World War Z was recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray, including RedBox and most digital services like VuDu. Based on the best-selling novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks, the movie version follows Brad Pitt’s character, a United Nations employee tasked with finding the cure to the zombie virus. After making 200 million dollars, the film is very likely going to earn a sequel. It’s clear, after seeing the ending to this film, that more than one film was intended for this story.
And that’s my biggest gripe. No spoilers in this review, but I was left very disappointed in this first installment. It felt rushed and left me with a “that’s it?” feeling.
A friend recently remarked on Facebook that this was the best zombie movie he’d seen, and while I can see that, this review comes from what I look for in a story, especially one with zombies. What I love most about zombie fiction is best illustrated in The Walking Dead. I’ve read the comics a bit past where the TV show has gone, and since they’re similar enough, when I refer to TWD, I’m referring to the AMC TV show.
World War Z spends very little time getting to know Brad Pitt (Gerry) and his family prior to the outbreak. This contributes to the suddenness of the zombie apocalypse, but it also takes away from a crucial bonding time so that we care about him and his family surviving. The film version further minimizes the family’s role by separating Gerry from them and making it more like a Bourne Identity type thriller. Avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say the family aspect did not reach its potential. Maybe it will in future films.
Speaking of future films, I feel like World War Z rushed through, not only the family bonding time, but also the set up of the apocalypse. We get that to great effect in the novel, World War Z, but what that lacked was a central character until Gerry shows up, which is where the film decided to start. My preference is for approaches like TWD, where we have a central character experiencing the apocalypse’s onset, and then fighting for a place to hole up (without government protection and transportation, as Gerry gets). Gerry’s journey, while dangerous and out of control goes too quickly to implement much character development. It feels like falling down a hill with each location nothing more than bump from one rock to the next, until he reaches his final destination, where there’s a little bit of horror, and then the movie’s over.
World War Z’s rewrite of the ending had criticism that if there’s a problem in the third act, the real problem is in the first act. I agree with this statement, but there’s not much we can do about that now. Where the first film has gone leaves me wondering if the Titanic has already hit the iceberg, and now we’re left with watching a huge investment sink. The character development stage has already set sail, and now I see a Resident Evil type of thriller garbage to come. As to my friend’s statement that this is the best zombie movie he’s seen, I’d have to say Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Dawn of the Dead are all easily better, but those are a bit old. We need new movies with zombies that don’t look cheap (or are sappy YA stuff), but also with stories that are more than a race from one place to the next with little character interest. The 28 series (28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later) is not currently planning another installment, so as far as I know, the future of zombie stories on screen lies with The Walking Dead, and the recent announcement of a Walking Dead spin-off series by its creator, Robert Kirkland. The unfortunate part about that is man if that isn’t some terribly depressing content.
While some people may think zombies are dead (pun intended), I’m still looking for an uplifting story that combines my love for post-apocalyptic survival where the characters involved really matter. As of now, Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo, gets my nod to the closest example of what I’m looking for. I reviewed Zombie Fallout’s audiobook version, which has a terrific narrator in Sean Runnette. I also podcast interviewed Mark on AudioTim. The ebook version is only $.99 and I found the audiobook at my library’s website.
What do you think about the World War Z movie and this genre’s future?
I just heard about Honest Trailers. You have to watch this (spoilers):
Former host of the AudioTim podcast, Timothy C. Ward took over Adventures in SciFi Publishing in June. His first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Kaimerus, is described as “Firefly crashes on Avatar and wakes up 28 Days Later.”