If you heard that this was going to be a smarter zombie film, then you’ve been misled. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. Some dude wrote a book called World War Z. This book involved a UN scientist who roams the world tracing the beginnings of a zombie outbreak. As the infection slowly spreads, this scientist and others struggle to find a cure. After some time, the outbreak finally gets out of hand and a bigger struggle begins between the uninfected humans and the infected. Along the way, the book deals very intelligently with the idea of a zombie infection. Remember that? Well, forget it.
The film starts with Pitt and his family driving through New York City. Within seconds, the zombies attack. Within seconds more, New York City is lost to the zombies. Fortunately, Brad and family flee on traffic free roads in an RV they just happen to find to Newark, where they go a lootin’ and then break into an apartment building looking for safety from the roving bands of zombies. It’s possible this is just a normal night in Newark, but I suspect we’re meant to see this as zombie-related.
With the exception of Israel, everything is destroyed, and Israel gets destroyed in a ridiculous way while Brad is there. In fact, throughout, the film does a very poor job of handling how this would really happen. For example, Israel builds a huge wall to keep out the zombies, which works until Brad arrives, at which point the zombies suddenly decide to climb the wall and the Israelis prove helpless. Huh? Why now? As Brad flees Israel, he jumps on board a commercial airliners... which was going exactly where? There's nowhere for it to go, so it takes him to where he needs to go, but it crashes, but he survives it because he's the star. All of this feels like it only happens to help move the plot.
Why? Just why?
So why did they make this film? I don’t know. This film adds nothing to the zombie genre, something which even the crappiest of knock-off zombies films on Chiller tries to do. This film doesn’t try to be definitive either, like the one BIG film you should see to understand the state of the genre. To the contrary, it feels narrow and shallow. It doesn’t try to be the best of a tired genre either. In fact, it feels very bland and typical, and it's packed with clichés. There isn’t even that moment that grabs you, where you know the director was telling everyone: “This will be my signature moment which everyone will remember from this film!” So why make a film that adds nothing, does nothing special, doesn’t seem to have any special goal or voice, and doesn’t even have the one moment you know the director had been dying to jam into one of their films.
Money. Brad Pitt sells and "World War Z" was a milkable property. That’s all I can say.
Let’s compare this to what could have been. Most zombie movies are most interesting in the beginning, when the chaos is fresh. But almost all of them rush through this. A film that took its time and really showed you how this virus appears, how it spreads, and how it eventually overtakes the human ability to contain it would be excellent. This is something The Stand does well, as does Lifeforce, but few others. Even Contagion ended up doing a poor job with this aspect, which was sadly the very purpose of that film.
This film also needed some other plot to maintain interest. Inject a love story. Have the main character save an orphanage or a zoo. Invent some counter-zombie. Do something other than run around gathering MacGuffins as you try to avoid zombies. Again, this film falls flat in that department. After making a big deal of Brad Pitt as some top investigator who can solve the zombie riddle, he gets sent to Korea for no valid reason. From that point forward, this film is just an action film without any logic to it.
This is sad, Brad. From a guy whose movies usually stand out as being smarter than everything else in the genre (e.g. Twelve Monkeys, Seven, Fight Club), this was a real disappointment.