I’ll be honest, since I first started seeing trailers for World War Z, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see it – mainly because I really enjoyed the book and could see it was going to be nothing like it. In many ways, I think the biggest problem that the film faces is comparisons to the book, but having now seen it, I can say it seems like World War Z was inspired by the book, but is not an adaptation of it. In all honesty, there are more nods and references to The Zombie Survival Guide – if they’d thrown in some Zombieland style rules, they could have almost changed the title and gotten away with it. Of course the internet is aflame with condemnation but I don’t know how many of the people slagging it off have actually seen it.
Well I have, and I’m actually both surprised and relieved to say I really enjoyed it. I think popular culture has been groaning under the weight of the zombie-related bandwagon jumpers of late, and I think it was always going to be difficult to add yet another zombie film to the pile – particularly one starring Brad Pitt. Well I think Pitt has a broader range than he’s normally given credit for, and here he plays a former UN investigator, Gerry, who’s sent off to find the elusive Patient Zero in the hopes of creating a vaccine against the zombie virus.
It’s not easy for him. When we first meet Gerry, he’s trying to get his family out of Philadelphia (well, Glasgow masquerading as Philadelphia) and later he’s stuck in a Newark apartment building with zombies snapping at his heels. He’s sent off to South Korea, and then Israel, before ending up in Wales. Bit of a globe-trotter, our Gerry. But what I like about him as a protagonist is that a) he’s not stupid, and he even goes so far as to duct tape thick glossy magazines to his limbs as impromptu body armour and b) he notices things. You’d hope that an investigator would do that, but Gerry not only notices salient details among the carnage, he actually comes up with theories that are completely plausible. He doesn’t need to be told things, he works it out for himself – in essence, he becomes a proxy for the audience who are by now so well versed in zombie lore that they don’t need things to be spelled out.
For a zombie film, World War Z is surprisingly bloodless. If you want lingering close-ups of bloodied mouths and corpses being ripped apart then you’re better off with Zac Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Instead, World War Z derives its horror from the sheer spectacle of that many zombies in one place. They don’t run so much as they swarm, turning the traditional faceless mass into a wave that sweeps through any space. Imagine a plague of locusts stripping a space bare and you’ll get the idea. Despite the lesser amount of gore, it’s still a visceral film, and even contains moments of actual suspense. It also has a clever use of sound, riffing on the sections in The Zombie Survival Guide that counsel weapons like crowbars over guns as noise will simply attract more zombies. The quiet sections just serve to highlight how loud our world normally is.
I know there will still be a lot of people online bleating that “it’s nothing like the book”, and I’ve even seen a comparison to 28 Weeks Later (which is ridiculous as 28 Weeks Later was appalling) but all I can say is if you’ve read the book, try to go into it without expecting it to be the same. If it makes it easier, consider it as a film that just has the same name as the book – and try to spot the Zombie Survival Guide references instead!
4.5 out of 5!