Knew nothing about this book. I really don’t read (though my new girlfriend is certainly trying to get me to. I’m currently reading THE INVISIBLE MAN). I have heard from many that the novel is virtually unfilmable. So I will say this to fans of the book. If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation, don’t look here. Just take this as a stand alone movie, apart from the novel. But, I do like movies about zombies. I still haven’t watched THE WALKING DEAD, but I’ve heard that I need to. I was looking forward to this one. Some haters have been flat-out rejecting it without even seeing it, saying that their pissed off that the movie is rated PG-13. You know what? A movie doesn’t have to be Rated R to be awesome! That DOESN’T make it a good movie. I definitely wasn’t walking into this movie with that frame of mind.
Brad Pitt Vs. Zombies! There’s your plot! Actually, I guess there is a little more to it than that. Pitt plays Gerry, a family man who has retired from his position at the United Nations as an investigator. It seems like a normal day as Gerry and his family are stuck in traffic, but then there are lots of sirens and then a big explosion happens. Before you know it, people are getting hit by out of control cars and people seem to be biting one another. It’s a zombie epidemic. After a few intense sequences, Gerry gets his family to safety. They hook up with an old friend from the U.N. on board a navy ship in the ocean. It appears that zombies have taken over many cities across the globe. Since Gerry was one of the best investigators in the world, his friend asks him to try to find a possible cure for the zombie outbreak, which means finding the source of the problem. Gerry leaves his family and the search for a cure begins, taking him to places like Korea, Jerusalem and India.
The best thing about this movie is the pace. It’s pretty fucking relentless. It really wastes no time. Within the first 10 minutes zombies are running around Philadelphia. There’s some great moments during this. The chaos that is captured here is frightening, with people getting run over, people running all over the place and zombies biting everyone. It’s one of the most effective sequences in the movie. Part of the reason why this opening works so well is because in the scene before this zombie attack, Gerry and his family are having a typical breakfast. Even though it’s a brief sequence, it very effectively establishes how close the family is, and when bad things start happening, you genuinely care and fear for them. That’s very important.
Finally, things slow down when they get to the ship, just so we can get some information as to what is happening. Then we get right back into it as Gerry goes back in the field searching for the cure. After that, we get some more set pieces. There’s a zombie raid on an army base in Korea, a horde of zombies climbing over a wall in Jerusalem, and a “zombies on a plane” sequence that’s just fucking nuts. Then the movie slows down again for some more info. The finale is more low-key than what has come before, but that’s okay. It takes place at a research facility and a bunch of zombies are roaming around the corridors as Gerry is trying to find a cure. It’s more claustrophobic than the rest of the film, which potentially could be scarier.
The zombies in this are the fast kind. No slow ass zombies here. I know some people have a problem with quick zombies, but not me. I think it makes them all the more scary. I mean, they can outrun me AND eat me? Yikes! And if you get bit by a zombie, there’s no slow transformation here. 12 seconds…. then you’re part of the undead. Zombies in this one don’t eat brains or guts. They just bite you so that you’re infected, and then move on to the next victim. Also, if you’ve seen most of the trailers then you know that they move differently too. They swarm together like an army of ants. It’s heavy on the CGI, but it still looks kind of neat. I also thought it was cool how the zombies had animal instincts. How they smelt, and would even make noises like animals. People in the audience were laughing at some of this, but I thought it was kind of neat. So yeah, these zombies are different from what we have seen before.
So, the movie sounds pretty cool, right? Well…. it’s so close to being awesome. What’s the thing keeping it from being a good movie? I hate to say it. In my first paragraph, I bash people who won’t see this movie because it’s PG-13….. Gosh, I hate to be that guy….. but that’s why this movie doesn’t quite work. The PG-13 movie is definitely a crutch here. Now, you don’t need to have a movie R rated to be good. I have liked plenty of PG13 action and horror films. But when a film by its very nature is destined to R, like WORLD WAR Z, then the PG13 hurts it. The premise has a lot of balls, unfortunately the filmmakers had none when planning this production. Seriously, what the fuck were they thinking? Now, I don’t believe this needed to be a bloody, gorefest. But there needed to be some blood. Zombies are taken out with tons of gunfire that produce absolutely no blood. Are they shooting them in the head? I don’t know. You can’t really tell. They just fall down after someone fires a gun. Also, when the zombies bite people, the camera is placed in a way that the bite happens off camera. When staging is that obvious, it become a distracting problem. That’s showing me that the producers are REALLY forcing the movie to be PG13. That’s what I mean by a film’s nature. If it’s in its nature to be R, then you probably shouldn’t have something blocking the violence. It really stands out and takes you out of the movie.
