World War Z (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) (2013)

Actors: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz
Director: Marc Forster
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Multiple Formats
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Dubbed: French, Portuguese, Spanish
Region: A/1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: September 17, 2013
Run Time: 116 minutes




It’s a minor miracle that World War Z turns out as well as it does. Stories of the production difficulties absolutely chill the blood, and re-shooting the entire third act? That’s the making of a classic bomb. Add to that the unfortunate fact that the movie uses almost none of the terrific Max Brooks novel on which it was based: borrowing only the basic premise and a few themes while leaving page after page of juicy material untouched. And yet despite that, it actually delivers an ambitious and wildly entertaining new take on the zombie apocalypse scenario.

It helps to take an intelligent approach to the material, as well as finding a plausible character that can span the whole of the globe to see the horror unfold first-hand. We all know how the set-up goes: zombies crop up, the planet goes into lockdown mode and despite all our technological might, it looks like the undead may end up winning the day. It falls to Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a UN worker with experience investigating mysteries in the most war-torn hell holes imaginable, to track down the source of the plague in hopes of finding a cure. His path takes him from the East Coast of the United States to Korea, Israel and Great Britain, letting him bear witness to humanity’s desperate efforts to turn the undead tide.

As a structure, it works fairly effectively, and while the film becomes unduly episodic at times, its grand ambitions help distinguish itself from other zombie fare. Most of the time, we see this kind of story from the perspective of a single group of people. World War Z lets us look at the big picture, and talk about how the planet can fight back instead of how a small handful can survive. (In that sense, at least, it does right by the Brooks novel.) Director Marc Forster approaches it like a contagion story, keeping it grounded in reality rather than segueing into the outrageous. The copious visual effects – good enough to put it in the running for the Oscar – never feel unduly artificial and even the money shots are treated with the same passing observation that highlights the more mundane sequences.

Pitt, for his part, seems curiously detached from the proceedings, though his movie-star charisma never diminishes. The supporting figures are far more compelling, from David Morse’s unhinged CIA agent to Daniella Kertesz’s plucky IDF soldier. With them as our guide, we feel the human impact of the story without losing the larger scale. Zombie stories are never really about the zombies, but how we as humans respond to their threat. The variety of responses and the compelling figures who show them to us give the film’s smart approach a big boost, while making character the centerpiece rather than the effects.

As for the altered ending, this is a case where the changes really were for the better… turning World War Z into a mild hit when it looked for all the world like a major disaster. It won’t stand as one of the greatest zombie movies ever made (Mr. Romero’s crown is in no danger), but it certainly affirms the genre’s viability in these post-Twilight days. It was a pretty grim summer for quality entertainment. World War Z at least delivers on its promise, after taking a road almost as difficult as its hero’s.

THE DISC: No surprises, but not a lot of disappointments on the disc, aptly matching the movie itself. The image and sound are good, especially considering the shifting visuals which adopt a new color and tone every time Pitt changes countries. The extra features are rather routine, but definitely enlightening. They include two short pieces on how they developed the story, and a four-part documentary covering the production. DVD and digital copies of the film are included as well. They’re okay, but considering the film’s production problems – and the apparent existence of an entirely different final half hour – they had the potential to deliver a whole lot more.

WORTH IT? This isn’t a film to generate intense fanboy passion, but it still does quite well for itself, and holds up to multiple viewings with a reasonable aplomb.

RECOMMENDATION: World War Z makes a respectable (though not exceptional) addition to any zombie lovers’ library, as well as working for action fans looking for something with a slightly different vibe.

- Rob Vaux



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).