Sunday, February 22, 2015

Paramount's World War Z starring Brad Pitt

I came to World War Z with a set of expectations. I had read the Max Brooks book and was, and still am, a huge fan. I'll admit to being a little worried because, as we've all heard before, "The book is ALWAYS better than the movie." Having watched the movie (and I had not done so for the first time until a couple of days ago) I have to wonder... Would this movie have been more satisfying if it was named something else? It's not that it was a terrible movie, as a matter of fact I enjoyed it, but throughout the film I couldn't help comparing it to the book it was uhhh... named after? based on? I wasn't sure how I should rate it here and what criteria I should use. At the end of the day, I decided that the right thing to do would be rate the movie on its own merits and not those of a completely separate work. As there was definitely enough of a world-spanning story here to stand on its own, I hope you all will not be disappointed in my choice. For the record, I watched the PG-13 edition as opposed to the Unrated Version.

World War Z starts the way a lot of zombie movies do: A quiet day at home and an average day that goes horribly awry when people start trying to eat each other. The shock that main character Jerry Lane and his family feels is well depicted, as is the complete sense of panic they all feel when the world goes crazy. Part of the "believability" of the movie occurs here, because the family is, like most American families totally unprepared for what comes next. Out there somewhere there had to have been a prepper pulling his hair out while watching this flick but, for the vast majority of the population, it just feels right.

What follows is a trip across the world to find a vaccine or a cure. It's not pretty and the route the character takes is not always well chosen but he finds a way to make things work. The journey could easily have been dragged out into infinity but it wasn't. The list of stops that he visits is short and consistent with the information that he has available. Lane is a retired UN investigator and so it makes sense that he would have the skills and abilities needed to keep himself alive while uncovering and following up on leads.

I'm going to take a second here to talk about the political content of the movie as well. This paragraph and the next will contain mild spoilers. You have been warned. There were really only two spots in the film that came across as political to me. One was when Lane went to Israel. I believe in the concept of a Jewish homeland in the State of Israel. I have since I started reading newspaper accounts of the fighting there in the nineteen-eighties and taking a semester on the History of the Arab/Israeli Conflict did nothing to change that. When Lane went there, I was rather concerned that Israel would be publicly tarred and feathered. This is, after all, Hollywood we're talking about here. I'm happy to say that it didn't happen and, if everything didn't quite work out the way Israeli leadership wanted, it was the Zombie Apocalypse.

The other moment was a bit different. At one point the Lane family ends up on a US Navy ship and, as Gerry is reluctant to go back to investigating things for the UN, Navy leadership threatens to have his family thrown off of the ship and, indeed, right out of the task force. This I found a bit hard to swallow. Granted, it is the job of military leadership to make hard choices but I can't help but feel that this was a bit of a slap in the face. I don't see the US military as being the type to use blackmail. Also, put bluntly, if the US military in general needed something investigate I don't see them sending some UN investigator to get it done.

Other than that, World War Z was pretty well done. Zombies "turned" a bit quicker than I thought they would and their thrashing while they did was a bit more pronounced than I really felt necessary but it didn't detract from the story all that much. One thing that this movie got right was when it highlighted the difficulty of scoring a headshot on a moving target. There was one major problem I had though.

I don't want to give away the ending, but I cannot figure out exactly how Lane would have come up with the deduction that he did without more information than what he had available. He made one logic jump too many. I just couldn't follow it. I saw what he saw and I saw it again when he saw it again. It still doesn't make sense to me and it did kind of throw me out of the story. The Eureka Moment turned into a WTF moment for me. That's never a good thing. That much being said, it was still a relatively decent movie even if it wasn't anything spectacular. I'm giving it three and a half out of five bite marks.

World War Z
Paramount, 2013

World War Z can be purchased here:

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