Monday, June 24, 2013

A Review: World War Z

"If you can fight. Fight. Help each other. Be prepared for anything."
                                                                                                                                --Gerry Lane

There is a brilliantly executed scene where Gerry (Pitt), on the run, picks up his daughter's plush toy in the streets of Philly. (Not the Springsteen song)

The toy also speaks with an adorable and haunting voice. And as Gerry and his family run to safety, the toy begins--in unison and by coincidence--to count up from the number one aloud as a pedestrian recently bitten begins to transform. Gerry watches from a safe distance as the man bitten changes from human to undead in twelve seconds flat. He mentally logs the time-stamp and can't shake the horror of watching the man rise hungry, charged with menace and, yes, not exactly dead or alive.

But sadly, this film is a shadowy reflection of it's former self. With grander aspirations of what it set out to do. Having followed the production since the scripting and greenlight stages, this is the not the same product, and the ingredients have changed. A ghost of it's former self.

There is brilliance here to be had, in some tight flashes and flicks and even in one tiny wave. But none like the original concept the original script by achieved J. Michael Straczynski and heavily praised by Max Brooks, the author) or, much like the book itself. Things like, "Jason Bourne meets All The Presidents Men" were tossed around. Really? I heard things back then like, "Leaked script read, is this the zombie film that makes it into the Best Picture category?" Woe. . . And these were from sources of credibility.

This has fallen from that grace. But not completely hit the rock bottom. Settling somewhere in the between world of an ending that not exactly satisfies but makes enough sense I bought it for the purposes of the story.

Evidently the $75 million or so dollars used to expand from $125 to $200 million dollars in film expenditure on the rewrote and reshot third was well spent--the third act was saved from mindless violence and action beats. Scrapping the 17 day Budapest shoot for something, smaller. Good.

I was damned excited for this, and when I recall certain, "Zombie Dark Thirty" scenes inside this, I still am. Almost rolling off like a video of the new age, "Call of Duty Z: Modern Warfare Zombies"

  • First you run from the Zoms in the streets. 
  • Then you level up with a rifle you find inside an RV. 
  • Then you must sneak through the dark, creepy building and run from Zoms to get to the choppa
  • The military then gives you missions you must carry out, stopping along the way for the dumps of information they substitute for character development, much like melodramatics modern best selling games try and do when they attempt to emotionalize things. Cut it out ya silly geese. 
There was lot of speaking in this, but only a few flights of fancy in what some one is actually thinking. Most of the time, the words the characters speak are just forwarding the movie and it's solid plot, all action phrases, or, how-do-we-solve-this dialogue.

The above was a compliment by the way. Damn was it exciting and so fuckin' fun to watch play out! The book talks systematically about how the world's governments struggle to survive, to maintain, order, and then at last: merely safe zones. This country bombs that one, this one attempts to might be intact and whole, this deploys the navy, that one went dark. New thriving economies spark and bigger cities ten America could dream of emerge.

It's so rich in it's textures and patterns and new revolutions it weaves. The whole world limps on after the pandemic, until pieces of it start to grow teeth and muscles again, reforming stronger, livelier and more liberal and free then ever before. It's the sweeping of the nations, it's real legitimate feeling that this is World War Z, and then fallout afterwards.

It's been shrunken down to 'Merica! 'Merica! save the day please. The bulk of the navy is now operating out of the Atlantic ocean and sending survivors to refugee camps across the globe. This is where Gerry's mission starts: track the (seriously this happened) zombie email sent from US Army Garrison base Camp Humphreys from South Korea and investigate the origin and happenings. From there his journey leads him across other countries as he attempts to find the source of patient zero and all that has occurred.

Along the way, he hears new snippets of the world's eyes and what they saw, how the rest of the nations are doing, coping, not coping. We also get one interesting performance from Elyes Gabel who plays the world's leading virologist. On the plane, Dr. Fassbach, all of 26 years old, explains to Gerry his theory. He does this with a passion and excitement we'd only get from a truly dedicated professional of his caliber. He has respect for the virus. Gerry's face, I saw, quickly formed a tiny twist of disgust at Fassbach's admiration.

No, Pitt does not tap into his Achilles bloodline and go H.A.M with guns and ammo. Actually, to the filmmaker's credit (and Paramount's suits) they scrapped the Moscow's Red Square chaos ending. His background as a former, world-class U.N. investigator is the reason he and his family were scooped up and brought to safety. His skills are required to help track the breadcrumbs of patient zero and attempt to synthesize a vaccine for the rest of humanity. But I'll say this about act three, quoting Oliver Lyttelton from the Playlist:
"Even when things take a breather in the third act -- which becomes an enclosed, clearly budget-cut chamber piece that's closer to an episode of "The Walking Dead" than the giant scope we've seen before."
Mirielle Enos plays the dutiful wife and mother of Gerry Lane and his two daughters. She serves as one of three women with speaking parts (that one paid extra doesn't, doesn't count) across the entire globe. As Karin lane, Enos is more than adequate and goes farther then her pages have available to her. Of course, as the movie played on I saw that this is Marc Forster afterall, the man who brought an Oscar to Halley Berry in a groundbreaking, earth-shattering performance that she's never even come close to since. So I was pleased to see him remember that and pull some of that out of Enos in her sparse time on screen.

I haven't seen AMC's The Killing, but I haven't heard anything to keep me away from it either. I know it also survived the rare feat of cancellation only to return to syndication once again. Season three has been running since June.

James Badge Dale plays Captain Speke, a U.S. Army Ranger. Here he reels in all his devil-may-give-a-fuck-in-hat and comes off as any elite American military member whose seen some shit probably would. I bought it with pleasure. They're just people, dudes who are allowed to grow beards and drink beer when they get the chance and make jokes laced with heavy sarcasm. Not Act of Valor assholes or Chuck Norris. 

I like everything he did with his scenes. They're "Zeeks" in his eyes. Not Zombies.

Daniella Kertesz plays another member of the military, Israeli Defense Forces. She tells Gerry her name is Segen, and only Segen, which in Hebrew means Lieutenant. She guides him as an escort through Jerusalem and then some. But Lertesz earns her weight here more than she should have. Thanks Forster. Shame on you script. 

I went in excited and left satisfied, satisfied to the point of knowing that late at night with beer and some good food, I'll be watching this for many years to come. That much is for sure. But that doesn't mean I'm giving it points for falling short of what it could have been, for kicking the chess pieces off the board that were originally there, and cheating to win for a sequel and box office it shouldn't have cared about in the first place. 

Munki out. 

1 comment:

  1. Read the book, was overly impressed. Watched the movie, decided that my popcorn was slightly oversalted....