“World War Z” Movie Review

     When “The Walking Dead” character Rick Grimes woke up in the hospital and found Atlanta had been overrun by flesh eating zombies, it might’ve done him some good to take a look at the story line for “World War Z”.  At least he and the other survivors would have some answers as to what exactly happened.  Those still alive in “World War Z” don’t really understand what’s going on either and from beginning to end, the story still leaves a number of question marks.  Brad Pitt leads a mostly unknown cast in this summer tentpole conceived from a novel by Max Brooks.  Put simply, “World War Z” plays like a more epic version of a “The Walking Dead” episode, trotting the globe Indiana Jones style in search of what started this nasty zombie virus in the first place. 

     As directed by Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”), the film centers on Gerry Lane (Pitt), a now retired United Nations employee who is thrust into the story because of previous experience that is really never explained, but you just go with it because he’s Brad Pitt.  Forster stages several remarkable sequences throughout which up the ante on typical zombie visuals by making these undead reckless in their pursuit of flesh.  They pile on to each other, jump off of buildings in mass, and pursue as if they are an oncoming ocean wave.  Nothing like this has been seen on the big screen or small screen as of yet, and these images really give “World War Z” a unique look that separates it from typical zombie fare.

     Ultimately, Forster and his crew must’ve thought these break through visuals would be seen as overkill if they were stretched into the third act and thus the conclusion of the film may seem less satisfying. Replacing the epic sequences early in the film is the slow, dormant zombies we’ve come to know in many other films and television shows.  While you may appreciate the change in gears in favor of a slower, more methodical conclusion, the last twenty minutes doesn’t deliver the kind of awe you will witness throughout the first 90 minutes.  I bring this up because of the much publicized changes “World War Z” went through during production causing expensive reshoots.  Writer Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”) was brought in to refigure the entire already shot ending and the result was a reshoot rumored to cost an additional $65 million.  To me, the change in pace was obvious, yet I can’t complain about an unconventional ending and to a point, I’m thrilled the filmmakers chose to do something different.

     The one break through achieved in the film from all of Lane’s globetrotting is minimal at best and is highly questionable as being a step forward.  I have to figure with things the way they are in this zombie war, any small victory would do wonders for people’s moral.  Where they take the discovery and how they build on it in the future no doubt will be the subject of the inevitable sequel a few years from now.  No doubt, Pitt commands the audience and even though his character’s credentials aren’t spelled out, he maintains the calm presence needed while everyone else is losing it.  The supporting players are fine, but it’s disappointing to see the female lead, Mireille Enos, reduced to a wife sitting by the phone, hoping her husband will find the time to call her while he’s out saving the world.  Is it me or has this summer’s crop of films sorely lacked meaningful roles for women?

     Overall, there isn’t anything original story wise in “World War Z”.  The concept itself, along with Pitt’s everyman character doesn’t really do anything to make it stand out.  While there have been many colorful takes on the zombie genre over the years (“Zombieland” always comes to mind.),  this film is likely to be thrown into the heap of escapist entertainment at its finest, never again to be spoken about a year from now.  It certainly would’ve been interesting if this story had been worked into a television mini series instead of a feature film.  This way, the screenwriters could’ve spent more time developing the characters, in the process creating more of a larger than life persona for Pitt’s Gerry Lane. As it is now, I’d take Rick Grimes over Gerry Lane any day, should we ever find ourselves in a zombie apocalypse.  GRADE: C+