Currently sitting with a 68% critics rating and an 86% approval from the audience on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say that World War Z is proving a lot of us doubters and naysayers wrong. After all, those of us who have read and thoroughly enjoyed the book were a little quick to overreact about the bad news that production was way overbudget, the script was a mess and star Brad Pitt wasn’t speaking to the film’s director, Marc Forster.
Pitt recently told USA Today that none of those previous reports carried any truth and everything was sunshine and Kate Upton on a horse while this film was being made. With that in mind, I’ve tried very hard to change gears in my brain from doubting the potential of this film that takes nothing from the great book except for the title to walking into with a fresh mind and clean slate about the possibility of simply seeing a good zombie film.
So consider this an extension of the Weekend Movie Guide that just focuses on World War Z and what the “experts” and “critics” think of it. I’ve exhausted myself in my contempt for the idea that I won’t be watching what Max Brooks wrote, but it ultimately boils down to just wanting to like a movie. Hopefully this helps.
“The movie’s climax (part of the rewrite from the original film) is a cat-and-mouse sequence in a lab that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s 50-year-old contagion thriller, The Birds, but the comparison isn’t flattering. In The Birds, the avian attacks are a manifestation of the seething tensions between the characters. In World War Z, it’s all about Gerry, with Pitt casting himself in a role consistent with his familiar superdad persona, saving the world while preserving his family. Perhaps if he showed a few wayward appetites of his own, the zombies’ onslaughts would get deeper under the skin, rather than looking like a call for a super-dose of Lysol.” – Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
“WORLD WAR Z is also one of those movies that makes you want to scream at the characters for not being very smart; if they’d seen even one zombie movie, they’d know not to make the same old mistakes. There isn’t a scene in it that couldn’t have been done better. Not even the actors pass muster: Pitt is on autopilot, and character actors like David Morse are gone before they’ve had a chance to warm up. The title of this dud should have included more “Z”s.” – Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media
“… be prepared for a relatively grown-up, modestly intelligent and refreshingly un-bombastic thriller that owes as much to medical tick-tocks such as “Outbreak” and “Contagion” as it does to “28 Days Later” and the seminal works of George Romero. Anchored by a solid lead performance by Brad Pitt, who plays a happy Philadelphia househusband pulled back into his old profession of U.N. investigator when a zombie apocalypse threatens to destroy the world, “World War Z” may not break new ground in either of the genres it straddles. But it deserves a certain amount of credit for refusing to buy into the current cinematic arms race in Biggest, Loudest and Dumbest.” – Anna Hornaday, Washington Post
“With little more preamble than some archival footage suggesting climate change and other contemporary global issues, zombie hordes overrun Philadelphia, where Gerry lives with wife Karin (Mireille Enos of “The Killing”) and their daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove). The Lanes get away by the skin of their skinny skin-skin in a camper and are soon transported to an aircraft carrier. Gerry is sent to South Korea with a young virologist and an elite military squad to find Patient Zero and, with luck, a cure for the outbreak. After delivering a speech as predictably prophetic as it is dopey about how “Mother Nature is a serial killer,” the young virologist promptly panics and shoots self in the head. Oops. Then, the movie shoots self in the foot.” – James Verniere, Boston Herald
“The action in “World War Z” is extremely intense and the zombies are truly terrifying. I haven’t been this squeamish at a movie in a very long time. It’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller that doesn’t let up. It’s not perfect — there are a few flaws, one involving the location of the WHO facility in Cardiff, Wales, but, hey — nothing is 100% unblemished.
“And, no matter what Pitt tries to do, he’ll always be criticized. People are just jealous. The man can act, and he’s totally believable. There isn’t much room for sentiment, because people are changing into the undead at an alarming rate, but Gerry manages a very sincere goodbye with Karen and the children. It’s brief but moving.” – Jeanne Kaplan, Kaplan vs. Kaplan
“After some big-action set pieces (none of which are bad, but none of which are awesome), Pitt and his new platonic gal pal (an Israeli soldier with cropped hair and adoring eyes) come to the big finish at a World Health Organization in Wales. Rather video game-like, Pitt and his comrades have to get a thing out of a room that is surrounded by zombies. They scamp around on the floor, not unlike Gilligan trying to steal something from Thurston Howell III without waking him up.
“It’s fun, but it’s silly, and the lab doesn’t look anywhere near as cool as the ‘Resident Evil’ films.” – Jordan Hoffman, Screen Crush
“Director Marc Forster, whose botched foray into 007 territory in Quantum of Solace wasn’t much of a calling card when it comes to staging big-budget action, can’t be faulted for the way he choreographs chaos this time. He’s come through with a sharp, straightforward contagion epic that operates on an enormously grander scale than most. And he’s managed to keep it rooted firmly enough in the real world that when the word “zombie” is first uttered midway through the film, it’s almost jarring.” – Bob Mondello, NPR
“It’s pointless to imagine what a smarter, better version of World War Z might have been, even if you could. The episode in Jerusalem holds the only hint of politics remaining. The city has enclosed itself in a wall to keep out the invaders, and those scenes add a thin layer of thought. Isolationism: good or bad, and will it really protect you from a zombie-bite? But those theme-driven scenes aren’t especially interesting either, so it’s not as if more politics would necessarily have helped things.” – Caryn James, Indiewire
“The zombies — computer-generated en masse and carefully made up for close-range viewing — are creepy and cool, though the movie doesn’t quite meet the challenge of making them seem truly new or scary. But if you want to be diverted and mildly disturbed, they, and “World War Z,” will at least temporarily satisfy your appetite. And of course they would feel the same about you.” – A.O. Scott, N.Y. Times
“But here’s the thing about zombies: They’re only as interesting as the filmmaker imagines them to be. There’s nothing new in that regard with “World War Z.” Like the creatures in “28 Days Later” and “I Am Legend,” these living dead run like they’ve been zapped with electrical current. But when they’re standing still, they’re jaws clack together like elderly dogs, and they make screechy noises like the raptors in “Jurassic Park.”
“As a result, the law of diminishing returns kicks in early in “World War Z.” The zombie threat always seems to be roughly of the same urgency and immediacy; it always seems to go from zero to 60 very quickly but doesn’t always track logically (consider a sequence in Israel, in which the lone barrier separating the healthy from the undead has no one standing lookout on top).” – Marshall Fine, Hollywood and Fine
The conclusion that I’ve come to here is that even some of the good reviews that I’ve read have been quite similar to the bad reviews. Open mind and fingers crossed, I guess.