[BD Review] ‘World War Z’ A Mindless Popcorn Muncher Jam-Packed With Incredible Set Pieces

I’m pretty sure pigs aren’t flying outside my window, but if you told me Brad Pitt would one day be starring in a $200M+ zombie epic, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, Pitt is the man who championed World War Z, Paramount Pictures’ massive adaptation of Max Brooks’ zombie plague anthology “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.” All throughout filming, the Marc Forster-directed thriller has been warding off their own epidemic: bad press. It’s been so bad that it became difficult to enter the theater with anything but low expectations. Maybe it’s because I was expecting the worst, or maybe it’s because you can throw money at problems, but World War Z turned out to be quite the summer extravaganza.

I haven’t read Brooks’ source material, but I’ve seen enough zombie films that my brain is already turning to mush. Most of them are terrible. The zombie subgenre isn’t easy to tackle, especially considering the lack of an antagonist, the normal concern of budget vs. scope, and the fact that there’s nothing really “new” to deliver. If anything, a zombie filmmaker should be hoping to deliver on entertainment alone, which is where World War Z earns its merits.

Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a United Nations employee who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. His mission? To find the initial source of infection.

Much like every zombie movie before it, World War Z doesn’t really know where it’s going and sort of runs through the motions of what they perceive as “realism.” What it does have going for it is the insanely massive budget, which allows for a plethora of incredible set pieces. And because of the large amounts of money, Forster was able to avoid the biggest plague in zombie films – exposition heavy sequences set in boring, claustrophobic locations. It came as a major surprise that, within the first 20 minutes, World War Z tramples through what all of the events and tropes you’d normally see in an entire independent zombie flick. The epidemic hits like Mike Tyson’s fist to Little Mac’s head, and then explodes into a maddening pace that barely allows your heart to calm down. There’s a moment where Gerry and his family take refuge in a family’s small apartment, and before I could even scoff at the cliché, they were on the roof being evacuated.

World War Z pushes down on the pedal, accelerates and drives at a furious pace, up until a point. A good hour and a half features some of the most intense zombie set pieces and a breathtaking scope that’s never before seen the big screen. There was a moment that I had to stop, look down, and take a big breath; I couldn’t believe how intense and exhilarating it was.

And just like that, it wasn’t anymore…

All of the bad press comes to light in the film’s flaccid third act, most of which takes place in a bland research facility. It becomes apparent that the filmmakers had no idea how to end this movie as they take viewer out of the enormous real-world events and press them inside this claustrophobic building. Everything that was great about World War Z is immediately evacuated as it becomes the most cliché and generic zombie movie ever made. Everything from here on out is a step backwards, leading to a flatline of a finale. My heart had stopped beating; this time I was hanging my head in frustration.

You and me, we’re zombie connoisseurs. We have seen it all. There’s nothing in World War Z that hasn’t already been in a Romero or Fulci film, or 28 Days Later for that matter. What you’re paying for is to experience a massive studio zombie flick, one that, while limitless in size, is forced to hold back on originality and extreme violence for the general public.

It’s really a treat to see Brad Pitt starring in something this risky and, even with the lackluster finale, World War Z still manages to deliver. If anything, horror fans should expect a mindless popcorn muncher jam-packed with incredible set pieces.

Official Score

  • sweetooth

    If you’d read the book I think you’d likely want to adjust your score somewhere around the 2 skull mark. This movie is an insult to every fan of that book.

    Also, PG zombies is just weak sauce.

    • EvanDickson

      @sweetooth PG-13 but fair enough. Alas, I think Mr. Disgusting was grading the movie solely on its own merits, as opposed to comparing it to the book.

      I usually think reviewing a movie while not thinking about source material is best – grade movie for what it is.

      I had fun with the film as well.

      • djblack1313

        Evan, well said. so it’s not like the book. deal with it. people should at least have an open mind and either see the movie in theaters or wait for dvd before automatically writing it off.

        • highly_suspicious

          Having re-read the book (again!) recently, i’m really disappointed they chose to adapt, you know, NONE OF IT, but i also realise that having a tentpole A-list film about a zombie apocalypse (and apparently a decent one) out there is not a bad thing.

          The book will always be there to return to.

        • Josh

          Its not so much of a matter of comparing it to the book so much as being disappointed at the opportunity actually adapting the book offered. Its more of a matter of wondering what the point of even using the title is?

      • Carlos Rivera

        You guys really seem to be missing the point. The complaint is not “the book is better”, the complaint is “this is absolutely nothing like the book”, if this movie had been called “Zombie Pandemic” or something, you wouldn’t have heard a single complaint, but it was called “World War Z” based on a book that is like a post-war documentary, character driven, world-building, and with some truly truly disturbing moments that pale in comparison to anything this movie dished out. There is nothing in this movie that follows the book, so why call it the same as the book stealing the opportunity for someone else to do a more faithful adaptation? I think Sweetooth’s complaint is perfectly valid.

