Monday, July 29, 2013

World War Z (2013)

Once again, it's been a while. I'm bad, I know. I was actually going to release this review the day after World War Z came out, but I just never got around to finishing it. I'm not sure if it's even playing in cinemas anymore.

Whether you've read the book this was based on will strongly affect your reaction to this film. It could be argued that that's a bad thing and that this should be examined as stand-alone from the book. That's a completely legitimate argument, but I'm afraid I disagree.

The reason your experience will be different depending on whether you've read WWZ or not is that this film is most interesting when viewed as a demonstration of an alternative method of adapting texts from other media. The book was a selection of short stories detailing various events throughout the Zombie apocalypse that served as an educational piece of journalism for survivors. To provide a frame for the stories, they were all obtained by the protagonist who went around the world to interview survivors. This is why many people were against this being made into a film. It seemed like such a perfect property to base an episodic TV series on. However, the approach they took is one that I haven't ever seen before and it left me pleasantly surprised.

The film follows Brad Pitt, who had an extremely vague yet important job in the UN but quit to spend more time with his family. As the zombie apocalypse begins, He (along with his family) is evacuated onto a carrier by the government after agreeing to return to his former position in the UN. He is tasked with escorting a neurologist around the world to find a cure for the zombie virus. This basically sets up an around-the-world tour of the zombie apocalypse.

The film becomes an adaptation of the book by segmenting itself into several very distinct sections, and these effectively serve as a collection of scenarios that are stitched together by the overarching “cure the zombie virus and get back to your family” story. The segments are divided by everything from tone to colour palette to location to genre. An early scenario in a military base is set in the dead of night during heavy rainfall. The atmosphere is comparatively darker than the rest of the film, and the genre leans towards action horror, while much of the rest of the film is more of an action movie. Each scenario attempts to tell a unique zombie story, much like the short stories in the book do. The difference is that they’re connected seamlessly by the overarching narrative.

Anyone that’s read WWZ or The Zombie Survival Guide will know that the books are filled with inventive, logical and intelligent ideas that would truly be useful in a real zombie apocalypse. The film also sprinkles several of these ideas in, most notably the use of magazines wrapped around survivors’ arms to shield zombie bites. However, it also tends to dismiss the heavy realism of the books for more Hollywood-style action on a number of occasions, which is somewhat unfortunate.

The pacing was also something quite refreshing. So many Hollywood action movies tend to build up to these massive 30 minute fight scenes, but WWZ concluded with a far more slow-paced, thrilling sequence. Although the final scene was executed far less effectively than it could have been, and it almost felt as if there was a short scene missing that would have made it feel less abrupt.

The way the zombies were depicted here was also quite fresh. They displayed a very swarmy hive-mind mentality, as you may have seen from the shot in the trailer showing hundreds of them climbing on top of each other to scale a wall. I've never seen zombies behave like this before, and it made for some magnificent scenes of absolute panic, as you could hardly tell the difference between zombie and panicking survivor. However, when on their own, the zombies behaved in a very unnatural manner that can only be described as slightly insect-like, and I wasn't so much a fan of this.

The movie was also famously plagues by reshoots, rewrites and other such Hollywood problems. Surprisingly, the film accomplished hiding all this very well, and it was never evident that the production was completely disastrous. The bonus features might be interesting to watch upon its home release.

Due to its creative method of spiritual adaptation, what you’ll get from this movie will differ largely depending on whether you've read the book. If you have, I think you’ll find yourself appreciating a fascinating adaptation. If you haven’t, you’ll likely still enjoy it for being a decent zombie adventure film, but you’ll ultimately find it good if a little forgettable.

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