A very good example why the PG13 rating hurts the movie: There’s a scene when Gerry is attacked by a zombie. He takes a crowbar and swings at him. You hear a crunching sound effect, and then a thud. You don’t see him hit the zombie, just a close-up of Gerry’s face. Then, another zombie is coming from the other end of the corridor. Gerry is pulling on something but it is stuck. We don’t see what it’s stuck in because it’s PG13. The camera keeps cutting back and forth between the running zombie and Gerry trying to pull his crowbar out of something. That something was the zombie’s head that he just killed, but you don’t really get a good sense of that at first because the movie is PG13 and showing that would give it an R rating. That was so distracting that it took me right out of the movie. Imagine if that sequence was in an R Rated movie. It would’ve been much more effective. What should have been one of the most intense sequences of the film, ends up being “just okay”. To me, that’s not the producers making the best movie they can, but trying to water down a movie so they can put more asses in seats so they can make more money. Now, that’s a true crime against art.
That’s unfortunate because the movie is full of good performances. Pitt is a terrific leading actor and he doesn’t disappoint here. It’s not the most showy role he’s ever done, but he makes Gerry incredibly likable and is convincing during the film’s many action sequences. Mireille Enos is strong and compassionate as Gerry’s loving wife. David Morse has a nice little moment as a soldier who has gone crazy since the outbreak. He looks like he’s having a ball hamming it up. James Badge Dale has some amusing moments as a wisecracking soldier. But the standout for me was Daniella Kertesz as Segen, a soldier whose arm Gerry has to cut off to prevent her from becoming a zombie. That’s another scene that feels watered down, since you don’t seen any limbs (or any blood for that matter). But that still doesn’t change the fact that Kertesz does an outstanding job. I really liked her character. She really proves her bravery as she journeys along with Gerry.
This was directed by Marc Forster. I like most of his stuff. I really enjoyed MONSTER’S BALL, STRANGER THAN FICTION, THE KITE RUNNER and even QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The direction isn’t bad here. Most of the action is handled well. There’s some great moments during the Zombies on a plane sequence. In fact, most of everything is well staged and most likely would have been more effective if this wasn’t watered down. The script is pretty good. Now, like I said before, I have not read the book so I can’t compare the two. But as a stand alone movie, the story is decent. It moves really fast and is never boring. Marco Beltrami’s score is effectively creepy. But I must add that the 3D didn’t look that great and even made one “boo moment” really fake looking.
I wish I could fully recommend this, but I can’t. It’s so close to being a good movie, but because the producers are being greedy douchebags that want money from teenagers, they forced a neutered PG13 version down our throats. And that’s fucking lame. However, having said that, I do think that this would be a good zombie starter film for older kids (10-15) who have never seen anything from this sub-genre before. I think they’ll really like it. It’s not too gory for them, so they won’t get grossed out. And apart from a few “boo” moments, it’s really not that scary. My 9-year-old will most likely love it. Also, my girlfriend, who read the book, enjoyed the movie for what it was (and it was also fun watching her jump during scary moments. She’s so cute and jumpy). Unfortunately, I have seen too many movies. And because of that, I know that this could have been so much more effective if this would have been R. Having the violence a bit more graphic in this movie would’ve definitely brought a greater sense of danger to the proceedings.
It’s well acted, has some good direction, and a frightening premise. But the movie doesn’t work because it feels like you’re watching a really good R-rated film “edited for television”. I don’t want to be that shallow and say I didn’t like it because it wasn’t violent enough, but that’s actually the truth in this case. As much as I wanted to optimistic about this film, I couldn’t get past the PG13 rating. It just doesn’t work. And that’s too bad, because this could have been a great movie if it had the balls to go all the way. Instead, it’s just a watered down version of what it could have been. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.
– Running time: 1hr 55min.