Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: World War Z

Copyright: Paramount Pictures
When it began, some controversy surrounded the production of this film, mostly because if its literary parent, the novel of the same name, written by Max Brooks (the son of comedy icon Mel Brooks)  and published in 2006. As the time went by, it became clear that the film will be drastically different compared with the original non-linear plot.

For those of us who read the novel, this didn’t come as a big surprise. First of all, the novel doesn’t have a  standard main character – it has a journalist who, throughout the course of the book, interviews different people in different parts of the world, shortly after humanity’s victory in World war Z – the first war that pitted humans against zombie-like creatures bent of killing everybody that emerged after a virus spread around the globe.

Secondly, the tone of the book isn’t constant (in a good way), and it delves into questions of economy, manufacturing, society readiness and preparedness for large-scale disasters, collective psychology and so on. These topics are covered in great detail in every chapter, but are highly unsuitable for a sensible transportation to the medium of big budget movies.

That’s why the producers decided to take the setting of the novel – a global zombie apocalypse – and inside of it make up a completely different story. Instead of a journalist, the main character is a former UN investigator Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, that gets caught up in complete chaos as the people around him and his family start to turn into mindless beasts. After their lucky escape to a safe zone on a fleet of US Navy ships, Lane is given a job – to travel to a military base in South Korea where it’s believed that the outbreak originally started.

After that, the movie basically takes up the format of an old school action video game. The levels change one after another, bringing bigger and bigger challenges for Lane and his investigation. Zombies in the movie have an undefined hive mentality, that allows them to do extraordinary deeds as a collective, while the crumbling human armies try to survive. These huge conflicts, where Lane and his changing entourage are just a drop of water in an ocean of fighting and dying, are the bread and butter of this movie, and the main reason anybody should see it.

The soundtrack, and especially the sound design in this film is yet another example of the influence that the movie Inception had on Hollywood. Booming bass lines and short, intense rhythmic sections are often present the film, successfully adding suspense and grandiosity to the mass scenes like the ones in New York and in Israel. Marco Beltrami, the films composer, deserves the credit for this movie as much as its director, Marc Forster who again, as in the case of Quantum of Solace, brings an approach that is a bit too bleached. His directors eye is clean and clear, but still lacking an edge that it so clearly visible in Trance and other films made by Danny Boyle.

World War Z was a box office success even before it hit the movie theaters. It speaks about nothing relevant to the human condition, although it looks smart and polished and happens to use the same setup that is present in a great novel about zombies. It entertains, but unlike the novel, doesn’t try to do anything more substantial.