Review: World War Z
There is a saying I like to cite that holds the more writers attached to a movie, the worse you can expect it to be. Opening this weekend, World War Z is a shining exception. Starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball), World War Z's writing credits include a Who's Who of talent: J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Thor, Underworld: Awakening) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play, The Kingdom) developed the story based on Max Brooks' novel of the same name. Carnahan, Drew Goddard (Lost, Cabin in the Woods) and Damon Lindelof then completed the script, which is rumored to include a complete rewrite of the ending. The script issues were part of a larger set of problems with the production that delayed its release by six months (just Google "World War Z production issues"), but the end result is a fine (and family-friendly PG-13) zombie movie.
The first thing fans of Brooks' novels should know is that this is not the same story as the source material. Though there are familiar elements, this story follows Gerry Lane (Pitt), an un-retired UN envoy on a mission around the globe to determine the source and find a cure for the zombie outbreak. The story picks up as the epidemic sweeps across America, angry rabid infectees biting helpless victims who in the space of 12 seconds are converted and join the horde. Compelling sound work and disturbingly graphic visual effects terrify and keep the heart pounding. (Truly, the makeup and creature work needs to be recognized next Oscar season.)
By now you have probably heard at least a hint of the argument between fans of "fast zombies" and "slow zombies." I hope this can put a nail in the coffin of slow-zombie movies. They seem to all devolve into the same tropes, people sitting around arguing about what to do as the writers build up their character development until -- oops -- the zombies have snuck up on them! Slow zombie movies tend to explore psychological aspects of small groups of people in survival situations, and there is admittedly a smattering of this element in World War Z. However, in this fastest of fast-zombie films, there is no time for sitting still. Personal dramas take a back seat to exploring the ways governments and entire nations deal with a problem of biblical proportions.
This is where I feel the script excels and Straczynski's influence is most strongly felt. David Morse appears as a CIA agent with his own theories and a little intel on the plague. His opinions on Israel's involvement drop a supernatural cloak over the mood, and the North Korean "solution" is as fascinating as it is horrifying -- but entirely believable as something only North Korea, in all the world, could accomplish.
Some have likened the movie to 28 Days Later, but I found World War Z much more exciting and engaging. My heart was racing through the entire film. It's a brilliant script with intense action and very well executed. It has earned its place as my favorite zombie movie.