P’raps I should say from the offset, I’m not familiar with the book this is based on. I’ve never read it and therefore can’t make comments about how the movie compares to the source material. Nor do I care.
World War Z did something completely unexpected.
It impressed me.
Really. it did.
This came as something of a surprise as, as far as zombie movies are concerned, I’m pretty jaded about the whole genre. I mean, they’re basically this years vampires and we’ve already had the weird skinned, tormented versions on the BBC and Channel 4*.
it’s odd that I can’t think of anything particularly original about it, but then the tropes of the Zombie movie are pretty limited. Outbreak > Death > Solution > Denouement. See, limited. Just about every zombie movie follows that path and there’s not an awful lot more to say. Zombies are something you have to deal with. They’re pretty much un-defeatable simply by virtue of number.
Despite the characters you meet in these, they are inevitably going to die and become zombies.
Even if the reason for the zombie outbreak is tweaked (supernatural, mad scientist, stored organic gases, falling satellites, pathogens) post-infection, it all ends up the same.
WWZ does the same. There’s an unknown pathogen (possibly viral, possibly parasitic) that causes monumental mayhem, pockets of survivors club together and the military assign a former UN investigator to find the cause and possible solution to the problem.
There are two things that are a number of startling things about this movie.
First and foremost is *that* opening. The first 20 minutes are as taut a thriller as you could possibly wish for. Expertly shot, lean and elegant. I can’t see any fault it in. It catalogues the collapse of a single city in mere minutes because of the invading zombie hordes.
You probably know that these aren’t the shambling Romero zombies, nor the brain eating Return of the Living Dead types. They probably have more in common with the Rage fuelled creatures of 28 Days Later than anything but whereas most zombies want to feed, these ones -perhaps illogically – just want to pass on the infection.
Its almost bloodless. Deaths and mutilations are more often than not administered out of frame. With the zombies not wanting to feed, there’s a bite and then it’s onto the next victim. In some ways, that’s more brutal and a damned site scarier than having to deal with the infection and go through the whole “turning” thing. it’s a 10 second inevitability. You get bitten and 10 seconds later, you’re biting!
Except, there are those who are unaffected and can find themselves in the middle of a crowd of frenzy and not be touched. And this, I think, it what gives WWZ it originality.
But why, when cliches abound, did I find it so enjoyable?
it took me a while to unearth the reason, but essentially, this is a very John Wyndham story. At it’s heart is one of his “cozy catastrophes”. it’s one man, a few survivors, and a threat, trying to get to the bottom of something and trying to live a normal life.
In many ways it parallels my favourite Wyndham novel “The Kraken Wakes” which follows a guy investigating a series of brutal events from an unknown assailant while trying to make documentaries that will keep his wife in there home in Devon. It’s as much about paying the mortgage as it is unearthing the horrors of an alien undersea menace – 28 Days later, incidentally, took it’s beats from another, more well known Wyndham novel – The Day of The Triffids.
Here, we find Brad Pitt and his companion stalking the desserted streets of a Welsh town trying to trace a World Health Organisation research post. The Wyndham-ness hits you full in the face during these scenes!
But, I’m getting away from the movie.
Obviously, there are some impressive set pieces, the fall of Philedelphia and Jerusalem, the Belarus Air disaster, etc., and some brutal zombie slayings, but at it’s heart is actually quite a sweet tale.
As with most zombie movies, it’s unrelentingly grim; even the victory is acknowledged to be one step forward in a very long race and yet, there is something peculiarly inspiring about it. Given the context of the resolution, you can’t help but think that there is a metaphor hidden in there; breaking away from the herd, and that being damaged is in itself a strength, yadda yadda yadda,
But despite my hippy shit leanings, it was actually a bloody good movie, even when the CGI went a bit wonky, it was forgivable because you were made to give a damn, unlike, say, The Walking Dead where I gave up because everyone was so thoroughly unlikeable… the zombies couldn’t come quick enough!
So, slightly weirded out by it being a good movie, but that exactly what it was.
You’ll probably hate it.
*although “The Returned” is something more than a zombie show….haven’t quite worked out what it is as yet, but it’s compelling and bloody wonderful!