World War Z: The Death Rattle For Zombie Movies?



World War Z

Brad Pitt looks terrified, his face a frozen mask of horror and disbelief as the slavering horde bears down on him, each oncoming face a shrieking mask of hatred, hell-bent on tearing him limb from limb.

Yeah, that’s right. The trailer for World War Z is out and man, are the fans unhappy.

Based on Max Brooks’ award-winning novel, “World War Z” has arrived one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind the zombie high-water mark, but that’s not whats generating such negative buzz.

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At it’s heart, the book was a complex political satire masquerading as a zombie story, and dealt with everything from post-apartheid tensions in South Africa to the impotence of psychological warfare against an essentially mindless enemy.

It examined how the modern world would realistically cope with a plague of the undead, from huckster alternative medicine advocates selling do-nothing “cures” in the first world to tensions between India and Pakistan boiling over into full-blown nuclear war in the face of the apocalypse.

The movie appears to have jettisoned politics and social commentary in favour of an estimated four thousand per cent more helicopter crashes.

The zombies themselves are a perfect metaphor for what appears to have gone wrong with the film. The book dealt with the classic, stumbling corpses, who would demolish their human opposition through weight of numbers and near-indestructibility. In a memorable scene, the U.S. Army is powerless to stem the lurching flow of zombies as their modern weapons – designed to cause grievous, widespread injuries and inspire “shock and awe” – do nothing to an enemy that doesn’t feel pain and can only be stopped with a direct head shot.

The zombies in the new movie, meanwhile, are probably the silliest incarnation of the walking dead yet put to film. Sprinting along and jumping impossible distances like the monsters in Will Smith’s equally poorly adapted “I Am Legend,” they show up on screen as little more than a CGI blur, forming impossibly human ant-hills and causing suspiciously PG-13 havoc. The creeping, slow-burn threat of the book has been replaced with flashy, empty cartoon characters, which may be the only time this film succeeds at having a deeper meaning. When your only successful analogy is for your own shortcomings, it has to be a worry.

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Filling in for the book’s un-named and unseen protagonist (WWZ takes place as a series of interviews with the survivors of the zombie war), Brad Pitt plays a journalist who, for some reason, is the only man who can stop the apocalypse. Or at least the most photogenic man who can stop the apocalypse. Either way, Pitt – looking good for his 49 years, but still being 49 years old – spends a lot of his time out-running much younger, super-fast zombies for the sake of plot convenience. He also has some epically twee moments with his wife and young kids, promising that he’ll come back home to them and all the usual guff.

When production on World War Z resumed this year for an eye-watering 7 weeks of re-shoots, most people predicted that the film was going to be, at best, a mediocre genre piece salvaged from what must have been an absolute train-wreck of a first cut.

The real tragedy, however, is that a decent adaptation of the book could have been spectacular, and given a new slant to a genre that has, ironically, been groaning along far past the point of its own expiry date.

Check out the trailer for yourselves below:

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