Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: World War Z

Version I Watched: Theatrical cut in theatres.

History: Seems like this one had to go through a lot before it got released. Way back in 2007 Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the rights to the book this movie is based on. It was already set to be very different from the book since it would tell from the perspective of a single person instead of being told like a UN report, like the book. A script leaked in 2008 and got mixed reviews from the public. However in 2009 a report was given that the script was still being re-written because it was "still far from realization." After years of delays and rewrites the movie finally went into pre-production in April 2011. The movie was a hit with making over $500 million at the box office on a budget of $190 million. However it received still mixed reactions from the critics. As of June this year it was announced that there will be a sequel.

Personal History: Never read the book. Went into this cold as all I saw before was a trailer.

Review: As with most people in recent pop culture history I have been getting really sick of zombies. I still like zombies as a friend but I certainly wouldn't want to be committed to them anymore. It's the typical Hollywood (and in some cases indie nerdy shit) fashion something catches on and it's beaten to death so hard that by the time they're done all that's left is a small bit of dust that blows away in the wind. Only to periodically get in someones eyes and annoy them, reminding them of what they use to think was cool and amazing. With zombies, much like other creatures of myth and legend, they started out really interesting but now have been boiled down to grunts and brains for the most part. They even have a stereotypical look that lost it's scare ages ago. Back in the Romero and Fulci days zombies either had this errie almost still human look or like they literally have been rotting so bad that it makes you want to vomit. They looked good and unsettling. Even in recent years with the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later a zombie still had a good zombie look and feel. Now the zombies in movies like Resident Evil (Shut up they have like 5 fucking titles so it works as a reference!) and in today's review they are so exaggerated and by the books that they have no impact anymore. And that's not just based on looks. That's based on everything about them. But more on that in a minute.
Before I continue I just want to point out further I have not read the book. Honestly I don't plan to and I also didn't follow anything on this movie before it came out. I went in cold besides years of zombie experience through previous titles. In other words I don't give two shits about how the book was different.

Soooooooo... World War Z... where do I begin? Honestly there's so much to talk about. Okay let's start with this. No problems with the casting if you ask me. I felt Brad Pitt did a great job like he usually does and everyone else did a fine job for what they were hired for. I really have no issue with the acting that came out of this movie. The only thing with it I was distracted by is the syndrome of "familiar face, can't unsee the real life person and only see character." That's just expected with some of these.
I know! Let me talk about the rating. From a business standpoint I do understand why it was intentionally made with a PG-13. I don't like it but I get it. The movie made quite a chunk of change in the box office and it's definitely because it had that wider appeal. Usually when mega budget R rated movies hit the streets the return isn't as strong for easy to understand reasons. But if you can get that teenage crowd into a big movie then you're pretty much set from there. However the movie suffered big time from it. That's not to say a movie HAS TO have gore in order to be good. If anything I appreciate when a movie can make their case without intensely explicit content. It's classy. This is a case where by nature the subject matter is a violent, disgusting, gory creature. To not have gore is like playing God of War and the whole game takes place at his dinner table. Yeah Kratos may talk about how pissed off he is but we want to see it in all his epic glory. In World War Z since there was essentially no gore and... was that even supposed to be blood? Censorship has a weird thing with turning blood so dark it's almost black, but then that only makes it look like motor oil. So here we have these zombies that look like creatures from another planet spewing out motor oil. In other words it doesn't look or feel like a zombie. Yeah it groans like a zombie, but it's such a mainstream approach that you can almost hear them screaming "BRAAAAAAAINS!" even though there are barely any reference points of zombies actually saying that. But the censorship goes beyond that. There are a couple scenes of violence that were so awkwardly edited to a PG-13 that it feels like I'm watching the TV edit. One part in particular is when Brad Pitt chops off a woman's arm to stop the zombie bite from spreading, taking over her. You see him swing his arm down but there was no sense of impact. It was like... swing... and... oh, I guess her arm is gone now. So awkwardly edited that it was almost painful. Plenty of other examples that are very obvious throughout that made it very annoying to watch.
Censorship aside there was an approach that made it pretty hard for me to get into this one hundred percent. I couldn't stand the way the zombies were animated and moved around. I understand they're the new, fast zombies like what we saw in the Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, and therefore every zombie movie since (just about). Seems like no one wants the slow zombies anymore. A shame. Anyway these are zombies who are not only fast but on super crack fast. They run like Sonic the Hedgehog through the streets which makes me wonder how anyone can possibly survive in the first place. Anyway, the problem I have is that they move so damn fast and in such huge numbers it is comical. They just fly through the air and sometimes there's a whole mess of them moving as one large clump. It's so crazy looking that it becomes impossible to take it seriously. I think the approach was that there are so many that it would be even scarier, but it became less scary in the process. You ever hear someone say the same word so often in a short time span that it loses all meaning until you stop thinking about it? Well that's what this movie is like with the zombies. At the start when they first show up it is exciting. Then comes the part later on when the zombies are literally making a mountain of moving zombie bodies to get over a giant wall. You've seen it in the trailer and it is so insane it is laughable. It really isn't until very late in the movie when there are very few zombies in a single area in an isolated building when it actually becomes tense again. But whenever there were a million all in the same spot it looked more like a bunch of ants all running around like in those nature documentaries on National Geographic.

