3D Resin Vintage Art Fridge Magnet Sculpture Souvenir Travel Refrigerator Gift

World War Z Would Have Been Better if It Weren’t a Zombie Movie

Saturday, June 22, 2013
BY ANGELA WATERCUTTER

For all of the delays, rewrites, and reshoots that plagued World War Z, it turned out to be a solid summer action flick. The irony, though, is the thing that might be its most festering infection is the plague itself.

World War Z would be better if it weren’t a zombie movie.

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be legions of infected undead swarming all over the place, because those things actually are pretty awesome. But when something markets itself as a “zombie movie,” it inevitably takes on certain baggage. Zombies — and the movies, TV shows, and comics about them — have a rich history and certain tropes that demand to be acknowledged. If they’re not, it’s hard to get past the cognitive dissonance created by a movie, no matter how enjoyable it might be, that isn’t what it’s billed as. It’s as if a scrawny, insecure Thor appeared in an Avengers flick. It might be an interesting story or character study, but that dude wouldn’t be a truly Asgardian superhero.

Similarly, if you’re a fan of gory zombie action and you’re going to this PG-13 flick looking for your bloody fix of gore, you might leave wanting.

Of course, changing up the zombie game is exactly what director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) and his fellow filmmakers set out to do. During a recent screening of World War Z in San Francisco, the movie’s star and producer Brad Pitt introduced the film by saying, “If you think you’re just about to see another zombie film, you’re in for a bit of a shock. … This thing is big, it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.”

He’s right.

(Spoiler alert: Minor plot points for World War Z in the text below.)

The movie, a fast-paced race by one man to stop a total zombie apocalypse, isn’t like a lot of zombie fare, which tends to focus on a small group of people fighting the undead in rural (or at least abandoned) surroundings.

Before we go any further, though, a quick primer: World War Z — loosely based on the book by Max (son of Mel) Brooks — is an enjoyable action movie in which former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane, played by Pitt, finds himself, his wife and two young daughters in the midst of a worldwide undead epidemic. The family escapes with help from Lane’s U.N. connections, but by calling in that favor he is asked to trace the source of the disease and stop it. He goes from South Korea, scene of one of the first reported cases, to Jerusalem, which has built a wall to keep the undead out, and ultimately to a World Health Organization facility.

His journey is a nail-biter. (We have the cuticles to prove it.) And in addition to being suspenseful, the flick drives home the personal and global reactions such an outbreak would bring. In a key moment, Lane believes he may have been infected and stands on the roof of a towering apartment building prepared to jump, knowing he’s better off dead than a threat to his family. That’s as real as it gets. Also telling are the geopolitical reactions and their ties to real-world politics. North Korea, for example, staves off an invasion of the undead by removing everyone’s teeth so they can’t bite. Such undertones make World War Z as intelligent as it is shocking.

That said, it could use a little more feeling and character development, but, hey, you can only tell so much story in a couple hours.

But considering the tweaking done to zombie lore, it could’ve just as easily been about another kind of outbreak and been just as poignant. And maybe it should have. As Annalee Newitz at io9 notes, “Maybe the problem with World War Z is that zombie movies require a certain amount of weirdness or subversiveness to succeed. Turning a zombie pandemic into a generic disaster movie robs the zombies of their dirty, nasty edginess and robs the disaster of its epic scope.”

Bingo. But what if World War Z didn’t call itself a zombie movie?

The biggest difference in its zombie mythology is the fact that World War Z‘s zombies run, and fast. They also swarm in huge packs. Although this is on-trend right now (see also: 28 Days Later, I Am Legend), having fast zombies in a film largely devoid of other zombie tropes just puts things even further off message. There are detailed and widely accepted reasons why zombies are slow – that whole rotting bodies thing, for one, and the fact that re-animated corpses would not have high-functioning motor skills. This, of course, was expertly chronicled in in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead when Sheriff McClelland, asked by a reporter if the undead are moving slow, replied, “Yeah, they’re dead.”

World War Z offers a fair explanation for its swift zombies: the running dead are in the first phase of the outbreak and haven’t had as much time to decompose as, say, they walkers in the barn in The Walking Dead. They’ve still got a bit of their human facilities and all they want is to bite again. “If you got bitten right now you’re still healthy, so you could run,” the movie’s visual effect supervisor Scott Farrar explained to Wired. “So this idea of just stumbling around didn’t make any sense.”

OK, we’ll buy that. But there’s the question of why these zombies work in teams, unlike the zombies of yore that mostly bumped into each other in a single-minded quest for braaaaains. It begs the question, “Are these things smart?” No, says, neuroscientist and Zombie Research Society adviser Bradley Voytek. He told us awhile ago that the zombies are “simply exhibiting emergent behaviors like what we see with ants.” Still, the zombies in World War Z don’t behave much like their forbears.

Zippy zombies wouldn’t be problematic in and of itself, but it is the most obvious of the many deviations the film has made from the book. Worse, Brooks also wrote Zombie Survival Guide, which states most zombies “move at a rate of barely one step per 1.5 seconds” and provided the “laws” for Z. World War Z, a bestseller beloved by fans, is an oral history of how what’s left of Earth’s population survived the zombie invasion. While certain themes from the book, like how political and class issues play into the apocalypse and how zombie-ism is diagnosed, are evident in the film, it’s largely divergent from its source material. And that’s something that’s not going to sit well with Brooks’ hardcore fans.

Which brings us back to the point: This shouldn’t be a zombie movie. Not that it doesn’t work as a zombie movie — ignore past precedent and it largely does — but it could avoid having to live up to an entire canon of zombie history if it wasn’t.

In the intro to his book Brooks writes, “zombie remains a loaded word, a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions.” In context, he’s talking about the use of the world in a post-apocalyptic sense — saying “zombie” reminds people of the Dark Years. But it remains a loaded word in pop culture too. It reminds people of Romero and gruesome horror films, both of which are not part of World War Z but have a place in the hearts of fans of the genre. Not that other films haven’t broken from tradition to success. Zombieland had fairly fast-moving critters and Warm Bodies turned at least one walker into Romeo and then found him “cured” by love, but those were comedies and thus didn’t take themselves too seriously. Making a big action flick with Brad Pitt at the helm and calling it World War Z promises, intentionally or not, some points on which the film does not deliver. That will leave people disappointed.

Had the movie been a tale about a pandemic, it would be a perfect summer popcorn flick. All of the elements are there: A fast-spreading contagion that threatens the world’s entire population, masses of sick people threaten to infect the rest of us, politicians bickering over what to do, a Good Samaritan with great hair who can think on his feet, and a group of scientists racing to save the world. If it was called World War Really Bad Hydrophobia (or something like that), it would still be great nail-biting entertainment and nobody would have an issue with it. Of course, this is somewhat ironic since the film is getting kudos for not being afraid to actually use the word “zombie” and buck against the “genre blindness” of a lot of similar flicks. But we digress.

source: read more at http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/06/world-war-z-review-zombies/2/
My Facebook
My Google+
Contact me