Dir: Marc Forster, 2013
When a sudden outbreak of a zombie virus sweeps across the globe, former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane is called back into action. In order to keep his family safe, Lane is tasked with locating the origin of the virus so that a vaccine may be developed.
There have been many page-to-screen adaptations that have left fans of the source material a little vexed. The Lord of the Rings enthusiasts were disappointed with Peter Jackson’s omission of minor character Tom Bombadil. Readers of graphic novel Watchmen found Zack Snyder’s depiction overly loyal to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic. Such is the prospect that you can’t please everyone. But when Brad Pitt bought the rights to Max Brooks’ acclaimed World War Z – a book of fictional interviews that switches characters every few pages – and attached himself to star, suffice to say there was a radical backlash from fans. So how does one adapt a zombie novel with such a unique perspective on narrative? Pitt’s answer is evidently you don’t.
Marc Forster’s socio-political horror begins with an explosive action sequence in which we go ground-level in a chaotic Philadelphia, where millions are reacting to an immediate zombie epidemic. Eventually Pitt’s family are airlifted to a military base and as quickly as the film bursts into a hysterical rampage, it slumps into state affairs and military operations. This is more surprising due to Drew Goddard’s penning of the third and final rewrite of the screenplay, the man who brought us Cloverfield which was praised for its intimate interpretation of an alien invasion.
World War Z’s shortcomings are a clear indicator of its troubled development and frequent rewrites. Forster wrangles that tension which horror films need well (though no doubt he is a puppet director for Pitt) and the set pieces are entertaining, if a little formulaic, but unfortunately the film falls victim to that recurring built-for-the-trailer genre. The opening riot scene is brilliant and the third-act plane crash is commendable but these are brief interludes in a tenuous film which frequently causes the audience to wonder when the next scene from the trailer will come along.
As a repercussion of radically straying from the source material, World War Z borrows elements of genre films from 28 Days Later to 30 Days of Night while cramming the timeframe despite multiple long trips across the globe. World War Z may well be an example of too many writers spoiling the script but not as much as an example of sheer capitalist cinema. The violence is toned down to a bare minimum, joined by the redundant inclusion of 3D and a resolution so baffling that Roland Emmerich will probably feel better about Independence Day’s computer virus shtick. Forster does his best but World War Z is merely a been-there, done-that zombie film which mildly entertains and is ultimately forgettable.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