Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Thoughts About World War Z (2013)

Not surprisingly, the attempt to adapt Max Brooks's novel "World War Z" to the script structure all contemporary Hollywood movies have to follow, lest their audience would have to think a second or two a day, is pretty much a failure. In fact, the novel is a book that fits the "one pretty white guy with a father complex saves the world with the same dramatic beats all other mainstream films that came out this year had" particularly badly, seeing as its great strength is its width of different perspectives.

That point is also the big difference between the novel and pretty much all other approaches to the zombie apocalypse, which usually concentrate on a few people huddling up in very limited locations. Turns out that Brad Pitt jetting around the world being rather heroic (though at least lacking the father complex) is no good replacement for that approach, nor is the film's reliance on the same tired old set pieces zombie media of all type have delivered since Saint Romero delivered the gospel, realized by director Marc Forster with competence and in that semi-realist style that never quite gets gritty or real enough to deliver any actual emotional punches. Pitt is after all not actually acting but starring, and every other character (including his family) is only ever there to be visited for a bit or to motivate our protagonist to continue being heroic. Frankly, it's just a painfully boring approach, and a perfect example of what's wrong with scriptwriting in Hollywood right now - and I say that as a guy who does like blockbuster cinema well enough to call Pacific Rim his film of the year.

However, even if I choose to ignore the film being just another zombie movie but with a higher budget and less guts (in every sense of the word), it's just not a very good one. It's not only that the zombies are as lame and generic as the script (by J. Michael Straczynski whose writing career is a series of wasted chances, and Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof who both really can do much, much better yet only do better about half of the time): what World War Z is lacking seems to be conviction, a willingness not to just go to unpleasant places but to stay there, to present the end of the world with actual gravity, or to at least provoke emotions that go beyond lazy shorthand that assumes an audience so programmed to react to certain types of scenes in a certain way and therefore never seems to get around to thinking form and function of its elements through.

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