Published Jun 20, 2013Regardless of the myriad production problems twittered about by the press and irrespective of the indignation fans of Max Brooks's book might feel over alterations to their zombie bible, when it comes down to it, all that matters is whether or not World War Z is a good movie. And it isn't.
Brad Pitt's ill-fated passion project plays like a cross between 2012, without the bombastic style or humour, and Contagion, minus the careful clinical aesthetic or smarts, only worse than that sounds on paper.
When the film begins, it could be any disaster movie: mom, dad and two kids — the ideal American family — are stuck in traffic when all hell breaks loose. That it's zombies attacking is immaterial; it'd make little difference if the threat came from transvestite mutant lemur people on crank, corrosive acid-sneezing unicorns or angry trees leaking madness from their branches. The human response to terror is the biggest threat while the uninfected herds are still large enough to stampede. Panic is as big, or bigger, a killer than the biters.
Speaking of, these undead gluttons are of the 28 Days Later variety, not that it factors into the story in any way more significant than influencing the gait of desperate survivors. During the opening chaos, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) uses his prior status as a high-ranking UN inquisitor to have himself and his family extracted from the infected zone and held on a secure naval vessel. With his family's privileged safety depending on his cooperation, the rest of the film sees Lane embarking upon a wild goose chase around the globe in search of patient zero and, hopefully, an antidote.
The film improves as it heads into the home stretch, trading incomprehensible scenes of wanton destruction for a spot of clever plotting that's dependant upon tension instead of schizophrenic editing and cinematography that looks like someone dropped a camera in a rock tumbler. Even with this late upswing, it all leads to a boring, predictable conclusion (I bet you can guess whether or not the dog makes it).
Clearly not designed with 3D in mind, the breakneck editing and extremely dim lighting reduce everything to a blur, so when a zombie does jump up your eye socket, it usually resembles a brief smear intended to make the viewer flinch involuntarily. Thanks to a director who has proven once again that he has no business directing action (Marc Forster should stick to… I'm sure he's good at something, it's just not making movies), World War Z is the ugliest big-budget project since Battle: Los Angeles.
Sure, that zombie dog pile from the trailer is a spiffy piece of special effects work, but that's as spectacular as Z gets. Add in characters so meagrely drawn that they're impossible to care about and barely developed, hazy, paranoid politics and you've got the makings of Hollywood's dirty bomb of the year. (Paramount)