Monday, June 24, 2013

"World War Z"

 3 / 5 

What an odd way for the world to end, not with a bang or a whimper but the snarl and growl of zombies.  If the concept seems fairly ludicrous, it's to the great advantage of World War Z that things move so briskly and often incoherently (thanks to the liberal use of ShakyCam® ™) that there is rarely time to think about exactly what is going on.

Brad Pitt stars as a former United Nations worker who (I think) has retired or quit or possibly been dismissed because (I think) he got weary of seeing so much desperation and carnage in the world.  Or maybe he violated some rules.  I'm not exactly sure.

One day, his family is going on vacation (I think) or possibly to the grocery store when they decide to make a rather ill-timed detour right through the heart of downtown Philadelphia.  Never mind that the news has been reporting that there is a lethal virus spreading rapidly because before anyone knows it, Brad Pitt and his attractive family are fighting zombies.

As they escape the first onslaught in a motor home they (I think) stole off the street, Brad Pitt gets a call from his former boss saying that they need his help to identify the virus and help stop it (I think that's what he does), because his powers of observation are unparalleled in the universe, and it's going to take a very keen observer to investigate the source of the zombie virus.

But they end up in Newark, N.J., and even though there is a mass riot going on and death and devastation everywhere, they have to stop at a supermarket because Brad Pitt's daughter has asthma and forgot her inhaler, a plot point that is never once brought up again in the course of the movie.

They manage to get rescued and they are taken to an aircraft carrier where Brad Pitt starts flying all around the world, managing to pilot a military aircraft even though (I don't think) he's a pilot.  Brad Pitt can do a lot of things in World War Z.  He can figure out how to make a bayonet, and knows how to wrap a thick magazine around one arm in case he gets bitten (I guess he knows zombies prefer the left arm), and he knows how to figure out a way to defeat the zombies even though he is a U.N. observer of some sort, and it can be assumed that every other great mind in the known universe is trying to find the answer to this problem.

In World War Z, Brad Pitt understands things no one else understands, because he is the hero.

He goes to South Korea, then to Jerusalem (where the movie almost veers into political territory until the zombies start rampaging again), then he ends up Cardiff, Wales, of all places -- which may be the very first time I've seen Cardiff, Wales, as the background for a mega-budget action-horror movie.

For about half of its running time, World War Z moves at an unrelenting pace, which is pretty good because it doesn't give much time to wonder why, if they're being chased down dark corridors by zombies, Brad Pitt's wife thinks it's a good idea to light a flare.  If I were being chased down a dark corridor by a zombie, I'd probably do as little as possible to attract attention.

Eventually, the lighting pace has to slow down a bit.  And.  It.  Does.

The movie goes from hyperactive to almost somnambulant in the last half, which probably isn't a surprise given that this part of the movie takes place in a mostly abandoned laboratory facility run by the World Health Organization.

There aren't a lot of movies that can claim to take place against the enviable backdrop of the World Health Organization office in Cardiff, Wales.  So, World War Z gets some points for that.

The biggest problem is that in its second half, World War Z seems to be just making things up as it goes along.  Zombies who were previously unstoppable monsters become sloppy, nearly comatose giggle-inducers.  A nuclear bomb goes off, but we never learn where or why.  A whole gaggle of new characters is introduced whose only role seems to be to stare at TV monitors.

It's not a mess, exactly, but World War Z is mostly only engaging and amusing when it should be awe-inspiring and unforgettable.  There are certainly moments of epic visual marvel, like zombies crawling over themselves to get past a massive wall erected around Jerusalem.  But why that wall was built, and how that wall was built is a plot point you'll have to hear to believe.  I could repeat it here, but not only would it be a little bit of a spoiler, you probably would think I'm making it up.

World War Z is entertaining and a fun way to pass a couple of hours, but zombies are supposed to be the brainless ones, not zombie movies.

Viewed June 23, 2013 -- ArcLight Sherman Oaks


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