World War Z Review

World War Z

rating: 1.5

The chequered and very public production history of World War Z means that, for many, it will be an outing more of morbid curiosity than fervent excitement. Despite a world class cast and crew at the helm and a whopping seven weeks of re-shoots - reportedly in order to fix the troublesome third act - this over-budget blockbuster fails to find its footing and settles for being a clunky, malformed mess unworthy of the source material. Choosing to adapt Max Brooks' much-loved epistolary novel of the same name is no easy task, given the interview-based nature of the text not lending itself particularly well to the cinematic medium. Instead, director Marc Forster and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof (the latter two of whom jumped in for those last-minute rewrites) have attempted to capture the spirit of the material within a different framework, an admirable goal if it were done with even a scarce indication of skill. Instead, Forster and co. have produced what just might be the dullest zombie movie ever made. World War Z has UN worker Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) jetting around the globe trying to help the authorities find a way to stop the global zombie pandemic that has turned the majority of the Earth's major settlements into desolate wastelands. This is a condition of his family, wife Karen (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, being kept safe by the military, yet as he soon learns, finding a way to stop this overwhelming invasion is not going to be easy. Anyone who has watched Forster's Bond effort Quantum of Solace likely remembers how busily directed and edited it was, and disappointingly, exactly the same is true here. Likely attributed to the director re-hiring Quantum co-editor Matt Chesse, World War Z is a frantic, messily constructed him, so keen to convince you that it's exciting and kinetic that it fails to provide even basic coverage of many of the action beats. Right from an opening car chase five minutes into the film, the camera shakes around, countless shots last less than a second, and so irritating is the result that many viewers will likely just give up and wait for the next ream of dialogue to occasion itself. Ironic it is indeed that the action is too hurried and pretty much everything else dawdles along at a snail's pace. World War Z It's shocking that films costing in the region of $200m can be this technically sloppy; it's apparent from relatively early on that the decision to shoot so much of the film in dark locales works against the already quite pointless 3D presentation, as making spatial sense of these poorly-lit scenes is often close to impossible with the added darkness of 3D glasses. Visual effects are meanwhile shockingly inconsistent for such an exorbitant production, particularly the effects-enhanced zombie hordes, with the CGI giving them a weightless feel as they fly about the screen while chasing Gerry and co. And then there's the rather crass business of cutting the film down to a PG-13 rating for the US, resulting in one of the mildest 15 ratings UK cinema-goers are likely to have ever sat through. Quite why anyone thought it was worth making a PG-13 film about a zombie apocalypse is anyone's guess; there is plenty of death in this film, but little of it is in more than shadowy, rapidly-cut detail. There are no blood spurts, and none of the gore that makes shows like The Walking Dead such a blast for zombie aficionados to sit through; indeed, this is a film that plays directly against what its audience will both want and expect. It gets even tricker when we arrive at a scene in which one character has to chop off the hand of another, and Forster is forced to awkwardly cut (no pun intended) around the incident while still trying to convey the abject horror of it; like even the best director would, he surely fails. All this is before we even tackle the film's infuriating narrative content. This is a film filled to the brim with idiotic characters, beginning with a peripheral klutz early on who trips over and accidentally shoots himself in the head. Is it supposed to be funny? People laughed at my screening of the film, but the overtly somber, serious tone gives off a different vibe; it seems that we're supposed to be horrified by this carnage, but by dispatching a character in such resolutely cartoonish terms, it's exceedingly difficult to take it seriously at all. Similarly, the various tics of the zombies - specifically the growling and chattering teeth - raise plenty of chuckles, but are they meant to be funny, in a film that otherwise tries pretty hard with the jump scares and apocalypse shtick? World War Z When it's not busy raising seemingly unintended laughs, World War Z essentially becomes a colossal bore; there's no tension when Gerry's family are on the army's ship, because Gerry's consequent hunt for a way to stop the plague isn't very interesting or frightening, and we don't know enough about Gerry to give a damn about his well-being anyway. This all leads to a dull finale with a predictable ending likely to leave knowing viewers perplexed, asking themselves if this is really what they spent almost 2 months re-shooting; one can't imagine the previous climax being any more stupefying. Even the performances are shockingly bland throughout; Pitt, who is also a producer on the film, gives a rare phoned-in performance, appearing (somewhat appropriately) tired and also completely disinterested. Talented actors such as James Badge Dale, David Morse and Moritz Bleibtreu get brief moments to try and make an impression, though perhaps getting the shortest shrift of all is Matthew Fox, who appears in the film for all of a nanosecond as a soldier. Compounding all this is surely the most irritating child character since Dakota Fanning's Rachel in 2005's War of the Worlds remake; though hardly the fault of young actress Sterling Jerins, her role as Gerry's youngest daughter amounts to nothing more than incessant wailing every time she's on screen (which, thankfully, isn't all that often). Would it have killed the scribes to give her a little more to work with? World War Z is an almost complete and utter failure; it doesn't function as an entertaining zombie film, or really as anything else either. It's as dull as dishwater, and falls at pretty much every hurdle that a film like this can. Though the score - a combination of Marco Beltrami and Brit rockers Muse - is nicely produced and a few of the action beats work when they're not ruined by the obnoxiously invasive rhythm of the editing, this on the whole is somehow even worse than the flop we all had been dreading. World War ZWorld War Z is in cinemas June 21st.
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.