Review: World War Z (2013)

Once again, I find myself reviewing another poor adaptation of a successful novel. The novel consists of interviews of high profile figures after a war against the undead. The movie diverges completely with only the names of some of the characters and the title of the film being the only attachment to the book. So without further ado, lets begin.

The credit sequence is some kind of a mash-up of various meaningless pieces of footage that seem to show the how nice the world is and putting some perspective in place for
when it gets fucked in the next 30 seconds. I’m exaggerating of course. The exact time when the shit hits the fan is 7 minutes and 5 seconds. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After the 3 minute opening credit sequence, there is a 4 minute happy family sequence that crams in a lot of plot in a desperate attempt to build an atmosphere. In those 4 minutes, we learn that Gerry Lane (Pitt) used to have a job. Thats all we can fatham for sure. And now he’s a stay at home dad. We gather that he has a wife and two daughters,
the eldest of which has asthma.

The Lane Family are taking a trip into the city for some reason when the infection hits. To be fair, this sequence is bombastic and chaotic and no doubt, very expensive but also
highly unrealistic and not because there are zombies running around. I can dig the whole zombie thing but just because the dead can suddenly come to life doesn’t mean that all
other laws of reality need to be thrown out of the window. For example when the family’s car in hit by a truck, I expect to see some scratches, some bruising, some disorientation
or maybe just the tiniest bit of shock. Not just a shake of the head and back to it. Maybe the surge of adrenaline could account for the amazing amount of focus the parents sustain
but adrenaline doesn’t make skin as tough as iron. Adrenaline must also cause some kind of bullet time mechanic as time seems to slow down a lot around Gerry and the first instance of this is when he steals a camper van and time slows as he watches a man get bitten and waits a whopping 12 seconds as the man convulses on the ground, dies, comes back and starts attacking the people he was running away with.

One question that does need to be asked is, what kind of zombies are these? They are classed as zombies because they are dead but I didn’t once see them eat someone. I saw a lot of smacking and biting certainly but not one instance of them taking a victim to the ground and chowing down on some insides. Not once. They are similar to the infected folks from 28 days later as they have a fast transition time and they can run very fast but they are not dead. These ones are. So what kind are they? I suppose the closest comparison that could be made is with the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead zombies. They are dead, they run fast and I also didn’t see a lot of eating. A lot of biting but not a lot of eating. The reason for the zombies not eating could possibly be explained in the plot so lets move on.

Gerry’s eldest daughter has an asthma attack and they realise that she doesn’t have any medication. Gerry gets a phone call from his old boss and its not that we get a little bit
more insight into his past. He used to work for the United Nations. As what? Good question. His boss tells Gerry that he needs him for some reason and arranges to get both him and his family out of the danger zone. But first things first, he needs to get medication for his daughter.

The family arrive at a supermarket where pandemonium has already set it. Not only are people already killing each other but Gerry has to stop some random bloke from robbing/raping his wife in one of the aisles. After Gerry shoots the guy with a rifle that was found in the camper van, a cop comes in but only to take some baby food. Anyway, he has the medication and some food but no camper van. The only answer is to take shelter in an apartment bulding.

Once inside, with zombies in hot pursuit he gets another call from his boss and tells him where they are. A chopper is coming for them in the morning and the wife can signal them with flares, which apparently she pulled out of her arse. It’s the only reasonable explaination for where she got them. The Lanes are taken in by a nice foreign couple who have a young son that can speak English which is nice and convenient. Another point, it is not specified how long the family had been living in the United States but surely they must have picked up a few words. The kid must be more fluent than Gerry because he knows his name is Tommy despite never hearing that name before. Anyway, the Lanes have a place to stay for the night.

In the morning, Gerry tries to convince the family to come with him but they decide to stay put. Apparently they think that the zombie apocalypse is something that they can just
wait out. Gerry arms himself by duct taping a kitchen knife to his rifle and taping magazines around his arm. Not a bad strategy. The Lanes get out into the corridor and surprise surprise, zombies are on the way, having broken through the barricade that Gerry set up earlier. Gerry stands his ground so his family can get to the roof, despite the fact that the chopper is coming for him. Here is where the question of what type of zombies these are comes into play. Gerry is tackled to the ground by one of the zombies that dribbles some blood onto his face. The zombie is shot in the head by Tommy who got a gun from somewhere and miraculously escaped with zombies banging on his door with no means of departure. Gerry dry heaves a bit and dashes out onto the roof with the zombies giving him some space. He rushes to the edge of the roof and counts to 12. Nothing happens. He’s fine. Here is my question. Why? Why was that little sequence put in?
One could argue to put the main character in danger but the majority of the film up until that point had been the main character being in danger. Why put forward the possibility of the main character dying when the smart people watching the film know that they are not going to pay it off. There are apparently a lot of zombie film cliches that the audience will need to unlearn to watch this film. Apparently, blood in the mouth doesn’t mean infection and also don’t rely on head shots to kill the zombies. Even though a character later says that head shots do the trick, one zombie that’s hanging on to the chopper takes 5-6 rounds to the face and is still going strong. Nevertheless, after being chased by Tommy’s dead parents, the Lanes and Tommy all make it onto the chopper.

