And if WordPress allowed subtitles, it would read:
Wales: Where Movies Go To Die
You might be wondering why I went to go see World War Z, as fans of my blog know that I’m not a huge zombie fan. I thought Telltale’s The Walking Dead was a great game with an amazing story, and I do enjoy the television series even though it has so many flaws, but over all I find the idea of zombies just worn out and boring at this point. That said, World War Z was a movie that promised to show me the part of the Zombie mythos that had always fascinated me: the fall of mankind. I think the fall of mankind to the undead onslaught is one of the most fascinating parts of the whole idea, and yet most Zombie related stories only start after this point. That’s why World War Z caught my eye. Plus it’s been a while since Brad Pitt did a bad movie, and I’d hoped that he would be able to bring new life to an otherwise stale genre.
Well, I’m sorry to say Brad Pitt’s golden run has officially been broken.
That’s not to say it’s Brad Pitt’s fault of course, he did an absolutely phenomenal job in this film and is added to my very short list of convincing actors in a zombie film. And in fact the first hour and a half of this film is actually really damn good and delivered everything I wanted from a zombie movie. Until the absolutely horrific ending comes around this was the story I’d been waiting for someone to tell me. It was a story about the frantic, blood-curdling end of mankind under a wave of undead monsters. This was a film that didn’t skimp on the graphics, and watching the undead swarming through the streets of New York city and scuttling over the walls of Jerusalem like army ants was pretty damn cool. I know zombie fans get can get into really bitter disputes over what constitutes a “zombie”, what with traditional Romero-style shamblers VS the “infected” style sprinters as in 28 Days Later, and if you’re a traditionalist you’re really not going to like the “zekes.” That said, I loved these zombies, they were like the infected in 28 Days Later taken to their furthest extreme. One of the hardest things I have to suspend my disbelief over in zombie films is the idea that the slow, stumbling Romero-zombies could ever conquer our advanced military equipment. With the speed and ferocity of these Zekes though, it was easy to not only believe that these creatures could overrun humanity, but you got to see it happen as well.
Now I know the PG-13 rating took a big bite out of the gore, but I actually felt this added to the movie. Since they couldn’t show blood, the usual scenes that slow down other zombie movies weren’t possible here without being ridiculous, and that forced the movie to keep up its frantic pace of destruction. There were no long, lingering shots of zombies feasting on the corpse of a human. Instead the ant-like Zekes were bringing down humans in the streets like lions taking down an antelope, and all while Brad Pitt kept you focused on the moment by narrowly staying one step ahead of them. Not that I mind a well-shot piece of gory death, but often times in zombie movies these scenes are there purely as shock value and add little to the overall story and drag down the pace of the movie.
The main reason I loved the first half of this movie though, is because it did things no other zombie movie ever has. We’ve never seen how the governments of the world react to a zombie uprising, or seen entire cities teeming with zombies and pouring through the streets like animals. Entire cities burning, or millions of zombies scaling the walls of a city. You really got a sense of scale that is lacking from most other zombie movies, when you hear people aboard the U.S. command ship saying things like “What do you mean we’ve lost Boston!?” and “Washington D.C. has gone dark, suspend evacuation.” or “How the hell should I know if Russia is still standing?” you get a clear picture of just how quickly the apocalypse happened. You get to hear the international scale of the crisis rather than it just being implied.
That’s not to say the early film is perfect. I felt some of the family stuff fell flat, but at the same time confining them to the safety of the ship allowed the film to maintain the frenetic pace that allowed for such amazing zombie battles. There was also a line from the previews that was mysteriously cut from the main film that went something like this: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking your family is exempt from the end of the human race.” Now this original line is great for setting up a compelling reason for Brad Pitt’s character to choose to go out on this mission, and it’s a great way to set the stakes of the story (if they weren’t already apparent). Why this line was cut from the film is beyond me, because it’s replaced by the U.S. military essentially blackmailing Brad Pitt to go on the mission, robbing his character of making the choice to go which could have allowed for some interesting drama and characterization. Why this wasn’t in the original film I have no idea, but these are all just minor nitpicks compared to my main complaint: the ending (again!)
