We live in an age of pop culture, where today’s horror fan didn’t so much cut their teeth on horror movies, as they did horror video games. Where older horror fans were exposed to “Dead Alive” or “Cemetery Man,” young horror fans spent their days in the world of “Left for Dead” and “Dead Island.” It’s an age where horror environments are fast moving, stories are simplistic and unchallenging, and monsters are now computer animated polygonal blobs running at us from all corners.
So it’s really not a surprise Paramount has taken what was a brilliant and relevant epic novel like “World War Z” and tailored it to an audience raised on pixels and polygons. “World War Z” basically runs like a video game, with a nearly two hour run time that doesn’t so much feel like a movie as it does the prologue to a zombie video game. Brad Pitt’s character is handsome enough to be a main character of any video game, crashing in to other young good looking characters during a horrific situation. They don’t experience conflict, as they do obstacles to get from point A to point B like any rank horror survival game. To top it off, the creeping horrific walking dead are now turned in to polygonal blobs that will appeal to “Dead Space” buffs probably itching to shoot for the screen during the movie. Thankfully the studio has created a video game tie in for audiences, so the circle has been formed for the perfect merchandise storm.
During a time where the realm of video games and movies blur, Paramount has built a great double threat tying in movie to game that can be experienced in either respect. Once again, the studios aren’t interested in a movie, but more a multimedia franchise opportunity. For anyone that adored “World War Z,” this is pretty heartbreaking, and ironic considering the undertones of the book. Author Max Brooks even mocks fast running zombies in the novel, while the movie openly embraces the concept unabashedly. “World War Z” is turned in to a jingoistic horror movie you can take the whole family to. It dodges violence and gore left and right, shows very little zombie carnage, spells out every scare for audiences that have to be told when to be frightened, and avoids every chance to refer to the monsters as zombies.
The first half of the film seems to angle toward the human struggle by featuring diverse characters, and character Gerry desperately trying to get his family to his meeting point with the military. The first half of the movie is basically holding our hands through tension with Gerry’s daughters screeching and whining for the most part, then making obvious declarations to alert the audiences of a scare. Gerry’s youngest daughter is told to keep quiet as they attempt to sneak out of an apartment complex to the roof, but that never stops her from moaning “I’m scared,” and “It’s dark.” Thanks for the bulletin! If anything the script does set up a good reason why Gerry is needed. When he and his family board the military ship for shelter, his superiors tell him that either he helps find out how to stop the infection, or he and his family will have to leave the ship.
Anxious to keep them safe, Gerry goes along with a crew of diverse soldiers (diverse as in they’re from different parts of the US–no foreigners here!) to different locations in the world to find out the source of the infection. Basically a few stories from the book are featured but in two second intervals with no bloodshed whatsoever. All the while Gerry manages to survive amidst a cadre of soldiers, all of whom have no idea what stealth means. Seriously, if you’re going on a dangerous mission, you can at least shut your phone off, or tell your wife not to call you for fear of being ripped apart by monsters. Characters all make ridiculous decisions, have no grasp of the word “silent,” and often knock things over or bump in to furniture when attempting to sneak past a zeke.
When it takes a small dog to figure out there’s a zombie in the immediate area before any actual human, you know the characters are stupid. Most likely because there is going to be a sequel, “World War Z” only alludes to an international world war with zombies in the final scenes with a fleeting montage of various countries battling zekes. Paramount takes a tale about worldwide turmoil and transforms it in to a rah rah America story with the day being saved by the hunky American military translator. “World War Z” is that perfect zombie movie you can go to if you hate zombie movies, and one that makes me glad movies like “The Dead” exist.