World War Z is a tricky movie to talk about in a coherent fashion as it’s a movie that fails almost as much as it succeeds. There are a decent amount of good things in the film, but at the same time there are a lot of areas of the film that could have easily been adjusted or improved in order to make a substantially better movie. Overall, it’s a pretty fun time at the movies, but it isn’t as satisfying of a zombie movie as you’d might expect. Due to the pretty even split between the pros and cons in this movie, I’m literally going to list the pros of the film, and then the cons, because I really don’t know how else I can really go about giving my opinion on the movie.
– Epic scope: This is without a doubt the biggest zombie movie ever made. The exact budget of the film is unknown, but due to its prolonged and troubled production some have estimated the movie cost as much as 250 million dollars to make. And the film-makers really make sure you’re aware of how expensive the movie would’ve been to make, with a number of staggering shots featuring thousands and thousands of zombies swarming all over each other. The sequence where countless zombies all climb on top of each other in order to clear a gigantic wall has to be seen to be believed. The movie also earns its title, given that the movie is set in a number of locations, and the fact that it is truly a zombie movie on a global scale. It’s definitely interesting to see how the entire world would be effected by a zombie outbreak.
– Brad Pitt: He’s very good in this movie, and is definitely one of the best things about the film. He makes for a compelling and likeable hero who has to rely more on his intelligence than physical power. He’s no superhero in this film, and his vulnerability and “everyday-man” nature keeps him relatable and likeable.
– Action scenes: As mentioned before, there’s a ton of zombies in this movie. And yes, a lot of them are CGI, which I personally don’t have a problem with because there were so many it’s unlikely they could’ve done a lot of these scenes with actual extras portraying the zombies. The hordes of zombies allow for some truly spectacular action scenes on a large scale, all of which I’d rather not talk about in too much detail, because the zombie/action scenes are really the best part of the film, so it’s definitely best not to ruin the scenes by giving you too much of an idea of what to expect
– Use of the word “zombie”: This didn’t necessarily make the film better, but it was just interesting to see the word “zombie” used frequently by the film’s characters. The word “zombie” has been treated for so long as a cliched term in zombie films that it’s now kind of refreshing to see it used so honestly and openly in a serious zombie film. The whole “not using the word zombie” definitely reminds me of this great scene from “Shaun of the Dead,” probably the best zombie film of the last decade:
Lack of gore: Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t need blood and guts in every single movie I watch… But with zombie films, gory violence is a necessity. You need to see zombies getting ripped apart to emphasise how they are literally the “living dead,” and you need to see humans die graphic deaths to reinforce how much of a threat the zombies can be. But this film wants to appeal to pretty much anyone aged 10 and up so Brad Pitt and friends can get more money, so of course we get very little blood, plus no on-screen guts, severed limbs, or exploding heads. Just to reiterate, I’m not a sick fuck and I don’t get off on graphic violence, but come on, zombie movies need blood and gore. I don’t even like The Walking Dead TV series very much, but I can at least respect it for throwing in more than a few very gory deaths and a decent amount of visceral zombie carnage.
Shaky cam: This kind of ties in with the lack of gore; it’s like the cameraman is shying away from the more graphic moments (it’s the god-damn Hunger Games all over again). The shaky cam’s only really noticeable in the film’s first half hour though, while the zombie outbreak is just beginning, so it’s not a huge problem. Still a little bothersome though.
Unfulfilling ending: This movie does end in an abrupt fashion, and kind of left me wanting more. It ends very suddenly, and I kind of thought to myself- “really? That’s it?” The biggest action scene in the movie occurs about halfway through the film, and the final zombie confrontation was fairly quiet and low-key, which just felt a bit off to me. That being said, the jarringly sudden ending could be seen as a good thing, as it demonstrated that the movie went by fairly quickly. It’s just under two hours long, but the final scene honestly felt as though the film was at about the 80-minute mark. But still, the ending was a little unsatisfying, so I ultimately see the ending as a con.
Unintentionally funny zombies: Zombies can be funny, and zombie movies can be part-comedy and still be great zombie movies. Shaun of the Dead and ZombieLand are both very funny movies that also manage to be pretty good legitimate zombie films (they don’t exclusively poke fun at the zombie genre). George A. Romero worked some great satire into 1978’s Dawn of the Dead (the Citizen Kane of zombie movies in my opinion), by comparing the zombies in the film’s mall to the mindless, braindead consumers who inhabited the mall pre-zombie apocalypse. World War Z didn’t feel like it was meant to have much comedy in it with its serious tone and gritty aesthetic, yet at times I found myself laughing at the way the film’s zombies expressed exaggerated twitchy movements, and the manner in which more than a few of them chattered their teeth repeatedly in a cartoonish manner. It just felt a bit off when this happened- maybe the sometimes funny zombies were intentionally meant to be that way, but it still felt odd tonally to me to have the zombies act in such a way.
Slight lack of tension: No spoilers or anything, but you know if Brad Pitt’s going to die in this movie it’ll be either at the end or not at all. This leaves the movie lacking suspense for at least 80% of the film, because it’s basically Brad Pitt saving the world. He has a few red-shirt sidekicks along the way, but you never really care about them that much. Maybe if Pitt’s character had had a few allies forming like a “rag-tag squad” or something, and they went around battling zombies as a group, it would’ve made things more intense and involving, as a few of them would inevitably die along the way. I don’t know, a few more well-developed side characters would’ve gone quite a long way in making me more invested in the film’s events.
So there’s my thoughts on this film. It’s a mixed bag, but ultimately I’d recommend it. It’s worth seeing at the cinema just for those spectacular action scenes, and simply so you can see the sheer scale of the biggest budgeted zombie film of all time. It’s flawed as hell though, so go in with moderate expectations. It could be a whole lot better, but ultimately the film’s still pretty decent, and a good one to experience on the big screen. It’s certainly a fine summer blockbuster, but it’s unlikely that the film will ever achieve a “classic status.”