Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On World War Z

To start, I did not read the book before seeing this film. There's a lot of books out there, there's a lot of movies out there. I can't always do the book justice by seeing it before I see the adaptation. Maybe when I get back from my vacation I'll finally pick it up off my shelf, along with the Strain, Good Omens, Anathem, and countless other books that I promised people I'd get to. 

This sums up how my friends are about books I should read
So I walked into this movie blind. I knew little about the source material. I knew it was an oral history without a main character that took stories of a zombie apocalypse from around the world. The movie had Brad Pitt as a guy working for the UN. Seemed like the closest to clever writing to take the spirit from one and manufacture a character to work as the face for the story to me. Otherwise, I only had an instinct garnered over many drunken viewings of Romero  films to guide me. 

This image sums up the importance of the supporting cast.
Most Accurate Review

"World War Z plays a bit like a series of separate films and the juncture where the new final act was grafted onto the proceedings is unmistakable, but unless you knew about the film's troubled past, you'd never guess it existed." 

You get the feeling very quickly that the movie is getting snapped around one way and then another at various points. I'll be honest, rewatching the film on Netflix gave me the undeniable sensation that you can pick out the different writers between scenes. If not for a highly talented cast and the unity of the direction/editing, I feel like the movie would shamble into an early grave (see bigshot critics, I can make stupid taglines too).

Most Idiotic Review

"... this lousy, ugly-looking, intensely illogical movie ..."

Finding a truly idiotic review off the bat was actually rather hard. Most critics, and me it seems, gave this film the benefit of the doubt. It had a hell of a production, and despite it's three credited writers, Pitt and his ensemble manage to keep WWZ's head just above water. So ... no, I don't think the film is lousy, or ugly looking. It does suffer from shaky-cam-itis, but seeing how prevalent that is these days, I've trained myself to look for it. As far as offenders go, this is not one. I always knew what was happening, at the very least, which is more than I can say for Abrams last outing in the Star Trek franchise. As far as being illogical, it certainly has its moments, no doubt ... but it is a movie about reanimated corpses after all, so call me overly forgiving in my old age of 22, but I think some leniency is allowed. The logic of the movie is more-or-less sound within the confines of its own world, if not ours (the way pathogens and viruses work), and the characters (usually) avoid horror movie cliches. The few times the movie decides to trot out these cliches, I'll just blame one of the other three writers who just couldn't bare to kill his darlings. 

What I Say

This is still a damned enjoyable film, but damn if it isn't riding of the fumes of potential. It's like Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can just feel it oozing awesomeness that it never quite gets too. As a creative person, I can at least respect the attempt to hit a mark and failing, as opposed to something produced from the GeneriTRON 9000 ... which constitutes 90% of whatever Michael Bay touches. The movie tries for a epic scope, it tries for relatable characters with an emotional center, it tries for tension, suspense, and action. Hell it even tries for a more sciencey approach. So instead of angrily lambasting it, I feel like World War Z is like that friend you knew in High School who had all the makings of being awesome, and a few years later you run into that friend and they're sad, overweight, and trapped in a dead-end job. For a moment you might think, "WHY U NO LIVE UP TO POTENTIAL," and then you just feel sad.

World War Z is like this zombie's hairline, f***ed up.
That's World War Z.

It's overweight, past-its-prime potential.

The main culprit of this is the script. It's herky-jerky, and a bit unfocused about what it wants to be, which is understandable, because when Lord Lindelof, Dark Lord of Hollywood Hack-Work ... breath ... breath ... the ending feels like it belongs to a different film. The first two thirds are building up this wild globetrotting epic and the last third feels more traditional Romero. Both have merits, but without Pitt to keep it cohesive, this would have fallen to pieces entirely. If anything, it feels like two movies. The ending is actually the sequel with its own story to tell. It's a rather surreal experience. 

I personally preferred the globe-trotting of the first half, if only because I felt, personally, that I hadn't seen that before in a zombie-film. Even if it wasn't fantastic, it was new, like Mtn Dew's LiveWire. I couldn't tell you if it was better than Code Red, but it's new and I'm drinking the crap out of it.

Symbolism of Mtn Dew and geo-political tension
The characters also suffer. They aren't entirely consistent, at least not the side characters. Pitt is a dominant enough personality that he can anchor almost any role, and no I'm not salivating over Pitt. He's just a dreamy hunk of man-meat. Moving on.

It's the rest of the cast that suffers. The wife starts off pretty cool in the face of all that's happening. Then she's sidelined to playing middle-man over the phone. Segen is introduced just before the third half, and she's a really interesting character. I wanted more of her too. She was a real badass for the time she was on screen and left a real impact considering I remember her having next-to-no-lines. I seriously thought at first she was a mute. Then there was that bit with her screaming. And that was a cool part too. Honestly, the scene where she's ... spoilers, is really intense and cool, especially in the middle of the bedlam that's happening all around them. Capaldi and ... the other actor who's name I don't know but he did well too, brought weight, but ... eh, there were two casts to the film, both good, and both rather shortchanged. 

It was one of the complaints I've heard about Days of Future Past, and I can see it at work here as well. Two casts, and neither gets quite the spotlight they deserve. Again, this is a result of the Frankenstein-work of the script.

The spectacle though is still pretty fantastic. The imagery combined with the soundtrack was pretty powerful. The swarming zombies reminded me of the Squiddies from the Matrix films, especially Revolutions (which my brother and I just rewatched last week), and the overwhelming mass of 'You're F***ed' that they create as they flood whatever area they're in. I particularly loved the way they'd jump and lunge and throw themselves all over. The usage of CGI to create zombies who legitimately gave no shits about hurting themselves added a new level of danger to the creatures that we didn't even get in 28 Days Later.

So overall? It's a fine movie. It will ultimately rust a bit, be a bit forgotten. I doubt it will be hated or loved, or become a cult hit. People will probably look back and go, "Oh yeah, I liked it fine." Personally, I'll stick with Edgar Writer's Shawn of the Dead or Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later though. Them Brit's seem to really know what they're doing.

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