The chopper takes the Lanes and the newest addition to the family to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean that is housing numerous important people such as the army, navy and other government forces. The Lanes are taken to a tiny room and given three cots to share between the five of them. Apparently the boat is overcrowded with survivors and government people. Gerry’s boss tries to talk to Gerry but they are thrown out by his wife. No apocalyptic talk around the children. Sure, they’ve only seen it, there is no need to talk about it around them. After taking a few steps away but still in earshot of the precious ones, Gerry’s boss informs him that the President is dead and the world is fucked. Obviously he puts it more politely. He mentions the airlines and how they were the perfect delivery system. Another problem. If the turning time is 12 seconds, then certainly the airline staff would spot that. If just one person is infected on a plane then surely that plane would never get off the ground. A fast turning time would guarantee a fast spread of infection but for it to travel internationally would take a lot longer and by other means than person to person on a commercial flight. As Gerry is taken onto the main deck, one look at the massively depressed staff gives the immediate impression of just how fucked the world really is. Gerry is introduced to a young virologist, Dr Fassbach and is told to escort him to South Korea which is where sources say is the location of patient zero. So Gerry is an escort for smart people? Is that his job? Anyway, if Gerry refuses then he and his family will be thrown off the boat. Not literally but they will be flown back into the
smouldering remains that used to be their home. As Gerry says goodbye to his family, it is striking how Tommy is not bothered about the death of his parents.

On the plane to South Korea, Gerry says a lot of words to the young doctor that either don’t mean anything or is just plain common sense. Things such as ‘do what the soldiers tell you to do’ or ‘see something that’s important, call it out’. If I was entering a potential war zone, I think it would be common sense to stick close to the armed professionals. The doctor describes mother nature as a serial killer. There is no point to committing all these murders if it is not going to get caught. So it leaves behind a series of clues to its whereabouts and how to defeat it. His speech tells me two things. First of all, he secretly wishes he were a detective and second, he has no idea that viruses are not that sophisticated. There is no plan, no method. When a virus appears, human beings do the rest.

The gang land in South Korea. The doors go down and they are treated to a face full of fog. As the escorting soldiers come down the ramp first, the young doctor hears a noise that freaks him out so he runs back up the ramp, slips and accidentally blows his own head off with a pistol that must have been given to him for his own protection. Dear script writers, you could have put in a less hilarious demise for the man who was supposed to save humanity. I suppose that if the guy had been taken down by zombies then that would have made Gerry look totally shit at whatever his job is. Still, this is what we have to work with. Some army guys show up and take Gerry to the base where a lot of soldiers are doing fuck all. They all ask about their home towns but Gerry tells them very politely that everyone is fucked. The leader, who is a stereotypical hardass, tells Gerry that the zombies are drawn to noise and headshots do indeed work. The hard-ass asks Gerry what he does and he totally sidesteps that question, immediately changing the subject. I’m beginning to think that Gerry doesn’t know what his job is. The subject is changed to the whereabouts of patient zero. They don’t know how he got infected so the trip was almost pointless. The only point of interest is that there were different turning times, the longest of which being ten minutes. Gerry is escorted to a man who is locked in a cell. The man is apparentley some kind of CIA person who has gone completely batshit bonkers. He is so crazy that he
is pulling his own teeth out with his fingers. In his way of thinking, if he is ever infected and he has no teeth, then he can’t bite anyone. He thinks that everyone should remove their own teeth with their fingers, bearing in mind that pulling ones teeth out with their fingers is impossible. Gerry is dubious even though he didn’t turn after getting infected blood in his mouth. As Gerry prepares to leave, the hard-ass becomes sentimental out of nowhere. He gives Gerry a ring and tells him to give it to his mother who lives in Dallas. But Gerry doesn’t have the heart to tell him that’s a stupid idea because his mother is almost certainly dead. As they get out into the open, on squeaky push bikes no less, Gerry’s wife rings him. It clearly didn’t occur to Gerry to turn his phone down when the hard-ass told him that the zombies are drawn to sound. Anyway, all the zombies wake up and just Gerry and very conveniently, the pilot are the only survivors. They take off for Jerusalem, Israel because the crazy man told him to.

