In 2003, The Zombie Survival Guide hit the market to little fanfare. But because of strong word of mouth and the hard work of author Max Brooks, the book soon became a cult hit and then a sensation. When World War Z was published in 2006, it was an instant bestseller, and speculation immediately began on when the book would become a film, with a bidding war breaking out over the rights between Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Brad Pitt won.
And then . . . nothing. For years, the production languished. Costs bloomed. Rewrites were rewritten. Many speculated that Pitt might have a bomb on his hands. Instead, World War Z has been largely a success, with box office totals north of $300 million as of this writing. But the questions remains, is the movie any good?
Yeah, it’s not bad actually.
First, if you are going to enjoy this movie you need to forget about the book. There are homages to it here or there, but for the most part this is a different film that, at best, happens in the universe of Max Brooks’s work. The zombies are more akin to the infected in 28 Days Later than they are the walking undead of Romero.
Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former UN investigator who now spends his days flipping pancakes instead of on the front lines of the world’s conflicts. But when he and his family find themselves in the middle of the zombie outbreak in downtown Philadelphia, Gerry agrees to go back into the field in exchange for his family’s safety. His search for a cure to the zombie plague takes him from Korea to Israel to Wales, with zombie attacks galore in between.
World War Z is a pretty good movie, but it has some flaws. First, it’s PG 13. Violence isn’t everything, but when you have a movie that is about the zombie apocalypse, having most things happen off-screen just takes something away from the proceedings. Worse, the movie feels like it would have been better as a miniseries. The set pieces are disjointed and poorly connected. It’s almost as if we are going around the world just cause. These scenes need more fleshing out. And yet, the movie also seems overlong. If it were twenty minutes shorter, the movie would have been stronger, in my view.
But I’m being overly negative. If you like zombies, you will enjoy World War Z. It’s not destined to be one of the great zombie movies in my opinion, but it is more than adequate for a summer blockbuster, and hopefully its excellent box office will encourage more zombie movies in the future.