The zombies are it again in World War Z, but don’t worry, they aren’t nearly as scary as they’ve been before. I never thought I’d say that a film needed to be more violent, but Brad Pitt’s summer blockbuster is making me. There’s nothing revolutionary about the plot for this zombie apocalypse. Zombies have taken over the world, and the remaining humans (well, basically Brad Pitt) needs to find the cure before it’s too late.
Pitt plays a retired U.N. investigator who is happy with new life of flipping pancakes for his two daughters every morning, while his wife (Mireille Enos) looks on. But within moments of the opening of the film, that pretty little life is ended as zombies take over the downtown streets of Philadelphia with Brad and family running for their lives.
The most impressive thing about World War Z is how fast it moves. After one scene that establishes Brad and his family, the zombie takeover begins to happen, and it’s just one action set piece after another from that point on. Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof (Lost and Alias) all had a hand in the script (that went through multiple re-writes), and they really streamline the story to its bare essentials. The problem is that director Marc Forster (who made the beautiful Finding Neverland) seems a little bit overwhelmed overseeing all this action.
Big moments that should make the audience jump out of their seat miss their beat as some of the shots are messy and the 3D is poorly conceived. It’s often difficult to figure out what just happened in several fast-moving sequences. Forster doesn’t direct things with an assured hand. It made me long for the confidence of a J.J. Abrams or Steven Spielberg, who know exactly how to pace big set pieces and make small moments in action sequences really land with the audience.
It doesn’t help that the film feels totally neutered in order to achieve its PG-13 rating. The zombies are mostly shot in wide shots, and there’s almost no blood to be seen in the movie. Spielberg was able to scare the beejeezus out of people in the PG-13 Jurassic Park and The Lost World while still achieving the mass audience rating, but here, everything feels so lobotomized in order to please the censors. It takes a lot of the tension out of the film.
That being said, Brad Pitt anchors this chaos beautifully. The film needed a larger-than-life star to carry this globe-trotting, fast-moving epic and Pitt easily does that. He pulls the audience right along with him while never going over-the-top into “action hero” mode. It ain’t easy for the world’s most beautiful man to come off as an everyman.
World War Z is an adequate summer rollercoaster that moves at a feverish pace that’ll entertain the heck out of you featuring a great “movie star” performance from Brad Pitt. It just needed a director that goes for the jugular, in more ways than one.