Landing in Jerusalem, Gerry tells the pilot to stay put. The guy in charge of Jerusalem must have had advanced knowledge of Gerry’s arrival because he is given an armed, female escort who is, believe it or not, not a Hollywood bombshell. She’s not hideous, she’s just… normal. She looks like a person that you’d see in real life, not a painted Barbie doll. This is one aspect that I will give the film some props for. Way to resist the urge, Hollywood. Well done. Anyway, lets not get too nice. Gerry meets a contact in Jerusalem and apparently he had prior knowledge of the infection as he has built a huge, fuck off wall around the city that must make Donald Trump green with envy. The contact, Warmbrunn, says that he received a message that said the work ‘rakshasa’ which he says means ‘zombies’ but is actually a malignant demon from Hindu mythology. Interpret it however you want. The boss was dubious about the claims but built the wall anyway and it turns out the message was right. I’d just like to take a moment to say how impressive this scene is. When the camera pulls back to behind the wall, there are hundreds of thousands of zombies that are all clawing at the foundations. And inside the wall, the cast and crew make a real effort to make the city look like a safe zone. That must have been a bitch to shoot and no doubt, very expensive. Moving on. The locals all start singing and someone thinks it’s smart to grab a microphone so all the zombies outside can appreciate what good singers they all are. But before the locals can audition for the next series of the X factor, the zombies pile up on top of each other and climb over the wall, no doubt in an attempt to join in for a bit of a sing-song. The scene then becomes all out bedlam as zombies take over but as Gerry and his escort lady are making their escape, Gerry’s adrenaline levels reach their peak
and he slows down time to watch the zombies totally avoid a thin and sickly young boy. The armed personnel take Gerry into a series of tunnels where his escort lady really does give the impression of being young and scared. She is blind-sided by a zombie and is bitten on the hand. Gerry springs into action and cuts her hand off with a machete. Good job. As he tries to stop the bleeding, he counts to 12. Luckily for her, she is still her. He insists that she is not going to turn. Stop. Gerry now knows that the turning time is not just limited to 12 seconds. He only saw that happen once. He has been told that people can turn in 10 minutes and that airplanes were the perfect delivery system for the virus. So what does Mr Lane do next? He puts her on a fucking plane. Good job. A commercial flight that is filled with passengers no less after his own pilot buggers off without him.

Once on the plane, Gerry cleans up the lady’s wound and we find out her name is Segen. At this point, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Gerry Lane’s job is. We do discover that he had some medical training in the field when Segen asks him if he is a doctor. So, let me get this right. Segen was assigned to escort and protect this man and she had no idea who he was? After Gerry looks down the aisle, he suddenly gets an idea. He rings his boss and asks him for the location of the nearest viral research centre on any denomination. He hands the phone to the pilots who have a chat with Gerry’s boss and all of a sudden, they are heading to Cardiff, Wales.

The scene immediately cuts to everyone looking bored and tired as the pilot comes over the intercom and tells everyone that they are near Cardiff airport and have been cleared for landing by someone. That was a quick 6 hours (flying time from Jerusalem to Cardiff). Apparently, they had been given ‘priority status’. What the fuck does that matter if everyone is dead? Anyway, in all of those 6 hours, the stewardess didn’t realise that there was a stowaway zombie in the cupboard. Another thing we have learned about the zombies is that they are not overse to a game of ‘hide and seek’. The whole of the back of the plane turns into an undead party and Gerry finds the most absurd way of keeping them out. He puts suitcases in front of the curtains. Well, I suppose its better than nothing. The zombies see through this plan and go on the rampage where Segen has recovered and is firing a gun in an aircraft, like smart people do. If you thought this tale about a zombie apocalypse couldn’t get anymore unrealistic, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Realising that the situation has gotten out of hand, Gerry grabs a HAND GRENADE from Segen’s belt, takes out the pin and chucks it into the horde. The grenade blows a hole in the side of the plane and all of the zombies fly out all over Cardiff. Gerry picks up Segen and straps them both into the chairs, but no masks. How did the decompression not
kill them, film? Well if decompression can’t kill them, then a full on plane crash certainly won’t. And it doesn’t.

