This week, American actor and writer James Longshore reviews World War Z, the new zombie apocalypse blockbuster starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster.
I’ve watched World War Z 1.75 times so far, having gotten the time wrong for the press screening and arriving late, so, as I would fail my responsibility to you the audience if I reviewed a movie I had not seen from start to end, I went to see it again. I enjoyed it both times. The blend of action and horror story telling techniques and a tight, smart script make this movie a great summer blockbuster in the tradition of Jurassic Park.
First, I want to say that it is the best use of 3-D since Avatar. Like Avatar, it creates a world using 3-D, in which you feel you can just reach right into the air beyond the actors, as opposed to Gatsby (see my review here). I liked the 3-D and felt it made the movie feel more real as in Avatar. The pop out at you Zombie stuff is surprising and fun. The girl next to us at the AFI screening jumped into the arms of my Bianca, who should have been jumping into my arms! The projection was better there than at Glendale Studio because of a brighter back lamp, so see it somewhere with good projection for full effect.
And the movie is intelligent. The film starts with a compelling title sequence, which informs us of how the epidemic has progressed, and manages to make an artistic point about our own ignorance. In the opening scenes, they convey necessary information actively and quickly, a lot in a little time, and things start happening right away! The script knows how to tell us the right information at the right time and accordingly the movie is very well paced. The stakes keep getting raised dynamically. I do suggest you pay attention during the quiet moments to really understand the details. But the movie has believable, inventive obstacles, for a zombie movie, with simple set-ups and simple pay-offs. It is efficient and effective, just as a summer blockbuster should be. And no one tries to be, or is written as, particularly cool, they are just ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It is refreshing.
Director Marc Forster, of Stranger Than Fiction and Quantum Of Solace fame, is a confident director who uses slow creeping horror shots and quick action editing for impact and makes great use of locations, as in an early apartment complex sequence. He also brings the human touch, lingering on characters at the end of important exchanges or scenes to give a sense of conclusion to that story point, and underline the emotion. Brad Pitt is in solid leading man form, as opposed to his more performance acting roles like 12 Monkeys and Burn After Reading. He gets the job done. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler! And his co-stars lend him strong support. The use of sound is clever as well. The squealing and biting of the Zombies recalls the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. I liked the score as well. It reminded me of the Halloween theme a little. It is subtle when warranted, and pumps up when things are happening, bringing you into the energy of the moment.
You may have heard that this was a troubled production. That the ending was rewritten, which is odd being that the movie is based on a book by Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, and the re writes caused USD 40 million in re-shoots. That production had snafus and budget overruns at far flung locations. This has not affected the quality of the picture. When you see the locations they use and think about the logistics involved, of course production had snafus. From a production stand point, the film is quite an achievement. The script is a solid adaptation of the source material, adapted to serve film story telling. Sometimes they have to make adjustments and add elements. For example, Brad Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, does not appear in the book. How is the ending? Not super thrilling, or particularly shocking, a little tidy, but you still get that heroic feeling as Brad struts through the climax. You do wonder if they rewrote other major parts of the film to support that ending. It is an ambiguous ending, for both artistic and sequel reasons, I think. But I am glad to see they pulled it off. This movie is what 2012 and Contagion could have and should have been. There are some unexplained or under developed plot points, like the “12-second” count. It was cool, but I don’t know where it came from. Or a major plot point that I don’t think Brad got angry enough about, and wasn’t really dealt with. Go see the movie and you will know what I mean. Like I said, pay attention. Don’t talk like all the people at Glendale.
I definitely suggest this movie. I hope there will be an epidemic of people going to see it. Meanwhile, an epidemic continues to spread in Bucharest! More theaters. More over my word count. Again, when I went to see the movie the second time at Glendale Studio, they stopped the projection before the credits were over. As those of you who have read my previous reviews know, this is the third time this happened in the last month! So this time we complained. And they couldn’t understand what we were talking about, why we were upset, wouldn’t give us the manager’s number and told us to complain to the police. Seriously! What a lack of respect for films. Oh, and the wrinkling popcorn bags! Whatever, it’s a hipster theater and hipsters don’t respect film-going because they download all their movies. They are the reason Quentin Tarantino doesn’t want to make movies anymore, which is ironic because hipsters worship at the altar of Tarantino. All I’m saying is go see the movie somewhere you can truly get lost in the experience, because what an experience it is! Watch the trailer below.
By James Longshore, guest writer
photo source: official World War Z website