  • sweetooth

    It’s too late now since I read the book. I can’t separate the two, especially when they’re trying to say the movie is based off the book. It sucks too because there were so many scenes in that book that would have been incredible had they used them in the movie, but alas it is not too be.

    They should just change the title to World War B(rad) and then I’d only be judging it by the fact that it’s a weak sauce PG-13 zombie movie and not a smear on that book’s good name.

  • highly_suspicious

    What a shocking development – Lindelof gets hired to re-write the finale and it happens to be the weakest part of the film.

    Many critics have mentioned the same issue.

  • BearAspirin

    I saw this at a sneak peek last week. I’ve also read the book several times. If this had simply been a movie without referencing the source material I think the majority of the horror community would be screaming its praises to the heavens. There are some amazing set pieces (as stated in the review) that are pretty transcendent. The last half does get bogged down by what I thought was a scrambling attempt to tie things up into a neat package and it does sort of just fall flat.

    Give it a try, folks.

  • turtlenipple

    Big fan of the book. I still plan on seeing this opening day. They could always do a sequel and do Brad Pitt touring the world interviewing people after the whole thing, sort of like an anthology. I dunno man.

  • Hicks

    “The biggest plague in zombie film”, as you call it personally make films like the original Day of the Dead the great films they are to me. Granted such an approach is perhaps not so original now but I would still prefer to get to know great characters like Capt.Rhodes or Bub than a swarm of faceless cgi hordes that could be easily replaced by any other disaster in another mega budget apocalypse film.

    • Midnighter

      Exactly. These didn’t feel like zombies. This was I Am Legend 2.0 – Replaceable Threat.

  • Kwonkicker

    I read the book recently. Honestly, it’s a good read but nothing spectacular. I’m seeing the movie this weekend but I already anticipate they will be VASTLY different. But that’s ok as I just want to see a fun zombie film.

  • lord-of-the-flies

    been waiting to see this and get my own take on it after hearning it was going to go PG13 and seeing all the sprinter cluster…. of the undead in the promos i wasn’t expecting to dig it. Just saw and i cant say i hated it was definately a different take on Zombie lore these Zedds had one purpose to infect and take over they weren’t interested in dining out in this one so dont expect alot of gore but almost made up for it with great scenarios,good acting & alot of cool setpieces and the budget showed on screen . Was way better after Pitt left his family those girls were annoying “I want my blankie” in a zombie apocalypse should have thrown her out the car!I found my self getting a Zoner in the end alot of action, pacing was almost nonstop but I guess they are hoping to make bank and make it a trilogy if not that end left alot to be desired after everything that came before it.Please please greenlight a Walking Dead movie that showes how everything went down in Atlanta that would be sweet!!!

    • lord-of-the-flies

      Had time to think about it.It’s about what i expected going in . The good Epic scale , descent acting, lots of action . The bad no gore at all, plotholes, character development, weak abrupt ending. I cant say i hated it but didn’t see the Zombie Epic I wanted maybe when they greenlight a Walking Dead movie prequel hope that happens it can run with an R there’s an audience for it.I grew up on Romero this just doesn’t pass for me but worth catching on matinee for the visuals.

  • St.-Frantic

    I personally thought it was terrible. Never read the book, and didn’t even have high expectations for it.

    The movie was really dark and shaky, and was difficult to tell what was going on during most of the zombie scenes.

    The camera also has to sway away from the action and violence due to the PG-13 rating and ends up being extremely annoying. I have also seen PG movies with more blood that this one, it practically has no blood with the exception of glimpses towards the end.

    The plot was just all over the place, and didn’t explain things well at all.

    I’d give it a 1.5 out of 5. the .5 being for the good special effects, but this is by far the worst zombie movie I’ve ever seen.

    You’re way better off watching The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead or Land of the Dead.

  • Canucklehead

    People need to relax the movie is not trying to be the book, its an adaptation and a mediocre one at that.Saw it today and I totally agree with the review, there were some amazing set pieces and BP was pretty good but it was mindless summertime amusement.

  • ElizaFear

    seeing this movie just made me think damn this could really happen it wasn’t your normal type of zombie movie.. which is what I really liked about it.. the terror in the peoples eyes next to me was pure terror. I just give this movie 3 thumbs up.

  • ElizaFear

    seeing this movie just made me think damn this could really happen it wasn’t your normal type of zombie movie.. which is what I really liked about it.. the terror in the peoples eyes next to me was pure terror. I just give this movie 3 thumbs up. Watching this in 3-D also give it a better feel. I felt the terror that brad pitt went through it was amazing.i was on the edge of my seat.