Gerry wakes up and he’s still in his seat. There is no one else around him and the plane is well and truly fucked. Fucked into pieces. He soon realises that he a piece of debris lodged in his side that has conveniently missed everything major and he hasn’t bled to death. In fact, he isn’t bleeding much at all. He’s bleeding more from the tiny scratches on his face than he is from the huge piece of metal that has impaled him to his seat. Hanging in the air, Gerry un-clips his seat belt and drops a good 6 feet onto the ground. He does have a high pain threshold because he just crumples up and whimpers instead of screaming in agony which I know I would have. What I have noticed at this point is that film has gotten far less expensive. A huge hint is, WALES! The majority of the film from this point on
consists of green fields and one half decent building. Anyway, Segen shows up and she’s totally uninjured but then again, she’s probably suffered enough but then again, it doesn’t work like that. A totally fine Segen supports Gerry as they walk through the Welsh countryside and magically end up at the WHO centre despite not having a map or any sense of direction. Gerry finally remembers that he has a serious injury and passes out in front of the gate. Segan bangs on the gate even thought they are alone with no imminent threat.

Cut to some weird dream sequence where Gerry thinks he’s turning into a zombie or whatever. He wakes up strapped to a table with none other than Peter Capaldi sat next to him and is just staring at him. Peter Capaldi gets up silently and goes next door to get his friend before coming back inside and questioning Gerry. In this exchange we learn that Gerry has been unconscious for three days and not much else. Peter Capaldi (I will keep calling him Peter Capaldi because his characters name is never mentioned. In fact none of the doctors at the WHO centre are rewarded with names.) keeps asking Gerry who he is and Gerry keeps dodging the question before pointing at his satellite phone and telling the other guy that if he wants to know who he is, then he should ‘call it’. Because that’s totally how phones work. The guy that isn’t Peter Capaldi rings the number on the phone and gets through to Gerry’s boss who OFFSCREEN tells the guy who Gerry is. Can you tell the audience? Because we all really would like to know why this guy is so fucking important. Oh yeah, I forgot. He’s Brad Pitt. Gerry asks where his wife is and when he is told that his family have been booted off, he makes the most half-hearted attempt to get up despite the fact that he is well aware he has been strapped down.

Sometime later, Gerry is up and about. He is pissed off because his wife and kids have been taken to a safe zone in Nova Scotia and he still pissed off even though it is a ‘safe zone’. After putting his foot in it by making one of the doctors tell the story of his dead family, the characters remember that there is a plot and they ask why Gerry is there. Turns out, he wants their worst virus. His theory is that the undead are only drawn to healthy people and sick/dying people are not being attacked. If they can make a solution from a deadly virus that won’t kill the host, then humans will be invisible to the undead. Not a fantastic
theory with a lot of both holes and dangling threads but the doctors go for it anyway. Bearing in mind that Gerry came up with this theory despite having very little medical knowledge of how viruses actually work. If he did, they wouldn’t have needed that guy with the hilarious death. To the doctors, there is only one problem with Gerry’s plan. All the viruses are stored in B-Wing. What’s wrong with B-Wing? Its stuffed with zombies. Gerry is shown CCTV footage of a vaccinologist who had been sent blood samples but pricks his finger on a smooth, round petri dish and turns into a zombie. Now they are everywhere. The only door to B-Wing is blocked. What kind of morons are they hiring who can manage to prick their finger on a smooth surface? That’s a whole new kind of stupid. Gerry recycles his old plan of zombie defence by cutting up boxes and taping them to his arms and legs. At the blocked door, Gerry, dead family guy and Segen get ready to go through the door. Peter Capaldi offer them a gun as a last resort and Gerry refuses it but Segen takes it. Peter Capaldi also tells them to not kill any of the zombies as it makes them more irate. And he just offered them a gun? Whatever. Armed with a crowbar, an axe, a baseball bat and a gun, the crew silently step through B-Wing and get through a number of set pieces that are actually pretty suspenseful and unnerving. Isn’t it strange that when the budget starts to drop, the suspense starts to creep out.

