Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan (screenplay), Drew Goddard (screenplay)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz
Motion Picture Rating: PG-16
Runtime: 116 minutes
Big budget action movies getting into production difficulties? I admit I keep an eye out for reports of on-set fights, funding gaps and artistic differences. I waited to get a good look at Waterworld, The Brothers Grimm, Wolfman and Gangster Squad knowing their productions were disastrous. And it’s the same with World War Z. Brad Pitt’s belief drove the project forward, but at what cost? The film was edited multiple times and endings were swapped in and out as Paramount tried to manage pre-release bad buzz.
Unlike the majority of other troubled productions, this film did well at the box office. It is actually one of Pitt’s most successful films. Interest in his more adult take on the zombie genre was helped by his substantial personal promotional campaign, but there are elements to admire here. This is not a bad film.
Pitt is the retired UN conflict manager Gerry Lane living a quiet suburban life outside of Philadelphia with his wife and children. That life, and planet Earth’s survival, is threatened by a plague of fast moving zombies. The Lane family escape the first onslaught in downtown Philly, but then have to battle to meet up with Gerry’s UN crew. Thereafter Gerry is brought out of retirement and sent out by the UN to try and track the source of the zombie virus. He heads to South Korea and to Israel, but strangely ends up in Wales.
The first 20 minutes of panic and pandemonium are brilliantly shot and open the film with a bang. The CGI takes it close to a video game, but the mayhem is suspenseful and scary. Later scenes of rampaging zombie hoards, especially in Israel, are equally as effective. It is hyperactive and fast with these signature shots as good as anything I’ve seen (in the LOTR series for example). That the big stuff is handled well is not in doubt, but the glue keeping the set pieces together is unfortunately not as sticky as it should be.
The final third of the film takes place in a lab in Wales. Gerry has an idea for a cure and pulls in some stranded scientists. The action slows to the pace of a traditional zombie shuffle and the fairly patchy story comes to some form of conclusion. It’s clear that the studio had problems with the ending and the one decided upon is not perfect. All of the early energy and suspense dissipates. The result is close to two different films being sandwiched together and it doesn’t really work. There are some good set pieces and it’s enjoyable, but the film ends with a whimper.