Mark’s Movies: World War Z

By on June 26, 2013
mark'smovies

There must be something in the water, because, as of late, the zombie subgenre has gone to seed, and not in a good way. It all seemed to be going so well at first. We got a quality remake of the seminal “Dawn of the Dead” which surprisingly didn’t suck. We got the entertaining, zombie-adjacent “28 Days/Weeks Later” series, as well as the videogame-inspired “Resident Evil” franchise, still going strong even now.

Even the master himself, George Romero-inarguably the creator of the modern zombie as we know it, with his classic “Night of the Living Dead”- got back into the game with three-count ‘em!- new movies in the ongoing zombie subgenre that he basically started in the first place. Sure, they were of varying quality, but who knew he still had three more in him? (Honestly, I think the guy should be given carte blanche to do whatever he wants for the rest of his days, but maybe that’s just me.)

REVIEWED: Mark’s Movies — World War Z

Astonishingly enough, we even got a television show out of it, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and lo and behold, it was actually a hit. And essentially pretty good. Granted, the second season was a little shaky, but the show fully redeemed itself in the most recent third season. And then things started to go wrong. The back half of that season was scattershot at best, with only a few solid stand-alone type episodes to make it worth watching, and a season finale that divided fans to an almost hostile degree, resulting in the second show-runner in a row being fired.

As if that weren’t enough, there was the lackluster “Evil Dead,” another adaptation of the series of films that arguably place second only to Romero’s original trilogy. Despite bought-and-paid-for horror critics all over engaging in hyperbole to an extent this reviewer has never quite seen before- one shouted “The most terrifying movie you will ever experience!”- Um, no. By grounding the movie a little too much in reality and trying to over-explain that which is scarier unexplained- see again Romero’s films- the remake/reboot/whatever threw out the best part of the original films: the original, gasp-inducing direction that put Sam Raimi on the map; the great tongue-in-bloody-cheek slapstick; and reducing poor Bruce Campbell to a post-credits tag line. You would think horror filmmakers would know better than to put Brucie in the corner, but no!

So far, the only bright spot in Zombieland this year was the surprisingly effective zombie romantic comedy- or if you prefer, the zom-rom-com- “Warm Bodies.” An original and engaging take on the zombie mythos, based on the book of the same name, it was funny where the “Evil Dead” remake was not, and well-written and staged where that film was by-the-numbers.

I was hoping the hotly-anticipated “World War Z” would change that. It does not.

If you are, in fact, a zombie fan, what would you think if I told you someone went and made a zombie film that features no dead eating the living, no zombie head shots or brain bashing, and indeed little-to-no violence at all? And staged it almost entirely from a distance, as if you were watching a FPS (that would be First Person Shooter, for you non-gamers out there) from a bird’s eye view? You’d be like, boy that sounds terrible. Well, you’d be right.

“World War Z” is such a terrible movie that I had to spend the first few paragraphs saying what I loved about the subgenre just so you’d know I did love it because I have absolutely nothing positive to say about this movie whatsoever.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The book, by Max Brooks (son of Mel, FYI), is a lot of fun, and the audio book, which is staged like the spoken-word equivalent of a Ken Burns documentary on a zombie infestation, is arguably even more so. Zombie fans worldwide were looking forward to this one, and it is undeniably the biggest-budgeted, impressively-cast zombie flick ever produced, with no less than Brad Pitt as the star. How could it go wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Look, I get that they want to open this expensive film big and make some cash in the process, so that explains why they went for a PG-13, but here’s the thing. When a show readily available on basic cable- the aforementioned “The Walking Dead”- is gorier than your film, or, for that matter, a freaking zom-rom-com has more gore and zombie action in the first fifteen minutes than in your entire film- there’s something rotten in Zombieland, and it ain’t a corpse.

I can only imagine that there will be an unrated version for DVD/Blu-Ray impending, but until then, if you’re a self-respecting zombie fan, you owe it to yourself to avoid this like the plague, pun definitely intended. And if you must see it, forgo the 3D, which is astonishingly inept and inadequate. I didn’t jump once, and there was maybe one really tense sequence in the whole movie, when Pitt and his family go from an apartment they’re holed up in to the roof for what will hopefully be a helicopter rescue, and if that sounds familiar, that’s because they basically ripped it off from the original “Dawn of the Dead” ending.

I can’t help but think what might have been had they let the man himself, George Romero, make one of his zombie epics with a budget like this. Sure, I don’t see him doing a soft-pedaling PG-13 affair, and I’ll grant you “Survival of the Dead” was no great shakes, but anything he came up with on his worst day with the budget to realize it has got to be better than this.

Okay, can I say anything positive about this film? I like that they gave the wife role to the underrated Mireille Enos, of “The Killing.” She doesn’t have much to do here, but hopefully it will lead to bigger and better things.

Also, I like that when they bring in the inevitable scientist that may be humanity’s last hope to save the world, he gets killed off almost immediately- and not by zombies! That’s pretty clever.

Aside from that, if I could give this movie a “Z” rating I would, but instead, I’ll go for a “World War” F. You’ve been warned, people!

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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