Review: World War Zzzzzzzzzzz

Brad Pitt describes World War Z as “genre bending”. He is certainly right to do so, but this is not necessarily a positive attribute of the film. The zombie genre is bent out of shape into something unrecognisable. We are left with a heartless, brainless, money making blockbuster with a bunch of sequences that don’t quite fit together. Unless the film itself is an obscure metaphor for zombie film makers, it’s hard to see why this new direction is a good thing.

The main plot of the film is Gerry (Brad Pitt) travelling all over the zombie-ridden world in search of the root cause of the infection in a hope that finding the source will bring the world closer to finding a cure. The promising start introduces us to Gerry and his family and gives us the first glimpse of our frenzied zombie. The transformation is quick and violent (body convulsions galore) taking only 12 seconds and this breed of zombie pounces straight away, literally using their heads to get through any obstacle. The survival society begins and rather abruptly Gerry and his family are being helicoptered to safety, because Pitt’s character is so valuable that the government would “move mountains” to get him out of the city.

This is the first warning sign of the plot thinning and this quick escape cuts short what could have been a longer and more intense struggle that most zombie films are keen to examine. Survival scenes are usually the best way to get the audience on the edge of their seats and the perfect way to expose vulnerability in all characters involved (leading to increased audience attachment to them) yet World War Z completely skims over this and continues to do so throughout the rest of the film.

World War Z would be better described as an overly ambitious action film because budget restraints towards the end of the film means it is inconsistent overall and even when we do get action it comes in bursts that don’t last long enough. By the end we may as well be watching an independent film, yet considering the finishing laboratory scenes contain some of the tensest moments it just goes to show that high budget does not mean high quality.

The zombies themselves are also inconsistent. They go from frightening to funny as the film progresses and the teeth chattering zombie at the end evokes laughter rather than fear from the audience and his dawdling conduct is a far cry from the head-butting monsters we witness in the opening.

Plausibility is lost minute by minute, with answers and escapes coming too conveniently and too quickly. To survive a plane crash is one thing, but to crash land in the right place or get from the crash site to the right destination without explanation is too much and the audience shouldn’t buy it so quickly. It is so fast paced that you become aware of the editing process and start imagining what could have been if only the scenes were longer. There are also no smooth transitions from beginning to middle to end; rather they seem to come as three separable chunks that are welded together only by Pitt’s character.

Along the way we meet several different characters, none of whom are allowed enough screen time to develop into important components of the film. For example we meet Tomas (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido), a young boy that you warm to as soon as he is introduced, yet he is quickly tossed aside and we never hear any more about him. This happens more often than not so we are continuously being tantalised with new characters that are never around long enough to flourish. Character development is limited and it is incredibly frustrating because certain characters have so much potential that they never reach.

That’s not to say it’s all bad – Brad Pitt once again proves himself to be an outstanding leading man and his performance as Gerry is the most appealing part of the film. He is the binding element that keeps the film together, albeit very loosely. There are also a few inventive and original ideas to be found, such as the home-made body armour and swarming special effects, showing the film does contain flickers of creativity but certainly not enough. There is just enough action and confrontation to keep the audience engaged, but the few sparks of promise that are seen at the start are fanned out as soon as Gerry leaves his family and they only surface again once or twice within the laboratory scenes. The turmoil shown at the beginning and the tense laboratory scenes are undoubtedly the highlights of the film, yet they are in no way long enough to hold up the rest of it.

A question that arises upon watching the film is “who is this aimed at?” It certainly lets down hard-core zombie fans because zombies are hardly featured in it. There is a glaring lack of guts and gore that usually define zombie films, and we don’t have to think too hard as to why this is; the film is a 15 and marketed at a majority audience in an attempt to acquire big bucks at the box office. This is a disappointing decision and will alienate a lot of the target audience, leaving us to wonder who this film will really interest, bar Brad Pitt fans.

World War Z is so perfectly mediocre it’s scary, scarier than the zombies it features. Brad Pitt’s screen presence is what gives it a slight edge, and without him the film would barely reach middling status. Bric-a-brac and unfocused, World War Z tries to do too much for everyone and no-one in particular, achieving just enough to keep you seated.