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Thursday, June 20, 2013

WORLD WAR Z Review. Is Entertaining But Completely Ignores It's Heritage

By: MattInRC

Does the long-delayed World War Z prove its meddle, or does it get eaten up by flesh-eating zombies?

If you've been following the production nightmare behind World War Z, you have to wonder how it ever made it out to theaters: a long-delayed path to securing the funding to shoot, plus a massive re-write of the script, resulting in a six-week re-shoot of Act 3 costing more than $70 million, and finally director and star not getting along. Such issues would have killed most projects, but this is Brad Pitt after all, and he's demonstrated many times his tenacity in seeing a project through. And while somewhat enjoyable, the film resembles the original book in name only, dumping many characters alongside the road like an unwanted bag of trash.

As the zombie apocalypse descends on the world, former UN operative Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and his family are caught without means of escape. But when help arrives in the form of Gerry's former boss (Fana Mokoena, Safe House), it's not without a price: he wants Gerry to accompany a doctor to South Korea to find the source of the disease. Gerry's wife Karin (Mireille Enos, The Killing) is not pleased, but it's the only way she and the children can stay on a relief ship far from the carnage. As the journey for a cure takes him all over the world, Gerry soon learns that Karin and the family have been kicked off the ship because the government thinks he has perished. Stranded at a remote World Health Organization hospital, Pitt must make the ultimate sacrifice to rescue the few remaining humans left, while ensuring that his family will survive until he returns.

Director Mark Forster (Quantum of Solace) does weave enough tension through his work to keep audiences fixated on Pitt's task at hand. When it comes to the quick breakdown of society after the initial attacks, Forster does a good job in a thrilling opening scene. But much like Quantum, Forster doesn't carry that emotion through to its end, stranding his characters and audience between finding a cure and keeping us awake through it. The real problem lies in the re-written script by Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), after J. Michael Straczynski's original homage to the book was gutted. Borrowing only its title, there are too many disposable characters that shouldn't be, few of whom appear to be in any danger past the initial attacks. It's very clear that Gerry cares about his family, but without moments for the audience to feel the same - they're mostly separated after Act 1, with only short phone calls in between - we end up treating them and so many others here like disposable diapers. Lindelof seems to agree, even denying proper credit to the main W.H.O. doctor who shares nearly 20 minutes with Pitt as they break into a dangerous lab. Ditto for the usually excellent Enos, who's confined to lay in bunk beds with her kids after Act 1, and Dale who's not around long enough for us to miss him. Apparently Matthew Fox (Lost) also makes an appearance, but it appears he was victim of the editing room. For a film that cost well over $200 million to make, you would have thought someone would have spent some of it on story.

Word from Paramount is they would like to base a franchise around World War Z, and it's clear by film's end that they intend to try. Yet, there's too much missing here to think that audiences will gather around it in the way fans have done with Man of Steel. Simply put, we have zero buy-in with these characters, so that by the end we care neither about them nor in rescuing any hope of returning the zombie aggressors back to normal. But it's also Paramount's cheesy effort to cash in on the WWZ name without using much else related to the book that could create a backlash. World War Z could have been so much more of a human drama than some sort of procedural thriller, losing the unique chance to grow this heretofore extremely limited genre into something much more robust. The result is an enjoyable but frustrating process that feels much longer than its 116-minute runtime. Considering the double-dip investment by Paramount, it seems unlikely we'll see Gerry complete his task of saving the human race in a sequel. And we're ok with that.

World War Z is rated a surprising PG-13.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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