The guy doctor stands on a piece of glass and alerts all the zombies at which point Segen thinks it’s a great idea to use the gun. Gerry draws all the zombies away and separates himself from the horde. As he kills two zombies, the audience sees the only instance of his injury actually hindering him. And even then he just clutches his side and grimaces a little bit then immediatley snaps out of it. Elsewhere, Segen and the guy doctor make it back to the door which Peter Capaldi so graciously opens for them. The zombies bang against the door and there is no way for Gerry to get back. Problems. Gerry makes it to Vault 139 and is about to break in when the phone rings. It’s the chick doctor who tells him the code for the door. Did no one tell her that the zombies are attracted to noise. I suppose the phone ringing is less noisy that the sound of breaking glass. Gerry so thoughtfully leaves his crowbar outside the vault. He rummages through the little cabinets and gathers a lot of tiny, fragile vials into a box. As he goes to leave, a zombie is blocking his way. Gerry skips a step and makes the drastic decision to inject himself with a random vial. I couldn’t even begin to calculate the odds of him picking a vial of something that wouldn’t kill him but given the dose that he gives himself, he’s lucky he didn’t die. Before he gives himself the jab, he writes a note on a piece of paper telling the doctors to tell his family that he loves them.

Once again, an unspecified amount of time passes after the injection and the zombie is still there. Gerry looks at this watch and decides it has been an approriate amount of time. Whatever it was that he injected himself with, he doesn’t look very sick. He’s not pale or sweaty but it was enough to fool the zombie. Gerry opens the door and slips past the zombie, locking it inside. I love the look on the zombie’s face when the door closes behind him. He genuinely looks pissed off. The uplifting music sets in a Gerry leaves the vault, has a quick drink with a cheeky Pepsi endorsement and releases the cans all over the floor so the zombies run away from the door. Gerry gets cured from whatever it was with a simple injection and Gerry is reunited with his family. The ending footage shows the various armies all over the world fighting back against the undead and the newly created vaccine being distributed all over the world whilst Gerry narrates over the top. He eventually says ‘This isn’t the end. Our war has just begun.’ So there’s your sequel hook. The End.

To me, the film definitely looks like it was cut apart and rearranged at the last minute. And indeed I was right when I found out that there was another shooting draft that was rewritten at the last minute. The original script was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan who only had a handful of writing credits to his name before writing World War Z. And once he realised that it was a multi-million dollar movie he was writing, his draft certainly reflects that. The first act takes place much like the movie, in Philadelphia then it goes to Israel and finishes with a huge bombastic sequence in Russia with a massive fight in
Red Square. I can only surmise that the film had fully intended to go in that direction but some budgetary issues were raised and the Russia sequence had to be scrapped. Enter Damon Lindelof, a writer with significantly more experience of writing a proper story within a budget having been a writer on ‘Lost’ and credited as a writer on a number of other successful TV shows. He was brought in to rewrite the third act and keep it nice and cheap. He certainly did that.

Another thing that struck me was that this film about zombies was just too nice. Ask yourself, what accompanies any film involving zombies? GORE! lots and lots of gore. There’s barely any blood in this film and the goriest thing that happens (Segen getting her hand cut off) was done just out of shot. You do see the bloody stump when Gerry is cleaning it but not enough to justify it’s existence. I did read that the film was
contractually obliged to be PG-13 to apply to a wider audience and therefore sell more tickets but to his credit, Brad Pitt tried to fight for an R-rating so a bit more violence could be crammed in. It did fail though because the film was still released as PG-13. But if anyone wants to see more, then the blu-ray release contains an unrated version with a bit more blood and gore that was cut from the theatrical release.

Here’s a question. Does Gerry Lane’s family really need to be there? If he was a single bachelor, would the audience really have noticed? It would have offered a chance for significantly more characterisation. So significant in fact that we might have ended up with an actual character. Go with me on this. Lets say that Gerry Lane suffered some kind of horrific and traumatic event that caused him to leave his position at the UN. This event was so traumatic that the effects led him to never pursue a meaningful relationship for the fear of hurting someone he loved. Then the zombie apocalypse happens and he is called back into action. He refuses to help because that job was the very thing that ruined his life but he eventually accepts because he realises that his very important job (whatever it was) was the only true love of his life and by embarking on a mission to save humanity, he would be saving himself. Doesn’t that sound like a much better story? In the film, Gerry was blackmailed into going on this mission because his family were safe on the boat but my version actually has some weight and opportunities to grow, change and go through an arc rather than the character staying the same throughout the whole film.

World War Z was initally to be released by Paramount on December 21st, 2012 but was pushed back to June 21st, 2013 with Jack Reacher taking its place in the luxury December slot. With a budget that was rumoured to have exceeded $200 million, the grand total at the box office was $540 million worldwide so maybe I should shut up.

Then again, maybe not.

Published 20/11/2016wwz-2013

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