We are in the middle of a zombie renaissance. Ever since “The Walking Dead” completely revamped the genre, film and television studios have scrambled to produce their own projects featuring the undead. “World War Z” is the latest attempt to capitalize on the zombie craze. Though production woes (including having to shoot an additional third act) indicated it would be dead on arrival, the movie proved highly enjoyable – on par with the best of zombie lore.
A major reason for this is the fact that “World War Z” doesn’t wait to get into the action. Within minutes of the opening credits, protagonist Gerry Lane and his family are fleeing dangerously fast zombies, and viewers are immediately enthralled in the plot. The real-time storytelling is very effective in creating fear and confusion, with the audience discovering along with Lane what exactly is going on. That search for truth is what comprises most of the film as Lane, a former United Nations investigator, embarks on a world-wind tour to find a way to end the undead outbreak.
This is a big departure from most zombie movies. The genre usually favors isolated stories focusing on one group of people in one specific place fighting for survival. But “World War Z” goes the opposite route, with Lane traveling from South Korea to Israel to Wales looking for a solution. Yes, it’s a unique twist and interesting to see how the world as a whole responds to the zombie apocalypse. But it’s actually when the movie falls back on genre standards at its climax, with Lane creeping through hallways filled with the undead to get to the cure, that the story is most compelling. It’s obvious this is the section that was added later during filming (being markedly different from the rest of the movie), but the suspense and genuinely satisfying conclusion to the story was worth the controversy.
The biggest flaw of “World War Z” is its lack of character development. Lane is the only fleshed-out character, which is a shame considering the cast boasts a number of talented actors who could’ve done much more with their parts. Mireille Enos in particular is wonderful on “The Killing” and certainly has the acting chops to portray a many-layered role. But apart from the beginning of the film, she’s relegated to playing a one-dimensional worried wife. It would also have been interesting to see how Lane’s children are reacting to their situation, especially the boy Lane took in after his parents turned into zombies.
Still, Brad Pitt really shines as Lane, and director Marc Forster should be commended on his unique take on the zombie genre. It’s one definitely worth seeing for a screaming good time.
4 out of 5 doubloons
Sean Quinn can be reached at email@example.com.