2013-06-22

World War Z – A Zombie Movie I Actually Liked

by Yo Snyder

I’m not really a zombie guy, and to be honest, fail to
understand their enduring popularity. I don’t watch The Walking Dead or read the comic, I’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead or any of the
others, and in general, I just don’t have much desire for anything that even
vaguely falls into the “horror” genre. However, there was something different
about World War Z. Yes, I saw the
book but never had much desire to pick it up and read it, so obviously that had
little to do with my curiosity about the movie. It was more the fact that this
was a big budget, summer blockbuster-type looking movie…with zombies. This was
a movie with Brad Pitt as the star…about zombies. This was a movie that was
about zombies, but even from the trailer, it didn’t seem to be so much about
the zombies; and I was right. World War Z
plays out more like Contagion; it’s a
biological, international thriller where people are racing to figure out what’s
infecting people and how to stop it. It just so happens that this time the
contagion turns people into a type of zombie. That approach gives the film a
different feel, and surprisingly enough, made it one I actually enjoyed.

First a foremost one of the things I don’t particularly care
for when it comes to horror movies is the gore. I’m just not interested in
seeing that. World War Z deftly avoids graphic depictions, but it isn’t any
less tense or horrifying because of it. Plus, the zombies don’t look like
decayed corpses, yet they’re still plenty scary; perhaps more so for their more
regular, human-like look. The other thing I don’t care for in horror movies is
the glorification of the power of supernatural evil. Again, World War Z is more “scientific” when it
comes to zombies; it’s a biological contagion. So those things made the film
more palatable to me. Then, the added thriller aspect also made it enjoyable.
It wasn’t so much about the scares, although there are a few, but the tense
desperate nature of the world’s race to avoid destruction; albeit this time due
to a zombie apocalypse. All of these factors added up to me actually enjoying a
movie with zombies in it.

Brad Pitt is pretty much the reason this film happened, or
why it’s being taken seriously despite all its production troubles, and he
shoulders that burden in fine form. He plays the part of someone who’s dealing
with the unthinkable in a very believable way while at the same time showing a
man who is tough and smart of enough to find his way through a dangerous world
in order to find answers. You believe he’s a caring family man, but you also
believe he’s skilled enough to travel with Navy Seals. It’s not any easy role
to pull off, especially in a movie like this, but he does it, and since a majority
of what we see we see through the eyes of his character, it was important for
him to be relatable. The supporting cast do their parts and do them fine, but
this movie is all about Brad Pitt, and whether it succeeds or fails, it’s
really all on him. I, for one, would say he makes it succeed.

However, it is that “what if this really happened” approach
that makes the film so interesting. For the most part, people react the way you’d
think they would react in such a situation; both in the good you see and the
horrors they unleash on each other. Indeed, it’s the segments that highlight
the survival of humanity and the collapse of society in the midst of this
tragedy that are the best and most interesting parts, and often the most tense;
without a zombie ever being on the screen. However, when the zombies to show
up, their ferocious, almost unthinking manner and their tendency to swarm and
in all manners act much less than human that add the horror to the film.

Unfortunately, things start to feel a little unstable
towards the end. Interesting enough, when Pitt and co. get on board a commercial
airplane is about the time the film starts to feel uncertain; they don’t know
how to land both literally and figurative. The ending worked for me for the
most part, but it seemed a bit simplistic and nebulous. I know they want to do
a sequel, but some sort of solid conclusion or exposition about why what they
do works or how it works or anything other than just “hey, that idea worked”
would have been nice. Do I want to see more stories set in this world the film
created; yes. However, I also would have liked a few more answers for all the
questions that were introduced.

The film attributes everything that takes place to nothing
more than mere evolution and the fact that Mother Nature is actually a “serial
killer”. It’s an interesting idea, but a rather bleak one. However, should one’s
belief in Darwinian evolution be one’s world view, it wouldn’t be much of a
stretch to assume that Nature would eventually select humanity for extinction
and that some form would eventually evolve beyond us, and that wouldn’t necessarily
mean a more benevolent version of humanity. Life is purposeless and random, so
why wouldn’t death and extinction be any different? It’s the right conclusion
to draw from the starting supposition, but it’s still a sad one. I find it
interesting that at no point is there any mention of faith or religion in the
film. If there’s one thing we see in humanity, it’s that no matter how dogged a
person’s belief evolution, whenever tragedy and calamity strikes, there are a
lot more people turning to the God they rejected to find out why, to get
answers and to ask for help. There are no atheists in foxholes; so the saying
goes. I can’t help but wonder if God is left out because only in a world where
God is removed from the picture and evolution and nature are the only laws
could such a zombie apocalypse be deemed possible. In a reality where God does
exist, even if such a thing could happen, I imagine it would have to take shape
in a very different way. Regardless, I do know this; life isn’t meaningless and
purposeless, nor is it a random accident. God created with intent, created you
with intent, and has a purpose and meaning for your life; and that extends far
beyond just mere survival.

World War Z is not
the typical zombie film, and it’s better for that. Just as The Dark Knight isn’t really a superhero movie, more of a great
crime epic that just so happens to have someone who dresses up as a bat in it,
WWZ is more of a biological, action/thriller that just so happens to have
zombies in it. In tone, it almost could be a spin-off or pseudo-sequel of I Am Legend. It’s a tense and
entertaining film that while a bit shaky at the end was far more enjoyable than
I was expecting. It’s a different kind of zombie film, and that was good,
because it ended up by the type of zombie film I turned out to enjoy. Never
would have expected that.

Score: 5 of 7 – World
War Z is rated PG-13, which means a minimum of gore and graphic violence, which
is good, but it’s still tense, disturbing, fairly brutal and at times rather
scary. It’s a zombie film for those who aren’t fans of horror, but it’s still a
zombie film and can be rather creepy. There were kids sitting next to me when I
saw it, but this is definitely not a kids film.