World War Z
Yes, as I've said many times, I’m a fan of the book. You can read my review of it here.
There are zombies. Brad Pitt must fight zombies.
First, let’s get this part out of the way: this is not an adaptation of the book World War Z. Any fan should have started working on coming to terms with that when the first trailer full of running zombies was released, but just in case there were any lingering hopes, consider that fact confirmed.
They are both called World War Z, they both involve zombies, and the movie has one brief cameo appearance by a character from the book and a few near-subliminal references. The connection firmly ends there. Even tiny details that might accidentally coincide with the book if left unchecked are made as different as they could possibly be, the American military’s nickname for the zombies, for example (“Zack” in the book, “Zeke” in the movie).
Now to do what I’ve been psyching up for since those first trailers: put the book aside and focus on the movie as an independent entity.
It’s a zombie action movie. It’s a zombie action movie about a troubled but utterly perfect hero who spends most of his time rescuing helpless women and children, being tragically disappointed by all the drastically less perfect people who try to help him or require his help, worrying about his family (which adds nothing to the plot other than his worry and a laughable number of “oh no, the child has wandered off again!” moments), and generally being troubled but utterly perfect.
Even the global scope that should make this one unique among zombie movies is forgotten about two thirds of the way in, when it morphs into a typical lock-in zombie story in a research facility.
The fact that our troubled but utterly perfect hero does all this with Brad Pitt-grade charisma manages to keep him from being completely intolerable, as does the fact that one of the women he saves (an Israeli soldier whose bitten hand he chops off) turns out to be about as cool as anyone other than Brad Pitt is apparently allowed to be in this movie, not that that’s saying much.
Most of the other characters, while annoyingly helpless next to our perfect hero, are refreshingly decent for inhabitants of a zombie-infested world. This one isn’t a story about humanity’s internal breakdown, for a change, and as a result, it has some genuinely sweet moments.
The zombies themselves account for a large percentage of the points I’d give this movie. They’re quite terrifying (in their own right, not as an interpretation of the book’s zombies, of course). The images of them swarming and pouncing in the large-scale scenes and twitching and snapping in the small-scale ones are distinctive and effective.
The transition from a global movie to a lock-in makes both styles feel underutilized, but both are done well in what screen time they get, and both are able to maintain adequate tension and fun for an overall enjoyable summer blockbuster experience.