Okay, I get it — fans of Max Brooks’ best-selling “zombie apocalypse” novel World War Z are pissed off about director Marc (Monster’s Ball, Quantum Of Solace) Forster’s big-budget, big-screen “adaptation” of it because the finished product bears essentially no recognizable similarity to its printed-page predecessor. Heck, some are even going so far as to say that they actually like the film, they just feel that it should be called something else.
On the other hand, it seems that more or less everyone who hasn’t read the book loves the movie.
Much as I’d enjoy picking a side in this, the latest great “genre geek debate,” I honestly can’t, simply because I don’t really fit into either of the “warring” camps, seeing as how I neither read the novel nor loved the film with the kind of awestruck wonder its most fervent partisans seem to be brimming over with.
Oh, sure, it was pleasantly entertaining enough — United Nations bad-ass-for-hire Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt — who, let’s face it, is probably contractually obligated to always play somebody at least a little bit cooler than the Average Joe) races against the clock, and around the globe, to keep his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos of TV’s The Killing) and their kids safe from a massive viral plague that essentially mashes together elements of the scenarios George Romero laid out in both The Crazies and his seminal “Living Dead” flicks, only with a much larger budget that enables the filmmakers to give us a more international perspective on the goings-on. Governments are strained to breaking point and/or collapse entirely, WHO and the world’s various military forces struggle to get a handle on things, no area is left unaffected, no one is safe —you get the picture.
The script went through four sets of hands — Babylon 5 creator and frequent comics scribe J. Michael Straczynski gave way to former Lost head honcho and occasional comics scribe Damon Lindelof who in turn gave way to Drew Goddard who in turn gave way to Matthew Michael Carnahan — and, as you can imagine, is something of a mess as a result. Fortunately, it never slows down long enough for you to fully realize that fact, and instead keeps you on the edge of your seat with its PG-13-level action and semi-violence (notice I don’t say anything about gore — sorry, die-hard zombie-holics) from the time it clocks in to the time it knocks off and heads for the bar around the corner.
The end result is something of a hustle — it’ll slowly dawn on you as you make your way home from the theater that what you just saw really wasn’t anything too special, but what the hell — you were too busy having fun to notice.
And that was probably the whole point, really. I don’t think Forster and his literal army of screenwriters set out to reinvent the wheel here or overturn the sacred “Romero Rules” permanently. They were just the guys brought in to make something of a damn popular book that Paramount bid a fortune to obtain the rights to and if, at the end of the day, all that survived of World War Z as most folks knew it was the title, well — that’s pretty much all they were paying for, anyway. Beyond that the only edicts from the studio “suits” were probably to land a huge star, load up on the CGI, and deliver a product that the average summertime movie-goer would find to be a reasonable enough investment of ten bucks and (roughly) two hours.
Judging it on that scorecard, you’d have to say they can all pat themselves on the back, say “mission accomplished,” and go home. Those hoping for a movie that would revolutionize the genre on celluloid the same way the book did in print are bound to be left feeling a bit disappointed, as is anyone who bothers to actually think about what they’re seeing while they’re seeing it, but for anyone and everyone else, hey — it’s a decent enough little thrill ride. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and please don’t struggle against your inner 12-year-old.
Now, as to the other raging debate splitting the internet about whether or not this is actually a horror movie or just a “thriller” with some genre trappings —
Forget it. I’m sooooo not going there. One nerd-controversy per review is my limit.