So let me set the stage. Our hero and an Israeli soldier have just escaped from the fall of Jerusalem, and their plane has just crashed in Wales right alongside the plot, pacing and any hopes for a good ending. The plot goes from a smart, globe-trotting detective/survival story into a run-of-the-mill zombie trope and the frenetic pace comes to such a sudden stop that I’m thinking about suing the studio for whiplash. The entire last half of the movie feels like its from a different movie all together. The reason I liked the movie up until this point is because it was so different from your average zombie movie, and different is good. The whole “trapped in a claustrophobic building with an ethnically diverse group of survivors” trope was no where to be seen until that plane came crashing down into a Welsh forest. Then it suddenly became a very boring remake of Dawn of the Dead, only with a laboratory instead of a shopping mall.
The burning cities were replaced by a sterile, boring laboratory setting. The tens of millions of rampaging Zekes were reduced to a mere handful wandering the halls. And a united world military battling the zombie apocalypse is replaced by three people with a crowbar, fire axe and pistol who only manage to kill a single Zeke between the three of them; making it less interesting than an average game of Left 4 Dead. I can’t even properly state just how out of place the entire last 45-50 minutes of this film feels, it’s something you have to experience (though I wouldn’t recommend it).
The height of the stupidity comes when Brad Pitt finds himself trapped inside a biological containment vault. He’s there trying to find some horrific disease to infect himself with that will “camouflage” him from the infected Zekes. (And there’s absolutely no context I can put that in that will make it sound less stupid.) So he’s sitting there waiting for the infection to kick in and there’s a Zeke right outside the door. Now that in itself isn’t a problem, but while the Zeke is standing there it keeps chattering its teeth. Obviously this was supposed to be a tense moment in the movie, but it isn’t, and here’s why:
For one, Brad Pitt is behind a impenetrable plastic wall, so the Zeke isn’t a threat to his character which completely deflates any tension in the scene.
Secondly, and most importantly, the Zeke looks like an emaciated chipmunk.
Every time the Zeke chattered its teeth the entire audience laughed. That’s not a joke or an exaggeration, an entire theater full of people laughed every time the damn thing moved its mouth, in what was supposed to be the tense conclusion of the film. That’s not a good thing, nor is it the worst part of the ending.
After he escapes the containment vault, and by escape I mean literally walks right by the Zekes completely annihilating any menace they might have otherwise had, the film just ends with a stupid montage. Not only do they abandon all of the subplots they established earlier in the film, such as the detective story of finding patient zero and taking care of his family, they abandon subplots they established only five minutes earlier.
When Brad Pitt realizes he’s trapped in the containment vault, he injects himself with a random vial in order to test his theory. After he does, one of the ethnically diverse group of survivors says “If he took anything from the right side of the container, he’s a dead man anyway.” So did Brad Pitt take anything from the right side? Which disease did he choose!?
“Shut up! It doesn’t matter! This crucial plot element is none of your business!” – The Movie
Despite the plot establishing that only a fatal, but treatable, disease is necessary for the camouflage to work Brad Pitt walks off into the sunset without even a case of the sniffles to show for it. A montage that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rocky movie, complete with cheesy inspirational music, finishes off what could have been a terrific movie. Thanks to a series of convenient scene cuts: Brad Pitt returns to his family in Nova Scotia despite being on foot in Wales only minutes earlier, people all over the world inoculate themselves with horrible diseases that will probably kill them anyway, and mankind overcomes the Zombie threat. All while Brad Pitt gives a deadpan closing soliloquy about survival and fighting for your life, which is rendered completely meaningless when you see bulldozers shoveling huge mountains of dead Zekes into fire pits. Not only is this a terrible way to end a film, it also kills any hope of getting a good sequel since they’ve destroyed the Zekes as a credible threat.
I really wish I could recommend this movie, and if only the final few minutes of the movie were bad I probably would recommend it just because the city scenes are so impressive, but the final death throes of the movie takes nearly fifty minutes (and it’ll feel like three hours when you watch it). Like the Zeke Brad Pitt kills in the movie, the movie trips over a dead body and hits its head on the wall, and the next fifty minutes are watching it writhe around in agony before finally expiring with a pathetic whimper. This is a movie I really wanted to like, it’s just too bad it went so far out of its way to make me hate it.