30
Jun
13

One Week Late Movie Review – World War Z

I can't have any of this crap on my current diet so I am just torturing myself now

I can’t have any of this crap on my current diet so I am just torturing myself now

So I was thinking, who ever gets to the movies on opening night anymore? Once they have kids?

Sometimes you can get a sitter and sometimes it’s worth it, but honestly, the hassle and crowds and your kids often make it easier to wait. And as they get older, sometimes you want to wait because it’s something the kids might enjoy.

For example , I don’t often make it out to any Marvel Superhero movie on opening weekend because the boys are always really eager to see it as well. So at times, I have to wait.

It seems then, I am always a week late.

How about a review that’s a week late then? After the hype has died down and all the reviews which said the same thing over and over again, how about a fresh pair of eyes to tell you whether it’s worth your time?

Welcome then to the One Week Late Movie Review.

Don’t expect this to be too regular because I’m a parent and I don’t get out all that much, right?

Tonight we’re talking World War Z, the Brad Pitt Zombie movie inspired by the fabulous Max Brooks book of the same name – which I can’t recommend highly enough (but that’s a whole different column).

WWZ is PG-13, runs about 116 minutes (minus the 45 minutes of ads, commercials and trailers prior to the film) and also stars… well honestly nobody much you’d recognize. Really this movie is all about Pitt.

Oh Matthew Fox is in it (you know, the dude from LOST?) but if you blink you miss him.

By the way, from here on out there be spoilers, so beware!

seriously kids don't open that door if you don't want them

seriously kids don’t open that door if you don’t want them

THE CLIFF NOTES

The plot revolves around family man and ex-United Nations employee/trouble shooter Gerry Lane (Pitt) as he tries to figure out how to counter or at least slow the zombie plague.

And oh yes, they call them zombies. Not “infected”, not “diseased” – these are zombies. There’s even a nice little moment when the concept of zombies gets scoffed at, but really only by the science geeks “safe” on the flotilla cobbled together from US Navy ships.

As always the grunt on the ground embrace the reality facing them more quickly.

We follow Lane as he and his family flee Philadelphia, fight their way out of Newark (which really didn’t look much different than usual zing!), and meet the flotilla. We then follow Lane solo as he hops around the globe (South Korea, Israel, Cardiff) in the hopes that somewhere lies an answer.

As I said, this is Pitt/Lane’s movie – nearly everyone around him is cannon fodder until the final act – but the writers (and there were many) did a fair job making you give a damn what happens to him.

In the end, Lane notices a pattern amongst those the “zekes” (a nice nod to the book) don’t try to attack and is able to formulate a plan to camouflage the rest of us from the living dead, if only for a while.

IS IT WORTH THE SITTER MONEY?

I think so. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite grave reservations because even from the trailers I knew it wasn’t going to resemble the book at all.

And then Beppo understood what they had told him at Clown College - helicopters and clown car tricks don't mix

And then Beppo understood what they had told him at Clown College – helicopters and clown car tricks don’t mix

By the way, this is absolutely not a horror movie. I can see an argument for it as a thriller or an action movie, but it isn’t a scare flick. It trades on tension, which builds right from the beginning and ebbs and flows throughout the whole movie.

The opening act is about as tense a sequence as I’ve seen in a movie like this in some time and the movie does a good job building and releasing tension throughout. It slows down a little near the end, although given a lot of the final act slow might be a poor choice of words.

World War Z is almost completely bloodless, by the way – for a zombie movie, ridiculously so. For the most part, because it trades in tension, not horror, it works. But there are times it doesn’t, such as when Lane gets his crowbar stuck in a zombie’s head.

As Lane attempts to yank it out, another zombie is heading towards him. Lane sees the guy and keeps yanking at the crowbar.

The problem is, the director and editor clearly cropped the shot so we couldn’t see the crowbar stuck in the head. They didn’t want the younger audience to throw up, I guess, as the brains and gore came out.

Which is fine for about five seconds and then, really, it gets silly and completely ruins the moment. You can’t see what Lane is doing, even in wide shots and reverse angles.

I understand the desire for a wider audience and I get why a studio would want it so bloodless. But then make sure you shoot it in a way where we don’t realize it in such an obvious manner.

On the other hand, the movie is high paced, fun and definitely got the packed house I was in going. While some sniggered at a few points, everyone enjoyed themselves quite a bit.

That’s in large part due to Pitt’s performance. I’m a huge fan of him – he has some tremendous range and a lot of charisma and it’s the force of his personality which really pulls you through the movie. With so many other interchangeable “red shirts” in the flick, he had to be.

Props to the writers too, for some nice touches which sucked you into caring about Lane.

Honey, I think those Justin Bieber fans might be rabid

Honey, I think those Justin Bieber fans might be rabid

The opening act, as I mentioned, is incredibly tense and throughout it you get the sense of how much he cares for his family and they him.

