Several varying approaches to the zombie craze all collide in “World War Z,” resulting in an adventure that’s enjoyable, yet heavily imbued with uncertainty and repetitiousness. The movie starts at breakneck speed with a frenzied pacing akin to a disaster film. A few chaotic transitions later and a hearty action flick emerges, showcasing harrowing chase sequences and the prodigious destruction caused by massive swarms of soulless ghouls. Finally settling into the intimate scares of a horror thriller, the climax offers an abundance of creepy, half-lit corridors filled with morbid shrieks and twitching corpses. Such an atypical progression provides early intrigue, but stilted dialogue and a meandering plot capped by an insouciant epilogue suffocate the originality of what is almost a family-friendly zombie movie. Perhaps there’s a reason such a genre hasn’t appeared before.
When a ghastly viral epidemic (zombies) rapidly sweeps across the world, former U.N. agent Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is pressured into joining a mission to find the source of the disastrous plague. While his family boards an airship carrier serving as a makeshift operations base for the last U.S. survivors, Gerry heads to South Korea where the initial reports of infected soldiers first surfaced. As the clues begin to dry up, he travels to Israel to witness even their prescient construction of massive walls fail to fend off the endless hordes of rabid bodies. With time quickly running out, Gerry must piece together his own eyewitness accounts to find a way to stop the escalating pandemic before mankind is forever lost to the slavering jaws of the undead.
It takes a mere eleven days for essentially the entirety of the worldwide population to transform into zombies (a term repeatedly alternated with “undead,” despite the fact that no one in the film is ever eaten, nor do deceased bodies regularly become reanimated – the spread of the disease is through bites only). While this setup is as spontaneous as Will Smith strolling onto his lawn to pick up the newspaper, only to discover a massive alien ship hovering over the city in “Independence Day,” it takes a much quicker approach to the immersion of central characters into bedlam. Like a sudden terrorist act, the creatures swarm the metropolis, creating panic, confusion, and destruction; the use of charging zombies is almost as timely as terrorism, though the horror concoctions are likely to dwindle more rapidly from viewers’ minds.
The primary problem with the film, outside of the fast introduction and impossibly broad conclusion (like “The Walking Dead” television show, it would take multiple seasons to make much sense out of the search for a cure and careful implementation – there’s just no satisfactory way to wrap up a two hour zombie apocalypse movie, especially since “World War Z” strives for adventure over scares), is the use of computer graphics. The hordes of monsters lunge about with superhuman speed and pile on top of one another with acrobatic maneuvers, stifling much of the realism and obscuring the more convincing use of makeup. Even the superbly creepy environments, full of atmospheric flickering lights and humidity, and the jump-scare cinematography can’t hide the phony look of gravity-defying, boneless writhers. The best thrills arrive in the form of punishing dilemmas rather than actual blood-thirsting attacks. Crossing the disaster elements of “Knowing” with the action of “War of the Worlds” while borrowing a few shocks from “Dawn of the Dead,” “World War Z” just doesn’t have enough originality or momentum to save it from detrimental abruptness. The scenes that are tense are sublime – and everything between those moments is forgettable.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)