Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Epic, Entertaining, But Not Always Exciting -- Reflections on "World War Z" (2013)

Behold: the perfect human!
Brad Pitt was the best and worst actor to star in this bloodless zombie epic. He was the best because he is Brad Pitt and his mere presence is guaranteed to draw in the crowds, especially since his character, Gerry Lane, is a badass. But he’s the worst because you a) can never forget he is Brad Pitt, and b) he is too perfect. Literally. Gerry starts the film as the perfect dad, making pancakes for his family, and then proceeds to be the greatest government operative ever – equal parts salt of the earth intelligent meshed with awesome soldier. After the movie ended, I tried to consider Gerry’s heroic flaw, and it occurred to me that his only flaw is his family, for whom he mentions in nearly every other scene.

This does not make the film a bad one, but it does occasionally make it a boring one.

World War Z is an epic zombie flick, and by epic I’m referring to scale. We’ve yet to really see a zombie movie that attempts to show how an outbreak might affect us on a global scale. During the film, Gerry manages to travel from Philly to Korea to Israel to Nova Scotia. His globetrotting reveals the impact of zombism on mankind, and how different cultures react to the menace. I love this idea, but the trade off is losing the personal nature of the zombie menace. Part of the appeal of the zombie story for most people is that “what would I do?” element. World War Z, by giving us a perfect hero, strips us of that opportunity. Instead it distances us from the zombie outbreak.

But World War Z is definitely entertaining. It hums along from set piece to set piece in exhilarating fashion, and unlike many blockbusters, ends on a high note (which is ironic being that the film, troubled in production, was under much fan derision for the hiring of Damon Lindelof to re-write the third act). While it would have been nice to see a protagonist with more character, it certainly didn’t ruin the ride.

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