I will warn you up front: this review may contain bile, vitriol and extreme sarcasm. Proceed without your panties in a twist.
I don’t know how it could have gone so wrong. Anyone, anyone with any filmmaking sensibility should have been able to craft a beautiful, scary, touching film out of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel. It seemed so obvious to me; a faux documentary, almost Ken Burns style with flashbacks to the significant events as related by the survivors. The full title World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War conjures up images of Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan with undead hordes shambling around. Instead we were given a gutless, bloodless, utterly soulless hack job of a pastiche zombie movie that makes you wonder how anyone signed off on it in the first place. The plot alone makes the Resident Evil video game series seem linear and straight forward.
Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a superhero formerly employed by the UN in a somewhat undefined yet highly influential position, who has entered early retirement, John Matrix-style, to spend more time with his wife and two daughters. On a family road trip, the zombie apocalypse breaks out and destroys much of the world in a matter of (what seems to be) hours. After stealing a motorhome and looting a grocery store, Gerry and kin are airlifted to safety aboard an aircraft carrier. In exchange for his family’s uninterrupted asylum on the ship, Gerry must accompany a virologist on a mission to find patient zero and hopefully a cure for the zombie plague. Spoiler alert: the virologist shoots himself in the face within moments of encountering his first zombies, leaving Super Gerry to complete his task alone.
I say Super Gerry because Brad Pitt is a seemingly unstoppable force in this movie (again a nod to Commando), surviving numerous zombie attacks, explosions and a plane crash that leaves him impaled on a piece of shrapnel. He is practically a force of nature as everywhere he goes, he leaves behind in ruins. His act of illogical, reckless and utterly foolish self sacrifice at the end leads me to believe that we are to perceive Gerry Lane as some sort of messiah. And he would have to be, against this particular zombie plague.
The zombies are almost directly lifted from 28 Days Later’s rage-infected runners, seemingly amped up way beyond any normal human capacity. Once bitten, victims turn bitey in twelve seconds and run screaming directly towards fresh meat, smashing through windows and doors as though they were mild inconveniences. The zombies are referred to as such (in several languages) and though we are told they are the walking dead, we never actually see someone die prior to turning. The change is so rapid that the victim simply twitches and screams for a moment or two and then pursues its next meal. If they are away from stimulus for a period, they become “dormant” and stagger around a bit like most zombies but a poorly timed footstep or squeaky door and they come running. And here we come to the worst part of the whole ordeal.
The CG super zombies used in any scene involving more than a handful of biters were amateurish at best, completely unnatural looking and (I think) even improperly scaled in some of the long shots. The scenes of millions of scrambling super zombies scaling walls and buildings might have been somewhat effective if they hadn’t resembled video game graphics from eight years ago. This all might have been forgivable if more than a drop or two of blood had been spilled on camera. With all the biting, shooting, stabbing and limb-severing, the most blood we see is on Gerry’s forehead after surviving the aforementioned plane crash.
The usual conceit in zombie movies is that humans are their own worst enemies in times of crisis but that normal people can rise to the occasion and pull through. World War Z gives us the complete opposite, that an attractive, nearly impervious, highly resourceful super hero can save all of humanity as long as he has cell phone access to the UN. Please, if you haven’t already, don’t give this steaming turd of a film any of your money, it will only encourage a sequel. Just put on Dawn of the Dead and hope that this is the final bullet in the brain stem of the zombie craze.