Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z (2013)

As I walked out of the theater, unimpressed, I heard a few people around me likening World War Z to the Resident Evil movies. A part of me immediately wanted to defend the film, but then I realised big names don't necessarily warrant leniency. Calling World War Z just another zombie movie is a high compliment. Based on a bestselling book which claimed to be 'An Oral History of the Zombie War', and which I am sure it was, this film is so ordinary that, besides certain big set pieces (which still do not justify the absurd production budget), there is nothing in the movie which pushes the envelope of the Zombie genre. Sure, the movie never promised us 'An Oral History', but then why else would they adapt that book if the intention was to make just another zombie movie? If the idea was to make a series of films, then they shouldn't have hired Marc "where-did-all-the-money-go" Forster to make the first one.

There are many kinds of outbreak movies. Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, at its core, dealt with the fascinating phenomenon of a virus outbreak in today's interconnected world inevitably leading to a pandemic. Then there are post-apocalyptic materials like The Walking Dead where the people have resigned to their new fate and learning to live again. WWZ tries to marry the globe-trotting element of the former with the sudden-coming-to-terms-with-the-dystopia of the latter. Here, our protagonist is at the center of the action and is expected to find a cure. As the action shifts from Philadelphia to South Korea to Israel to Cardiff, WWZ attempts to give us something which we never missed in the first place- magnificent Zombie action. In truth, maybe we haven't seen a zombie spectacle like this; if putting a zillion CGI'd zombies in a frame is epic, then WWZ  indeed is. But besides the 'zombie pyramid', the movie is not particularly inventive at it- not even as much as Warm Bodies.

A character tells Brad Pitt, a former UN employee, that Mother Nature is the greatest serial killer ever; like all serial killers, a part of her wants to get caught. There's a part of World War Z which, deliberately or otherwise, puts its cards on the table a little too soon and outs its secret. It is not entirely predictable, but once a scene gets established, it oddly becomes obvious to tell how things would eventually pan out. Instead of filling you with dread at the thought of the oncoming catastrophe, it braces you for impact, so to speak. In capable hands, certains scenes in this film could have whipped up unbelievable amount of tension. For example, there's one Argo-esque sequence involving a plane on the runway and chasing zombies which is shockingly tame.

World War Z doesn't take a moment's time to look back and think at what has happened to humanity. It mentions in the passing that entire cities were brought down to their knees and zombified, but it is very cold while doing so. I was bothered by how quickly the film took an Us and Them attitude towards undead. Entire cities are bombed and we feel nothing. I don't have the heart to call World War Z a bad film. It is adequately entertaining but there's less of everything. While the restraint in the climax, à la Skyfall, is commendable, the aforementioned predictability seeps in yet again hampering the tension.