Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Video review: "World War Z"

The best movie review I saw of “World War Z” was actually a Venn diagram by The Oatmeal, one of the sharpest webcomics around. In the area between the overlapping circles that showed everything the book and the film had in common, it simply read: “It’s titled World War Z.”

Hilarious, and true. Because if you go into this big-budget horror/disaster thinking it bears anything more than a passing resemblance to the novel by Max Brooks, you’re bound to come away disappointed.
Which isn’t to say the movie they did make is terrible. It’s merely OK, with a few highly engaging action sequences interspersed with stuff that is loopy and/or dull.

Good, bad or indifferent, it’s just not the book.

While Brooks opted for a journalistic approach following an ensemble cast of characters, director Marc Forster and his trio of screenwriters went with a standard leading man story. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator picked to lead the team tracking down the source of the plague rapidly turning the world’s population into a swarm of zombies.

He travels the globe, including a stop in Jerusalem for an epic battle against a horde of undead attempting to scale the ancient city’s walls. He picks up new allies along the way, but also loses many good people.

Forster is ham-handed at the non-special effects action scenes, to the point we sometimes have trouble discerning exactly what’s happening. One fight-and-flight up a skyscraper stairwell looks like it was shot with a camera draped in dark cloth.

Things build up to a decent but rather predictable showdown in a remote laboratory where the ultimate zombie cure can be found. Again, this veers wildly from the book, where the only panacea for the outbreak was: “Kill all the zombies.”

Personally, I would love to see a faithful adaption of “World War Z” – as soon as Hollywood gets around to making it.

Video goodies are so-so. The DVD version gets you exactly nothing, so you’ll have to spring for the Blu-ray upgrade to get any extras.

The highlight is an unrated version of the film featuring more gruesome action that in the watered-down PG-13 theatrical edition. You also get six featurettes on the making of the film, bringing the book to the screen (sort of), and the scientific realities behind zombie mythology.



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