“World War Z” puts all the zombies it can get on the big screen. There are several big sequences featuring lots of those mindless zombies going after the living for spreading their disease all over the world, and some of these scenes are tense and thrilling to watch. But, as it keeps going on and on with more zombie attacks around the world, the movie starts losing steam while becoming more monotonous, and its underdeveloped drama does not help much while it is swarmed by CGI zombies appearing here and there.
When Gerry Lane(Brad Pitt) starts another normal day with his family in the morning, everything looks fine at first. When they are at the downtown of Philadelphia, it seems they are stuck in another long traffic jam with others, but it looks like something wrong is going on beyond their sight. Not long after sensing that, they suddenly find themselves in the middle of frantic chaos, and they see people running away on the streets – and some of them do not look so healthy to say the least.
What we see here is not different from what we have seen from countless zombies movies like “Dawn of the Dead”(2004) or “28 Days Later”(2002). The rule is simple: don’t let them bite you, or you will soon be turned into one of them. The zombie virus in the film works so fast that we see one unfortunate guy turned into a living dead within 20 seconds after being bitten, and, not so surprisingly, the whole city is quickly occupied by zombies once their rapid attack starts on a full-throttle mode at one spot. Philadelphia and New York go down first, and then Boston and Newark are also gone later, and then every major cities in US is under zombie attack within a few days while the whole world is also thrust into this sudden global catastrophe.
A good thing for Lane’s family is that Lane is a former UN military investigator who still has some connections to be pulled in this emergency. He calls his friend in UN, and, after escaping from another danger in Newark, he and his family are quickly brought to an aircraft far from the East shore, but he finds that they are rescued mainly because he is needed for an urgent mission. Our typical reluctant hero initially refuses, but, on the condition that his family remains aboard the ship while others are taken to a ‘safe place’, he agrees to assist the mission for identifying ‘patient zero’ and finding a way to prevent the continuing spread of the disease.
As Lane and other team members go around the world for their mission, the movie gives us various kinds of zombie attacks as shuffling its locations. There is a suspenseful moment when Lane and others try to leave Camp Humphreys, South Korea during one dark night while not noticed by zombies; as one of South Korean audiences, I must point out that the background of this scene is so dark that it can be anywhere other than South Korea. The movie also drops by Israel, where the survivors are protected by a very, very high wall, and you will not be surprised about what happens during that part if you have seen its trailers. After Lane infers a possible solution from a few small sights he happened to witness, the movie goes to the World Health Organization lab building in Cardiff, UK, and Lane and other living guys have to deal with a bunch of zombie doctors and technicians in the building for getting a crucial chance to turn the tide.
The director Marc Forster and his crew pack the screen with action whenever it is necessary, and the movie rarely feels tedious. There is a visually impressive scene where a massive group of zombies eventually find a way to climb over a big wall and then throw pandemonium over the living as a consequence, and then it is followed by a fearful moment which is certainly one of the worst nightmares you can possibly imagine after you board a plane. While relatively less loud than other action sequences, the Cardiff sequence is handled well with a nice payoff, which made the audiences around me laugh during the screening at last night.
However, the problem is, these sequences do not add up to something more than themselves because the screenplay, based on the book by Max Brooks(yes, he is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), does not do a lot besides throwing them into its plot. The characterization is two-dimensional at best, and the drama sandwiched between action scenes feels bland and hurried, and, above all, the ending is artificial and unsatisfying with no particular dramatic impact. After going all over the world with so much action, the movie merely halts with the epilogue montage, and that is all.
And the zombies in the movie are not very interesting to watch. Because the movie is rated PG-13, we do not see much of their gruesome nature(it seems they just bite people rather than eat them), and we do not see lots of blood despite so many shootings and other acts of violence on the screen. This may look more comfortable to some of you, but the zombies of “World War Z” look less scary compared to other movie zombies as a result. I was not so scared by the zombies in the film, and that took me back to how I got bored by those CGI zombies in “I Am Legend”(2007). There are surely real extras wearing hideous makeups, but there are far more CGI zombies out there, and their main job is swarming toward the living characters like a CGI tide surging endlessly against lots of shootings and explosions.
As the lead character at the center of the story, Brad Pitt did a competent job here as a vulnerable action hero, but there is not much he can play except being a caring dad or a skilled professional, and his co-actors are stuck with mostly functional characters who can be bitten at any time if that is necessary for driving the plot. As Lane’s worrying wife, Mireille Enos got a thankless job of holding a cellular phone in many scenes, and you may notice more notable actors like Matthew Fox, James Badge Dale, and David Morse briefly appear and then quickly go away.
“World War Z” was not as bad or boring as I worried, and the running time went faster than I expected, but the movie does not leave much impression on me despite its expensive spectacles. I was pretty tired when I went to the screening at last night, and I felt more exhausted with little satisfaction when it was over, and then I began to miss good zombie comedies. Zombies taste better when they are funny, you know.
Zombie & Co—may their tribe increase, at least on-screen!!