Could someone please explain to me everyone’s fascination with zombies? I get vampires, what with The Vampire Diaries, Twilight, and Dracula. I don’t need to ask about werewolves, since I enjoy a good werewolf myself on occasion. But how did zombies become popular? Are they just hanging on from Night of the Living Dead? Is it modern interpretations like Warm Bodies and The Walking Dead? Is it Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video? Why are so many people fascinated with decomposing reanimated corpses?
Well, whatever the reason, we’ve got yet another zombie flick to add to the growing collection. This one is an adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel, World War Z. Is it all the fun and excitement it promises to be, or will it eat your brain? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this film? The lead is played by Brad Pitt, also known for Se7en, Troy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. His career has been long and very well-known, and he’s definitely shown he has acting ability. Which is good, because he may have to carry this film. Most of the other actors, including Mireille Enos and Daniella Kertesz, are largely unknown and seem to have had more experience acting for television than for movies. One notable exception is James Badge Dale, who most recently appeared as a henchman in Iron Man 3. But Brad Pitt is really the film’s only recognizable star.The director is Marc Forster, known for such films as Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland, and Stranger than Fiction. Apparently, his skills are fairly eclectic; if he can direct such different movies, that’s probably a good sign for this one.
The film opens with Brad Pitt’s two daughters jumping into their parents’ bed. Brad fixes breakfast for the family, the kids draw pictures, and the television delivers news of explosions, panicked crowds, and martial law. In other words, it’s a typical American Tuesday. But Brad’s family collides with the news pretty violently as explosions and crashing planes rock their morning commute and the whole city starts to run. The four wind up trapped in a dark stairwell with nothing but a flare for light and a rifle for their protection (Where did they get those, anyway? Were they lying around the stairwell? Did they grab them from the car? Neither one seems very likely). Anyway, they burst out onto the roof and run for a helicopter which just happens to be flying by (either that or they called for it offscreen). The four just manage to get away before the zombies leap after them.
That’s right, these are not the slow, shambling zombies we’re so used to seeing. These boys are more like the Running Dead, trampling everything in their path, even each other, seeking only to kill. We learn that they’ve taken over the East Coast and Moscow, and we see New York, Washington, and Paris in flames, while Russia blares their Silent Hill siren to warn of zombie attack. The figures show that everyone will be zombified in three months if nothing is done to halt the epidemic. No doubt about it, the undead have definitely been taken to the next level.
What isn’t as great is the storyline’s sudden turn. When I watched the previous trailer, I thought the movie was going to be about Brad Pitt outthinking and outlasting a massive zombie horde trying to keep his family safe, in much the same way as Tom Cruise did in War of the Worlds. It would have given an otherwise standard zombie flick heart, showing a loving family the audience could care about instead of the usual zombie-bait. But this trailer makes it clear that Brad is leaving his family behind, much as he wants to stay with them, and going on a hunt for the origin of the plague. So we have a nice mystery and a chance for some smart storytelling, but the emphasis has been taken off the characters and placed on the plot. We still care about them, but we care more about finding out where the zombies came from. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I’m sure it’s true to the book, but I would have preferred the first story.
So Brad leaves his family as his wife assures him she’ll keep the kids safe. No offense, lady, but you’re on an aircraft carrier, and there are zombies on the mainland. I’d feel a lot better if the military were keeping all three of you safe. Brad flies out to follow a trail of skeletons and carnage and unread memos, looking for the source of the zombies. Eventually, it leads back to Russia, which one man claims is “a black hole.” No, it’s a country. Don’t mix up your geography and your astronomy. Meanwhile, zombies storm a wall. And when I say storm, I mean a zombie tsunami of bodies forming a pile up against the wall, reaching higher and higher. Helicopter gunners shoot at them, but a man in prison says that guns are only a half-measure. So does that mean if you shoot a zombie, it only half-kills him? Or is he mixing some sort of recipe? A half-measure of guns, a full measure of grenades, and just a pinch of air-to-surface missiles. Brad asks if the prisoner is with the CIA, and the man replies, “But they’re not with me.” If anyone knows what that means, please let me know. My head hurts from trying to figure it out.
Brad calls his wife to check up on her, doing so from a plane. I’m sure it’s touching in the movie, but I only have time to wonder if he’s got his cell on airplane mode before the trailer blazes on to more zombies overrunning a café, a dusty street, and even a helicopter. Brad says the creatures must have a weakness, and we see it displayed as one boy covers his ears and squats down, and the zombies run around him instead of killing him. Their vision must be sensitive to movement, like a T-Rex’s. Either that or cowering children are their kryptonite. A man tells Brad that “Every human being we save is one less to fight.” No, every human being you save is a human being you’ve saved. I get the battlefield mentality here, but it’s much nobler to save a human being because he’s important by his very nature than because he won’t like you later. Just saying.
And the trailer comes to an end as Brad wakes up on an airliner full of refugees. His spider-sense is tingling, so he creeps along the aisle, looking for trouble. And sure enough, either one of the refugees died and un-died, or one of the zombies got on board. Either way, the undead rampage through the aircraft and tear a hole in the side. Brad hangs on for dear life as the suction pulls at him, and I’m suddenly having flashbacks to the trailers for After Earth and Iron Man 3. This must be the year to get sucked out of planes.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Eh, I guess. Like I said, I’m not a zombie fan, so it doesn’t appeal to me as much. But the film is visually impressive, and this breed of undead is possibly the most intimidating yet. For those of you who find gore unpleasant (including me), the trailer at least is free of splattering blood; these zombies are more likely to cause explosions than to rip out internal organs. So if you’re a teen or adult who’s a fan of zombies or of Brad Pitt, you might like this one. Personally, I plan to skip, but again, that’s just me. I prefer a movie that has nothing to do with monsters or scaring.
Speaking of which, who else is excited for Monsters University?
World War Z is owned by Paramount.