If you’ve read my previous blog on the book of World War Z you’ll know I was a big fan of Max Brooks’ writing and how it dealt with the zombie story in a new and interesting way. Because of this I have to say I was very skeptical around the time of the release of the movie of the same name and, partially for that reason (and partially down to a very busy summer), avoided seeing it in the cinema. So, I’ve come to the movie on Blu-ray, away from the hype and hyperbole.
What I have discovered over the last two hours is that, while it bears little resemblance to what I think would be an unfilmable book, what Brad Pitt and Marc Forster’s World War Z gives us is a great action adventure film with zombies that does a few interesting things with the genre.
The movie starts how many zombie movies have started before – there is an outbreak, an infection, a plague, call it what you will, the dead have risen in some form or another in a largely inexplicable way and are hungry for brains (well to be honest any part of a person will do).
This first act sees our hero, and he is a very atypical hero, Gerry Lane (Pitt) encounter the undead, escape from them with his family and make it to safety. So what we sort of get is almost a full traditional zombie movie in the first 45 minutes, but with the conclusion of safety rather than the more typical bleak and nihilistic ending more popular in the genre.
From there he turns into a vaguely horror version of Indiana Jones as he travels the world by plane seeking the source of, and a cure to, whatever it may be that is causing the problems. This is realised through a series of fairly epic action set pieces that successful convey a sense that this isn’t just Smalltown War Z but really is World War Z as we see The US, South Korea, Israel and, oddly, Wales, in the midst of outbreak.
All these set pieces, while they have zombies and horror elements, are much more familiar from an action movie perspective and this I think is the movie’s success, where I had previously worried it would be its problem – it takes the zombie, a staple of horror, and inserts it into a genre mash-up that roars along at a fine pace, throws in enough things keep horror fans happy (although running zombies remains contentious) while also appealing, very broadly, to the multiplex action crowd who would go and see dross like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, and in this it still manages to throw in a few nods and winks for those of us who have read the source material.
This all sounds a bit positive and, I’ll be the first to admit it is far from a perfect movie, the conclusion seems a little to simple and packed with cliché, pretty much every character is a recognisable archetype or stereotype, and there’s one line that I think clinched Peter Capaldi his role as The Doctor, but, if you go in for a ride of an action movie, and can see past the running, swarming ‘Zeeks’ (it may not be right, but they do it well), there is a lot to enjoy here.