To set the record straight, I didn’t expect much to come out of World War Z. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but from the looks of the early trailers, the movie didn’t seem anything like it. Not to mention all of the conflict surrounding the production of the film, pushing producers to re-shoot an entirely new ending to the story.
When I did get to see the new Brad Pitt blockbuster, I was pleasantly surprised. Dare I say at times impressed. While not perfect, World War Z is heart-pounding, captivating, and, to top it off, features running zombies. Not those slow ones we get in Walking Dead. No, full-fledged marathon-running zombies.
World War Z gets going quick–much like the sprinting zombies–by introducing us to Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family who’ve quickly found themselves fending off the undead in downtown Philadelphia. If there’s one thing I know about zombies, it’s that you don’t want to be in a crowded area when they come trotting in.
Gerry, with family in tow, make it almost miraculously to Newark, New Jersey, which, though ravaged, doesn’t look too different from its present state. I kid. I kid. The nail-biting suspense-fest builds as the family makes their way to an extraction point in the city, awaiting their rescue vehicle.
After this fast-paced introduction, the heart of Z begins to materialize as Gerry, a former United Nations Investigator, is enlisted to help track down the origin of the zombie virus and find a way to stop it. No pressure, it’s only the fate of humanity in your hands.
As I mentioned earlier, Z has its problems. For one, the film doesn’t necessarily feel like a coherent whole. Instead, it comes across as multiple episodes pieced together with Brad Pitt being the common denominator. As a result, the movie never really develops into the powerful piece of storytelling it could be. When the end of Z does come, the audience is left feeling like the plot was somewhat underdeveloped.
Despite the story’s holes however, World War Z is a great summer blockbuster. The action pieces are what zombieites have dreamed of for years. Z essentially hands us a large scale, big picture glimpse of what a world overrun with zombies would actually look like (an ant-bed that’s just been stepped on if you’re wondering). It also helps to have a seasoned actor like Brad Pitt make the existence of a zombie virus seem believable.
One of my favorite pieces of the film though, is the final retooled act. What started as a big funnel, slowly makes it’s way to a small opening. It began as a gigantic invasion in downtown Philadelphia and ends with a handful of zombies mulling about in a small laboratory. Essentially, the conclusion restructures itself into an intimate window, showing considerable restraint for a Hollywood summer mammoth and adding to Z’s overall suspense.
In the end though, what made the film so startling is Z’s constant emphasis on the “It could never happen to us” motif. The zombie apocalypse descends on a world that is not ready. This is the truly scary part.
The opening credits set up this idea by displaying a montage of shots collected from random news and entertainment sources. In between these seemingly innocent images are clips warning of a deadly virus. It quickly becomes obvious that the world isn’t listening. They have essentially been lulled to sleep by insignificant and unimportant pieces of information.
I’m not one to spend an absorbent amount of time worrying about world events that are beyond my control, though I have seen a few episodes of Doomsday Preppers here or there. But World War Z reminded me of how non-essential things in life can keep us from looking at what’s important. No, not the zombie apocalypse (even though it will happen someday), but things like family, faith, and purpose.
The most frightening aspect of Z is a world caught sleeping, allowing life to slip away one day at a time because of their captivation with unimportant details. When you consider the possibility of a wasted life, do you find yourself saying, “It could never happen to me” very often? Take a moment to write out your values (faith, family, occupation, etc.) and then evaluate whether you are living like those values are valuable. At the end of your life–or when you find yourself being chased by a zombie who runs with blazing speed–you don’t want to find yourself lamenting, “I didn’t think it could happen to me,” Instead you want to say, “I made sure it didn’t happen to me.”
World War Z is rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.