Craig's First Take: "World War Z"

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

For months now critics have been readying their crossbows for a clean head-shot at “World War Z”, probably one of the most storied productions in recent memory. Massive re-shoots, incomplete script, a budget no one knows for sure but it’s a safe bet it’s going to take a while to recoup, and for some reason even a Hungarian SWAT team raided the set, most likely to stop Mr. “Lost”/”Prometheus” hack Damon Lindeloff, who was hired to re-write a supposedly atrocious ending. Was there any shot at this thing being good?

Early reviews were enough to hold out hope but this movie, written by Lindeloff as well as Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”, “Cabin in the Woods”) and Mathew Michael Carnahan (“Lions for Lambs”, “The Kingdom”) is a bore long before the ending even comes. It’s based on the Max Brooks novel, which is mostly a series of interviews with survivors of the Zombie apocalypse, with Geo-political underpinnings and human interest stories underneath. Well someone at Paramount must have said “screw all that, we have Brad Pitt and an action movie budget” and thus “World War Z: The Movie” was born.

Pitt is in every scene as Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator who gave it all up to be a family man. As he, the wife (Mereille Enos, “The Killing”), and two girls (Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove) are stuck in city traffic, an explosion goes off and soon a frenzy of running and creatures attacking breaks out. In hours cities are completely destroyed. Luckily for Gerry he still has friends in high places who can get him and the family safely on board an air craft carrier, but to keep the family safe, Gerry will have to do what he does best and globe-hop around the world looking for answers. I’m still not exactly clear why he’s the only one in the movie doing this? Probably because this is Brad Pitt playing Gerry Lane playing Brad Pitt.

This winds up being more about a movie at war with itself. Director Marc Forster, who even in his two action movie bombs (“Machine Gun Preacher”, the little-liked James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”) showed an aptitude for suspense and action begins the film nicely with the moody corridors and stairwells of an apartment building, but later scenes take place in the dark, or are confusing, or are too reliant on CGI, or become pretty much underwhelming set pieces (that scene on the plane where people get sucked out in the trailer isn’t much for adrenaline beforehand). But probably the most baffling experiment here is the lack of blood. Fast-moving zombies pop out of nowhere and I admit there are some good shocks but it’s fascinating the things we take for granted on “The Walking Dead”. A zombie film with gnashing teeth but with bites and deaths happening off screen is like swapping out a steak for a can of tuna fish.

I respect what the screenwriters are trying to do here. There are references to viral health epidemics, mother nature being a silent serial killer, and it even takes bits from Brook’s book (like Israel’s decision to fortify itself) but these things go nowhere, it’s sadly lacking in humor and the constant globe-trotting is a pretty flat concept just waiting around for the next action sequence to kick in. The last 40-minutes, which is the part Lindeloff had to re-write, gives us characters making stupid decisions for a resolution that I basically thought was “eh”, but Forster again shows he can do suspense nonetheless.

It’s Pitt’s movie and he of course is likable in it as the resourceful and dutiful family man. I hear that a sequel may be in the works and that this may become a “Jason Bourne” type scenario for the actor. If so you hope for smoother sailing in the future, both for the filmmaker’s sakes and ours.

2.5 out of 5