Sunday, July 14, 2013

Undead On Arrival

Brad Pitt goes toe-to-undead-toe with Zeek* in the screen adaptation of Max Brook's World War Z.


ARTH VADER (AV): The right to Max Brook's riveting journalistic accounting for tales of survival through the darkest days of the Zombie War was purchased by Actor/Producer Brad Pitt. After years of sketchy development rumors, movie audiences can now see the much-hyped World War Z. This sobering account of the fictional details of the Zombie War that ravages—and nearly consumes—the Earth, is regarded by many (myself included) as one of THE definitive fiction/horror novels on the rise, onslaught and defeat of the undead. Sadly, this movie has VERY little connection to Brook's Zombie apocalypse which I must say, is terrific. Thoughts, my friend?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Sadly, I haven’t read the book Vader. When it comes to zombie films, this one is not as bloody as the rest, but there is a good reason why it doesn’t have to be... and still scare the beejeebus out of you. It’s fast and ruthless and does something all the other zombie films don’t. It takes out the need to consume flesh and replaces it with a need to expand. Ultimately, it makes the zombies into a pandemic that is more dangerous than ever, and forces humanity into creative biological warfare.


AV: Brad Pitt's role as the rogue journalist, Gerry Lane, is tasked to find the infamous "Patient Zero" is a solid one. I've always dug Pitt as an actor and didn't mind where this movie took the character. Portrayed as a man surviving in the midst of chaos who–along with wife, Karin Lane (Mireille enos) would do anything to protect their family are strong roles but do little to impact this movie's story. The scenes of carnage and the footage of massive Zombie devastation are impressive and alarming. The cast of characters is strong even if Pitt's mission isn't quite as defined as it could be. Director Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace, Stranger Than Fiction) does a masterful job of keeping the action and the story moving at peak intensity as the movie wastes no time jumping right in to the outbreak and the chaos that follows.  

TP: Brad Pitt continues to show us why he should get the ridiculous amounts of money they pay him. He is superb in this film, leaving behind the super heroics of Troy, and replacing them with human heroics of a father and husband trying to save his family from both the pandemic...and the necessary cruelty of what is left of humanity. Being the only A-Lister in the film was a very smart move from a production standpoint as the film carries itself and the big name of “Pitt” delivers the goods and draws the crowds. As stated earlier, the film is very fast paced and this adds to the heightened tension of the already disturbing subject matter. 

AV: Ponty, I have been watching the development of this movie for some time. This movie was almost completely re-tooled mere months before the final release. This often means movie execs were pretty underwhelmed by the original final cut. This probably meant that tons of effects footage was tabled or scrapped. What did make its way to the big screen was impressive. Watching a Zombie horde scale the Israeli fortification wall was awesome. Seeing a sea of undead "Zacks" overwhelm their defenses and run rampant was one of the film's high-marks. While their were not many 'up close and personal' Zack shots, the final sequence offers a chilling glimpse at the effects of the z-virus on a human host. High marks, wouldn't you say P-Man

TP: I would say “superb” oh Dark One. The CGI works great in the wide angle shots showing droves of infected as they swarm and engulf everything in their path. The makeup is flawless for the close shots and there really isn’t a single complaint I can make regarding the effects of this film. No new ground was broken, but that isn’t a complaint when all the effects tricks-of-the-trade are used so wisely.


AV: So here's my biggest issue. World War Z is a near brilliant literary masterpiece of modern fiction. It's format is fast moving, engaging and aptly suited for a weekly television installment-based episodic presentation. NOT a two hour movie. This movie just can't follow the book. In fact, I would argue that the only resemblance this film has to it's source material is the globe-trotting nature of the storytelling. The screenplay, while not bad by any stretch, fails to engage the viewer in the 'why' and 'how' and instead focuses on the 'what'. The action, the pacing and the characterizations all come together nicely but for me, just still miss the mark as a modern movie. 

TP: I have heard complaints about this film that seem to be centered on the failed delivery of some expectations. This is why I try very hard to go into a film as a blank slate and let the film take me where the filmmakers intended. The fact that this was not your traditional zombie film was actually a relief and I give kudos to the writer for showing us a new and interesting take on the zombie genre. All the blood associated with past films of the sort was not necessary, especially given the nature of what was actually happening. One bite was all that was needed because the goal wasn’t to consume flesh, but to spread and expand. The fact that the film was so sterile in the gore department just opened it up to an even wider audience, which I think was a good move.


AV: With the sheer volume of footage created by the 'first' cut of this film, there is plenty of content for sequels and follow-up installments. To the movie's credit, WWZ does leave us with an open-ended ending. The movie leaves us with the notation that the war isn't over, but we now have a chance. The 'solution' the film offers could easily be a temporary one that brings in a new dimension to the war. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this as the further development of the characters and the Zack infestation. I would see another WWZ installment, Pontificator, how about you? 

TP: I hear there are more films planned, and I hope there are as we are left with some unanswered questions...and a very dire picture for the future of humanity. The one aspect of the film that needs further exploration is the need for humanity to infect themselves with deadly viruses to even combat the overwhelming zombie pandemic. I’m eager to see in what undiscovered direction they can take this new twist.


ARTH VADER rates World War Z: Overall, a really well done dead vs the undead flick. Good tension, decent cast doing a decent job with a story that could have been much worse. A fair flick for the action lover, the Zombie fan and even the horror fanatics are offered a moment in the sun. The biggest drawback is that the movie attempts to link itself to a much better book that it just doesn't hold a candle to. All in all, I would say that World War Z offers up seven (7) busted blocks in the form of head shots between the eyes and I would hope for more from future installments. Ponty?

THE PONTIFICATOR rates World War Z: A very fast film with a new take on the zombie apocalypse. The ideas in the film are refreshing and the mystery unfolds nicely as the film progresses at break neck speed. They have taken that “fast” element of the zombie (introduced in 2004’s Dawn of the Dead) and taken it to new levels. With excitement around every corner and hope slipping away, this film infected seven (7) busted blocks.

World War Z – 7/10 Busted Blocks

*The terms 'Zeek', 'Zack' and 'The Z's' are all terms used in Max Brook's novel to describe the undead.
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