The problem with a genre as over-exposed and over-used as zombies is that you are forced to find something new to stand-out from the crowd. Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland managed it very well, simply adding comedy to highlight the clichés and well-worn formula that has almost destroyed the zombie-genre.
The Walking Dead has presented its own problem too. It has created a serious zombie show that manages to subvert the clichés by focusing much more on the living and using the dead as a background element. That means it is even more difficult to create a zombie movie that will offer something new and original.
Although World War Z isn’t the first movie to offer up fast, angry “rage” zombies (Danny Boyle had already successfully offered that divergence to the formula), it does manage to be unique enough to offer something different and fresh… for the first three-quarters at least.
In fact, the opening of World War Z is one of the best I have seen for a long while. It introduces the threat immediately and with action, peril and shock that we rarely get to see in a zombie movie. It’s common to introduce the zombie-apocalypse a month after the initial outbreak. It’s refreshing to be in the midst of the panic, following a group as vulnerable, scared and out-matched as Brad Pitt’s family are.
That is the next positive move the film makes. Brad Pitt is a solid choice. He can do heroic without being “Arnie vs the Zombies,” offering the right amount of vulnerability and “out-of-his-depth” that you need in a zombie-hero. You know he can act and he adds slightly more gravitas to the movie than most other actors would. It means we don’t get a B-Movie feel to a Hollywood blockbuster.
Of course, that is what World War Z is supposed to be. That is the fantastic other element to the movie. There are very few zombie films that have such extravagant set-pieces. The idea of a tower of zombies scaling the walls of a town or managing to pull down the usual safe-haven of a helicopter is a new, exciting one that adds something creative to the usually worn zombie formula. This is followed closely by predictable but nevertheless exciting moments on planes or in army bases.
Unfortunately, the movie lets itself down with a stale, formulaic final act. We have seen the “sneak through unseen” zombie climax before. Even before they set up the perilous journey, its blatantly obvious what is coming next. Unfortunately, we have seen this set-up so many times that it loses its appeal and certainly its excitement. That is where The Walking Dead has jinxed this type of movie. We care about those characters because we are with them on a weekly basis, we have only just met Brad Pitt’s character (and the scientists with him even less) so we aren’t actually that bothered whether they survive or not.
Overall, World War Z is a very good zombie movie that manages to offer something new to a genre that is very over-saturated. Brad Pitt is as solid as you’d expect and the many set-pieces and spectacles that are introduced keep the movie entertaining and moving at pace. If you can look past the formulaic ending, there is a lot to get out of this movie.
Rating – 3.5
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)