Why my next jogging tour will be more exciting than World War Z
Zombies. I’m all about zombies these days. Ask my family about it. They don’t want to hear another word about them.
This is a new situation. Until pretty recently I had barely seen a zombie movie and I more or less dismissed the genre. Why would I care about brainless brain eaters hobbling around, making incomprehensible noises? They appeared dull compared to the sophisticated vampire genre with all its sexual undertones.
The first step towards my zombification was probably when I watched the first season of The Walking Dead and became rather charmed by it. While there was more action in it, it reminded me of the British TV series Survivors from the late 70s, where most of mankind has died from a sudden outbreak of a lethal virus. The difference is of course that zombie make for better film since you can see them as opposed to some invisible infection.
But what really got me hooked was when I shortly after came across Zombies, Run! This is a little app, a game or a story or an aid and motivator for runners, depending on how you see it and use it. Basically you listen to it while you’re making a jogging tour. You are the hero, Runner 5, and you’re getting instructions in your headset as you’re out on missions saving the world while zombies are chasing you. As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s kind of addictive. From finding running rather tedious and appalling, I almost look forward to my next run. I need to see where the story goes, how the community of survivors are doing, what the zombies are up to.
Sorry if I’m boring you with this raving about my newly found love for zombies (again, my family don’t want to hear a word more about it). I just want to let you know where I was coming from when I set out to watch World War Z. A zombie invasion of the world sounded like just my cup of tea and I was looking forward to get some visual inspiration for my own imagination that could enhance my future running.
Starting with a kick
Those zombies in this movie are quite different to any zombies I’ve previously seen, resembling most of all to a swarm of insects. The zombies in The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies or in my runner’s app could be threatening enough and occasionally faster than you’d like them to be. But they were never anywhere near as fast runners as those little buggers and they never transformed as quickly – within seconds from the biting. No wonder people panicked in the streets! I certainly would too.
I suspect that this goes against some of the established ideas about how zombies are supposed to work. But I’m fine with that, the same way as I can embrace different versions of vampires. You can put up whatever rules you want in your own zombie universe, as long as you’re consistent about them.
With zombies this fast, threatening and quickly spreading, the movie gets a bit of a kick start. We only have a brief introduction to Brad Pitt’s character before we see him and his family fleeing for their life through a city that quickly is breaking down after a massive zombie invasion. It’s chaotic, it’s frightening and it got me on the hook.
Ends with a whimper
Sadly the hook lost its grip as time went by and when we came to the end, my emotional connection to the story was completely gone an adrift on the ocean. It starts really big, with a bang and the imminent end of the world, but it ends with a whimper at a laboratory in Cardiff in the most embarrassing way (don’t get me started on how illogical it is and how stupidly they act even if you assume that the theory was correct). It makes the movie feel a great deal smaller than its 190 million dollar budget, more like something worthy a mini TV series.
As I understand it, the recording of this movie was troublesome and they had to rewrite and recut it several times. Somewhere during this cutting and tempering I’m afraid they got lost. I can’t rid myself of the thought that the ending was put together in an act of desperation, pressured by time and budget limits closing in.
Apart from the way they ended it, it also bugged me that I never really got to know any of the characters properly. I know you can’t expect to get under the skin of people the same way as you do in a TV series like The Walking Dead; the format doesn’t allow it. But I would expect a little more than we got here. Basically all information I had about anyone was that Brad Pitt worked for UN, had quit his job to spend more time with his family, but is forced back into service once the disaster breaks out. Oh, and he’s a good investigator. The best they have. Why that is, is unclear. Honestly, it takes a little more than this to start sympathising with someone and care strongly about their wellbeing and survival. And the problem is that when you don’t care for the people depictured in a movie, it will take some mighty impressive action scenes to compensate for it. To some extent they manage to do this, but it’s not enough to carry the entire movie.
Thanks to the impressive mass scenes with the right end-of-the-world atmosphere I I’ll go as far as to giving it an average rating. I don’t advice anyone against watching it. For some mindless action, it’s okish.
But if you want to experience some zombie excitement with people you really care about, I’d rather recommend the zombie running app. It has characters you start caring about, it’s a great deal cheaper than a theatre ticket, lasts for months and might as a bonus also have some interesting side effects on your health.
World War Z (Marc Foster, US 2013) My rating: 3/5