When ants are inundated with water, they instinctively grasp on to each other and form a floating island, allowing the ants on top to move freely. They can even form bridges, allowing them to easily traverse gaps or travel over water. I couldn’t help but wonder if these unique feats of strength served as some form of inspiration for the zombie hordes in World War Z. And thus we see one of the many different traits these zombies seem to possess; these aren’t your slow, lumbering creatures seen in older zombie films. It’s an nice change, bringing a better sense of urgency among those fighting to survive.
Most will be familiar with the problems that have plagued the production of World War Z. I briefly wrote about it here. For those not familiar, among many of the issues were the film’s release date was pushed back six months, major script changes were made during production, as well as shooting an additional 30-40 minutes of footage. Thus there was skepticism from many that the film would be able to beat the odds and become a success, earning back the estimated $200 million it cost to make. Whether the film will become a financial success remains to be seen, but World War Z does manage to hide any indications of turmoil. That’s not to say there aren’t any flaws, but with all the rumors surrounding it’s creation, it’s amazing how well it turned out.
Brad Pitt, who’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, helped produce the film, also stars as Gerry Lane. Gerry, along with his wife, played by The Killing’s Mireille Enos, and two girls, almost immediately find themselves caught in the midst of an attack from zombified humans. Running, jumping, and scaling walls and buildings, the zombies quickly take over the city. Gerry conveniently has old contacts that can help, calling in a favor from an old UN colleague who promises to send a helicopter. With his quick thinking and past experience, Gerry is able to help his family survive the onslaught until the help can arrive. But of course this is only the beginning, as Gerry’s expertise requires him to globe-trot in search for a cure. Leaving behind his family, he continues on, visiting South Korea, Israel, and finally Whales in the span of a couple days, barely surviving each stop. And at each location he learns a little more about the virus effecting the planet, allowing him to put the pieces together to save mankind.
World War Z’s PG-13 rating immediately guaranteed there would be little blood and brains, instead relying on suspense to carry the film. And overall the film is successful at doing so. Only minutes after we’re introduced to Gerry and his family, the film kicks into high gear and we’re off for a nearly two hour non-stop suspense roller coaster ride. The action beats come in spurts, followed by some down time for exposition which also allows the audience to recoup. The biggest action sequence is at the beginning of the film, grabbing you in immediately, which then allows each subsequent action piece to become smaller and more personal. In fact, two of the most suspenseful moments in the film involve an international flight and a research facility. The scenes play out slower, allowing the suspense to build. Compared to the first third of the film, it’s night and day. And this is where the film falters a bit. The first half of the movie happens at a frenetic pace, with Marc Forster’s trademark quick cuts and shaky camera. But as soon as Gerry’s plane leaves Jerusalem, there’s a major shift in the pace of the film. Instead of a major action blockbuster, the film instead morphs into a smaller more suspenseful film, à la 28 Days Later. It’s at that moment of transition that the original ending was dumped, and the new ending takes over. It’s interesting to see a different take on the zombie genre, and this movie does ramp up the intensity. Unfortunately that intensity is uneven, with the suspense delivered better in the second half than the first.
World War Z didn’t turn into the disaster many were predicting, but it didn’t become the new standard for the zombie genre (The Walking Dead currently holds that title). Still, Z was an entertaining film that delivered enough suspense and thrills to make me curious as to what a sequel may entail.