Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: World War Z (Movie)


So, on Friday evening we watched World War Z in 3D - Pretoria no longer has an IMAX theatre, so it was normal digital 3D for us. I've been listening to the audiobook, an unabridged reading of the -dare I say it- legendary book, so it was always going to be interesting for me to compare the movie and the book. That being said, there's no 'one was better than the other' - these are two very different beasts, and rightly so. Both enjoyable and riveting, though for entirely different reasons.

I can't remember how long I've been a fan of zombies, but what drew me to zombies in the beginning were, I think, two parts of what makes them so terrifying -

1) the speed with which a zombie-plague spreads, and
2) how it levels the playing field, making of everyone who becomes a zombie the same.

In world where everyone needs to be an individual to survive life and to enjoy it, the threat of the 'zombie' is such that it reminds us that for all our hard work, for all our striving and sacrificing, something like this can come along and wipe the slate clean. I think it speaks to everyone's desire to be able to let go, to give up, a temptation that everyone's had, I'm sure.

What came across for me in the big screen adaptation of World War Z was how easy it could be, if the world just decided 'Fuck this, fuck it all, I'm joining the herd!'.

The movie starts with a bang, opening with a scene very reminiscent of Zack Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' - parents sleeping, and their bedroom-door slowly opens - you're expecting a snarl and a rush at the sleeping figures, and they do rush! But then it's just two girls waking up their parents and you let out a relieved sigh because you're just not ready for the mayhem and chaos, not just yet. Minutes later everything kicks in - chaos and confusion in a traffic jam, explosions in the distance, people running and screaming, and then the attacks, coming so hard and fast that the brain can't seem to understand what is happening. A true 'fight or run' compilation of moments that push Brad Pitt's character and his family into a frantic search for safety. As movie openings go, World War Z doesn't pull any punches.

Why it also worked well for me was that it boldly showed how Pitt's character would ultimately do the unthinkable at the movie's climax - find a way to fight back, and find a 'cure'. It's a very quick glimpse we get, but for the curious and eagle-eyed, it's one of those moments that get's the questions started: 'Why were all the zombies bypassing the old man?"

From then on we're shown just how quickly the infection has spread, with projections far exceeding what we've seen before - projections which I believed because of the great vista-shots showing hundreds of thousands of people running through city streets, pursued and hounded, cornered, and ultimately infected. The only drawback to the obligatory zombie-close-ups was how glaringly apparent the CGI was, but it's only a problem if you're looking for faults in the movie.

Pitt's character does the odd dumb thing -like driving in the direction of the movie's first before-we-see-the-zombies explosion just because an avenue has been opened by a garbage truck, and giving a scientist a gun on a fog-shrouded runway- but gladly he doesn't come across as the quintessential action hero. He gets hurt, gets tired, has emotional highs and lows, and manages to bring a dual focus to his role that other characters in movies sometimes cannot balance, which here is family and 'duty'. I use 'duty' because it's not actually his duty - it's something he decides to do because he recognizes that he's the only person who can do it.

Pitt's character is pushed and pummelled, going through situations that most people would shit themselves in - and sure, this is based on Speculative Fiction, nothing remotely similar to a zombie outbreak has ever happened, but Pitt's character is like a detective, following the clues into the dark forest.

The action in the movie is intense - the zombies are lethally fast, not driven like the zombies we are used to; they don't pause to devour intestines and brains and the like. They bite and move on, driven by the imperative to spread the infection as fast as possible, which leads to most people having to react instinctively instead of being able to plan a suitable defence against them. This ups the movie's tension considerably, but it has to be said that the best thing the movie could have done was let Pitt's character die, or be killed. We expect him to survive, and he does - in and of itself that's fine (this is Brad Pitt we're talking about), but the movie would have had a bigger impact if the 'hero' was killed.

But the big shots -especially the scenes that take place in Jerusalem- are breath-taking and hard-hitting. There was obviously plenty of thought put into how the zombies moved and reacted - they were given a clear and relentless lethality, with plenty of intelligence behind their actions. I don't like dumb, slow-moving zombies, mainly because someone has to be even dumber and slower to get caught by one, ;-) so these zombies were great.

I also really liked the fact that they were called 'ZOMBIES' - I'm really tired of movies that are populated with zombies were they aren't called zombies. I mean, seriously - it's a house-hold name, and when it happens humanity decides to call them something else? Not likely.

The lab-coated zombie at the end was hilarious, but served to completely creep me out - a balancing feat I didn't expect, and when the movie ended (incredibly shitty credits-music, by the way) every one of us who had watched the movie were talking about it. It's a really cool zombie-movie - interesting premise, a great detective-kind-of-figuring-out-how-to-beat-them movie, with excellent action, some truly frightening moments, and enough humour throughout to keep audiences from gritting their teeth for too long.

Go enjoy it! :-)

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