By Shane M. Dallmann
Okay… this was SUPPOSED to be my MAN OF STEEL review. But… the local paper listed completely inaccurate showtimes for my movie of choice today, and there was simply no time for me to see MOS and make it to rehearsal in time. But since I’d already driven all the way out there and had those hours to kill, I had little choice but to not only see WORLD WAR Z, but also spring for the extra expense of 3-D.
Yeah, I was going to skip this one. I’d been force-fed the trailer WAY too many times, nor did the PG-13 rating raise my hopes. But then I heard some surprisingly encouraging things about it from some trusted friends… okay… maybe… and then Mick LaSalle himself gave it a rave. Pbblllttt… for HIM to like a zombie movie THIS much? That speaks VOLUMES to me (so did the fact that he was apparently impressed that the zombies RUN in this movie–as if he’d never seen such a thing before)… and my instincts were again proven correct. In the end, WORLD WAR Z is… okay. Nothing more.
Leave the book at the doorstep. I haven’t read it, but I’m aware that it’s a practically unfilmable after-the-fact ‘documentary’ as opposed to the straightforward narrative we get here. Beyond that, I can’t argue fine points–I can only review what I’ve been given. And to that? Well, an enthusiastic A-list actor/producer and a generous budget DO have their perks: the opening half-hour or so of WORLD WAR Z does, indeed, give us one of the best and most spectacularly-realized zombie apocalypse scenarios yet set to film. Eventually, of course, Brad Pitt is compelled to go globe-hopping in search of the “source” of the mysterious plague.
Okay, he DOES encounter quite a few interesting characters as he jumps from South Korea to Jerusalem (now, THERE’s another superb piece of spectacle–too bad the trailer had to blow the best gag well in advance) to Wales… but of course, as this zombie virus has an incubation period of all of twelve seconds, you essentially get two types of scenes: either “all hell breaks loose” or “all talk.” The talk scenes are fairly interesting until you realize that the movie is just going to come up with its own climax whether or not it provides a payoff for the mystery leading up to it–and as for the “hell” scenes? The action, as mentioned, is fine, but eventually the PG-13 rating takes its inevitable toll and shies away from all of the gruesome setpieces that this scenario fairly SCREAMS for. “Damn! I got bit! No time for suspense or pathos… guess I’ll just step off camera and shoot myself!” So much for… WHO was that again? I’ve already forgotten. And then there’s the matter of the “Remo D. Moment” cropped off the bottom of the screen (grrr….). Mick can celebrate and encourage the lack of graphic gore all he wants, but splatter would NOT have been inappropriate in this case, methinks.
In the end, WORLD WAR Z is just too soft-hearted to live up to its potential. At no point are you worried that something truly terrible will happen to anyone you care about–and as mentioned, once you hit that moment of truth, you’ve got just over ten seconds for the scene to pay off (or not pay off). No time to care. (For what it’s worth, though, although the trailer avoided the word itself, the movie DOES identify the victims as undead ZOMBIES and not “rage virus” variants, and there’s one really neat zombie seemingly inspired by HELLRAISER’s “Chatterer” Cenobite near the end.)
Oh, the 3-D? Skip it. It’s great in the first half hour (and so is the movie), but when we settle into “plot” mode it’s either pointless… or just too damn DARK to work.
I’m in no hurry for a sequel. Hopefully I can catch MAN OF STEEL next week!