It’s also helped along by the all-too-believable government jerks which often serve as fulcrums to move us towards caring for a main character in movies like this.

The government/military really screws his family. I mean, totally bones them in a cold, hard fashion which I feel was pretty damned realistic. Lane doesn’t want to go on this mission once he makes the flotilla. He’s barely survived and wants to do nothing more than remain with his family – which any dad or mom can imagine being the case.

But the General in charge of the recovery/combat effort very quickly boxes him into a corner: you go on the mission, your family can stay. You decide against going and you and your family are ass out of luck. They’ll get sent to a relocation camp.

Faced the prospect that nowhere is as safe as a floating boat filled with armed soldiers, Lane goes. How could he not?

Then at one point, Lane has disappeared and is believed dead.  What happens? The captain and general toss the Lane’s out anyway.

Which you can believe because the military is all about resources and calculating what to spend them on. Once Lane is believed dead, wasting resources keeping his family on board a crowded aircraft carrier doesn’t make sense.

Still, it plays as cruel to the audience and makes it hard not to care for a character at that point.

Lane is smart too. Early on he gets jumped by a zombie which proceeds to drip blood and goop all over Lane’s face, including in his mouth. How he prepares himself to keep his family safe while he waits to potentially turn into a zombie is smart and almost takes you a second to realize why he’s doing what he’s doing.

Kids, the popcorn line is getting out of control. We may need to skip it.

Kids, the popcorn line is getting out of control. We may need to skip it.

They also do a great job with some of the supporting characters, short lived though they often are.

The army grunts in the South Korea base are marvelous and capture our conception of soldiers having to deal with civvies and outsiders playing catch-up perfectly. The Massad agent Lane hooks up with in Israel is also solid.

Sometimes they aren’t as flushed out – the Israeli soldier who makes it to Cardiff with him could have used more personality – but often the writers did a good job with little time to work with.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a great summer flick and probably above average from your usual fare like Transformers and the upcoming Pacific Rim which tend towards really loud and dumb.

This has some stupid moments (if you need to break into a base which has infected people in it and they are filling the main hallway you need to walk in, why not head to the roof to go over them?) but they aren’t too frequent and frankly they go by so fast you tend to forget them.

Again, if you are going to this hoping to see a film version of the book, don’t.

You will come away, if not angry, really annoyed. There are nods (soldiers calling the zombies “zeke”, the brief debate about whether a bat or axe is a better anti-zombie weapon, the Israeli wall) but that’s about it. I understand the very first draft or two were closer to the book, but I have to wonder if things like The Walking Dead scared them off.

Hopefully someday, somebody will make a miniseries of the book because it deserves that treatment.

And again, if you go looking for the usual horror and gore, you will come away equally unfulfilled.

But if you go looking for a fun action/thriller, you should walk away happy.

SHOULD I BRING THE KIDS?

Sometimes for these reviews I think it will be a very easy decision, but this isn’t. This is truly a matter of what your kid can handle in terms of both tension and visual stimuli (there is enough CGI to choke a CGI horse in this thing).

If at first you don't succeed, pile up more zombies

If at first you don’t succeed, pile up more zombies

As I said, it’s not horror and there is no real gore. The violence isn’t really hard core and aside from some blood when Lane gets hurt, it’s a very “off the screen” flick – a hand gets chopped off, the crowbar gets stuck, people get bit (though it never seems as if the zombies are eating them) but it always happens off camera.

So they won’t be exposed to tremendous blood and entrails, but as I said there is a high amount of tension. The threat of violence can almost be worse for some kids than actual violence. It’s PG13 so you know it’s not too bad, but it might be worth seeing it first.

I have gone back and forth with The Wife about taking the Alpha Tween to this movie. He’s seen Shaun of the Dead which is more gory and was fine with it (she says he had nightmares, he bristles at the accusation). However he recently sat through The Impossible with my wife and the tension really seemed to get to him.

So I don’t know if I would take him at this point. I usually err on the side of “why not” at his age, but given the Wife’s concerns, we’ll probably pass.

For your kids it all depends on how they handle that stress.

There’s little gore and very few scares though, so if that’s your main concern you should be fine.

Overall I enjoyed it and it’s worth a night out.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

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2 Responses to “One Week Late Movie Review – World War Z”


  1. July 1, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Completely agree with your review. Funny how you have time to read the book and not see movies on opening weekends; though I like your priorities.

    • July 1, 2013 at 3:01 am

      Well, I can read the book anytime I want – while the kids are practicing whatever sports they’re into, over breakfast, so on and so forth, but I have to really WANT to make it happen to see something on the screen week one.

      That and I’m inherently lazy when it comes to leaving the house.


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