But here's the thing... I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was crazy entertaining, it was exciting and action packed, and it did have some good ideas in it despite the crap I was just giving it a moment ago. I'll use this example, I was sitting in the theatre and early on my phone slipped out of my pocket. It felt like the movie had just started and that we were just beginning. When I picked up my phone I turned the screen on to make sure there wasn't any damage. My clock said a half an hour had already passed. I was so into it and entertained that the time just flew by. And come to think of it I can't think of a moment when I was really bored. Even though it had the dull formula of go here... shit goes down... escape... go here... shit goes down... escape, rinse and repeat, I still liked what I saw. And a part of me thinks the reason is because the zombies were so dull they were replaceable. So replaceable that by a certain point I decided to imagine the pandemic to be something else, like a life threatening disease that has turned all the wildlife into crazy creatures. Yeah it doesn't make sense when it comes to the climax of the movie but it helped my enjoyment overall.
Matter of fact lets talk about the end of the movie. Spoiler alert, duh. In the end they didn't find a way to defeat the zombies nor did they cure them. What they did find was a clever way to fight back. Brad Pitt, being the smart guy that he is noticed the zombies don't go near anyone who is severely ill. They run right past a man with dementia and a young boy who has cancer (at least that's what it looked like). So Brad Pitt, being the brave guy that he is, comes up with the idea to inject the general population with a curable yet severe disease to use as a camouflage. He gets caught in a tight position at the end not sure if it'll work or not so he blindly injects himself with a disease he doesn't even know is curable and the zombie walks right past him like he's another zombie. I thought this was a clever idea that's a nice twist on the usual outcome which tends to be run, bitch, run. So the ending did have hope but I feel it's the type of ending where it could collapse in on itself. Seemed hopeful but I saw the cracks that could cause it to go back to the way it was before they discovered this idea.

Listen, I did really enjoy this movie. However I enjoyed it as an action movie, not a zombie movie. It does not work as a zombie movie. This felt more like (and this is just the first thing that came to my head) something like The Day After Tomorrow but with more guns. A worldwide, life threatening problem is happening and there's seemingly nothing that can be done about it. This movie was big, epic, action packed, exciting, but it was not scary. Little to no horror elements were even present. And in case you didn't know zombies are a fucking horror story. It had some jumps scares but I jumped more during movies with unintentional jumps outside of the crap they tried to pull here. In the end I would say this is up for a good watch. If you've got a Friday night free and want to watch something you can munch popcorn to then there are far worse options out there. I am interested in seeing the unrated cut to see how different it is and if they bring the right amount of gore. That still won't fix the overall feel of the movie I think since the zombies were done so comically. It just wouldn't hurt to include that gore.