA (if they know zombies are attracted to noise by now, why is there a PA system? doesn’t matter! we need an action sequence!) and that attracts every zombie in the universe. The zombies promptly climb the walls, somehow missed by the entire fleet of helicopters circling the walls, and that’s it for Israel.
Well, that’s what you get for singing and cooperating, humans.
This was immediately followed by my second least favorite action sequence of the movie. Gerry and Segen escape on a commercial jet that flies away from the airport as it is being overrun. Somehow, a zombie has gotten on the plane! How? Doesn’t matter! It’s been ten minutes! Segen and Gerry might like talk and have character development if we don’t stop them! So the passengers in Gerry’s cabin try to stack up luggage to form a barrier, but someone drops a suitcase and so everyone gets eaten.
I have had enough of these motherfucking zombies of my motherfucking plane, man.
Neither of those action sequences was all that interesting, or even necessary to the plot. They didn’t ratchet the tension up any higher. We already know the world is boned, guys. Frankly, if anything they destroyed the feeling of tension because they were so contrived and we knew they were coming because this movie is incapable of giving the audience (and characters) a little breathing space so that something can actually have impact.
What makes a movie scary or suspenseful isn’t when every time you hear a noise, it’s the serial killer. Sometimes the noise really does need to be just the cat, so you can think for just a moment you might be safe.
Oh, and the solution to the zombie apocalypse? Apparently zombies (using super psychic zombie senses or something) can sense when somebody is terminally ill, and thus that person becomes a non-target to them. So the solution is to infect everyone with some kind of special strain of a deadly disease. I KNOW, RIGHT. SORRY FOR SPOILING THAT ONE FOR YOU.
In other news, I saw the trailer for the new Wolverine movie. I tried really, really, really hard and still could not give even the tiniest of craps.
But on the other hand, I kind of want to see this. It looks funny in a horrible way, I would wager due to the association with Edgar Wright.
Best line of the preview: “He’s not a person, Tina, he’s a Daily Mail reader.”