Thursday, June 20, 2013

World War Z ~ A Two Hour Adventure Tale

World War Z Banner - 2 | A Constantly Racing Mind

If you are looking for Max Brooks's story in the film version of Brad Pitt and Marc Forster's "World War Z," you will be genuinely disappointed.  However, if you are into blockbuster action flicks, then “World War Z” is the film for you.  Produced by Pitt's Plan B production company and directed by Marc Forster.  whose films include, but not limited to "Finding Neverland," the Halle Berry -- Billy Bob Thornton character study "Monster's Ball," "The Kite Runner," the so-so Bond film "Quantum of Solace." and a look into the violence of Central Africa with "Machine Gun Preacher," starring Gerard Butler in the title role.  

Unlike the book, this film is told in a traditional narrative, several writers have worked on the script for "World War Z.”  J. Michael Straczynski, writer of the TV Series "Babylon 5," "Thor," and “Underworld: Awakening” took first shot at it and did the initial work of turning this book about many first-hand accounts of a historical event into a mostly single narrative.  Matthew Michael Carnahan whose films like "The Kingdom," "Lions for Lambs," and "State of Play" have political undertones to them took over the script next.  Drew Goddard ("The Cabin in the Woods,") Was brought in for a rewrite, and "Lost" alumnus Damon Lindelof came in for some refining of the script.  It's all very messy and contributed to a release date that just kept being rescheduled.  With all these rewrites, what emerges in an intense action flick suited exactly for Brad Pitt.  Pitt plays the character Gerry Lane, who is a former United Nations employee who is experienced in being in dangerous places, is sent to find the source of a plague that is infecting the world.  "World War Z" is just under two hours and is rated PG-13

World War Z Poster- 1 | A Constantly Racing MindIn the cliched storyline of the retired expert called back into service because apparently, he is the only one who can save the day, Lane gets this high action Zombie on steroid picture moving.  Setting the scene of daddy at home with the wife and kids, Forster sets up the stage quickly and moves on.  Gerry's wife played by "The Killing's" Mireille Enos and is just a mere set piece in this whirlwind tour around the world, searching for the elusive patient zero.  The children Connie (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) is added to the mix to give our hero Gerry a reason to complete his quest.  

Shortly after breakfast, the family takes a jaunt into the city, where trapped in traffic, panic, and pandemonium broke out, leaving the family seeking medicine, supplies, and refuge for most of the first act.  Some initial clues to the Zombie outbreak are given, and as we see most of the film from Gerry's perspective, we too can share in these clues.  11 seconds from bite to infection, however, not everybody is infected, and not everybody knows the first rule of the Zombie Apocalypse, "cardio!"  

The film moves quickly, to the point where once he and his family are safely onboard a US warship 200 miles off the coast of New York.  With reports of cities across the world "going dark," the United States government in shambles. Gerry asks his old boss, the U.N. Secretary-General, and the man who requested his help, Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) “Is anyone doing better than we are?”  At this point, Gerry is given the choice of escorting a virus expert to South Korea, or he and his family get off the boat and take their chance in a refugee camp.  Easy choice, huh?  So, Gerry and Harvard Professor and viral expert, Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) embark on a cargo transport plane and is off to save the world. 

Brooks’s novel of the same title was inspired by Pulitzer Prize winner, Studs Terkel's 1984 book “The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two,”  Instead of gathering the memories of the soldiers, doctors, drug traffickers, and other miscellaneous survivors, Forster's version of this Zombie story, I say a version, and not an adaptation, as this is nothing like the book, and abandons the themes that made the book compelling, and intellectually engaging is just pure action.  What is left is a film on the same level as the "Resident Evil" franchise.  Gone is the social and political commentary that ran as the undercurrent throughout the novel.  The multitude of screenwriters eliminated the concept that the book cultivates, which is humanity surviving in the times of plague, in exchange for the sake of action.  Now, don't get me wrong, if you like action, incredible scenes of Zekes (zombies) sprinting off the tops of roofs, or bringing down a Black Hawk helicopter, or even the excellent view of the Zombie Ladder into the walled city of Jerusalem, then  "World War Z" is for you.

The hardest part for me was the third act, as the film begins to draw to a close. The pace slows down, and some of Gerry's observations are bandies about at a World Health Organization (WHO) center in Whales.  At this point, Forster replaces action with suspense and a little bit of humor to keep the story moving.  The conclusion seems a bit contrived to end this film on a somewhat positive note.  The thought of a Zombie pandemic should bring a certain amount of fear and dread, which leads to another question, in this day and age, why would you want to make a horror film and have it rated only PG-13?  Although the film is violent, it is not bloody, nor does it strike fear in the heart of the audience.  The issue with Zombie films of this nature, the question becomes, is, what is motivating these creatures to go on a rampage?  Is it to infect others?  Does the virus cause a hive mentality?  If they are dead, why would they need to consume flesh?  It is best not to think about these things too much if you wish to enjoy "World War Z."

World War Z Panic and Pandemonium| A Constantly Racing Mind

As far as production values, although the dialog was somewhat thin, I think that Pitt was convincing, as is his one-handed Israeli sidekick Segen, played by the shaven head, Daniella Kertesz.  The other Lane family members acted like a young family should, whiney and useless.  The story really has not much for them to do, but be Gerry's goal and a reason to do his job and return.  The special effects were more than adequate and at times, impressive.  Musically, Marco Beltrami's score is effective, with the heavy brass and the somber tones heard throughout the film.  Beltrami is, to some degree, a horror veteran.  With ratings for "Warm Bodies,”  "The Woman in Black," and 2011's "The Thing," under his belt, I can honestly say, his score set the mood.

What we have here is an entertaining film, but not as epic and apocalyptic as the title proclaims.  I think a good comparison would be trying to tell the story of World War II as a straight narrative, in the space of two hours.  “World War Z” has a lot of action, no time for blood, no time for the human interest story, and definitely no time for character development.  "World War Z" is not much more of an action film that is in the same vein of what the "Resident Evil,” and "Underworld" franchises have devolved into, mindless action, thin plot, and a beautiful hero.

"World War Z" is in U.S. theaters now, starting on June 21, 2013 


Movie Data

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Year: 2013
Starring: Brad Pitt, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Mireille Enos
Director: Marc Forster
Producer(s): Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt
Writer(s): J. Michael Straczynski,  Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, Max Brooks
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: 6/21/2013

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