Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

As the zombie movie has had a resurgence in the last decade, "zombie fever" is still going strong! And with the success of cable TV shows like AMC's The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman's acclaimed graphic novel series; the dead are still "walking tall"! The latest foray into the zombie craze actually comes from one of the forerunners of the genre, author Max Brooks (son of comedy legend Mel Brooks). Having first delved into the popular subject with his 2003 book The Zombie Survival Guide, at first, a seemingly humorous novelty guidebook, it sparked a new interest in zombies and apocalypse survivalists. With the immense success of the Survival Guide, (which even spawned a card game and a graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks), Brooks soon followed it up with the now immensely popular novel: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War in 2006. Being an intense, sprawling narrative combining fictional interviews and vignettes from supposed survivors from all over the world, World War Z was a huge hit for zombie fans and brought new literary acclaim for the genre as well.
Few even considered that this epic tale would eventually be turned into a major motion picture. Many fans were skeptical when it was finally announced in 2008. What was leaked on the Internet was the original script by J. Michael Straczynski, which was then rewritten by Matthew Michael Carnahan. This created controversy with many fans. Now that the movie has been released, the frequent rewrites have proven successful. World War Z is directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace (2008)) and stars Brad Pitt. The film focuses on the story of Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former UN investigator living in Philadelphia. He is forced into facing the zombie apocalypse head-on while trying to save his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and his two daughters. Reluctant to resume his former life, he must travel the globe to search for the cause of the zombie virus and hopefully find a cure. Beginning in South Korea, the violent pandemic spreads quickly all over the world and leads Gerry to various locations such as Jerusalem and the W.H.O. headquarters. A seemingly average person, Gerry soon presents himself as an exceptionally skillful (and incredibly lucky!) individual as he is thrust into even more dangerous locations and situations as the "zombie" plague spreads. Gerry is mostly alone in his search, he is occasionally accompanied by members of the scientific community (including one ill-fated virologist) and the military. He ends up with Segan (Daniella Kertesz), a young female Israeli soldier, as an unlikely sidekick who tags along with him. She soon proves herself to be a strong and helpful companion.
The movie is a fast-paced and action-packed story with exciting and exotic locales on a global scale. It is not necessarily a true "zombie" movie in the tradition of Dawn of the Dead (1978) or even 28 Days Later (2002). It is more like viral outbreak movies such as The Andromeda Strain (1971) or Outbreak (1995). The movie deviates far from the usual blood-and-gore type of zombie movie, to the point of being an almost entirely bloodless film. This doesn't detract from the action or its exciting subject matter. When it comes to zombie movies (and fans), there always seems to be a strong division between those that favor the slow-moving, traditional Night of the Living Dead (1968) type zombie or the faster, ravenous Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake) kind. This movie actually features both but more often the latter; especially when the zombies pile on top of each other and swarm over everything like ants. Later, when docile, the zombies are significantly slower (until stimulated) and can even appear less threatening and almost laughable (cue Dawn of the Dead mall music!). Although the movie doesn't have the same scope and originality of the novel, it does present an impressive and intriguing story set on a worldwide stage. Rumors of the original script presented a film that would have followed the book more closely, keeping the story centered on one main-character creates a more widely-accepted scenario.
World War Z (both book and movie) came at just the right time as the world is still reeling from the 2012 phenomenon hoax. The number of survivalist groups and our fascination and obsession of zombies continues to grow. Recently, the CDC even published an article on their website encouraging "Zombie Preparedness"!
As a fan of the book, naturally there was some disappointment the movie did not follow the book exactly but despite my reservations I was thoroughly impressed and I feel it is a worthy adaptation of the book. With box office totals already over $66 million, Paramount Pictures is supposedly in talks to develop a sequel that may focus on other stories from the novel.