Brad Pitt's zombie epic dead on arrival


"World War Z" is a bad movie.

That's a blunt way to start a review, I know, but there's no other way to really put it. I'll admit that I've long since reached maximum Zombie Fatigue, but other things such as video games like "The Walking Dead" and "The Last of Us" have proven there's plenty of mileage in the concept, when given the proper attention.

But then a movie like "World War Z" comes along and I'm reminded of why I'm so sick of the overuse of these creatures.

The best zombie material is found when the focus is distinctly not on the zombies, but the humans caught in the middle of the apocalypse. There's a lot of drama to be mined and social commentary to explore in those situations. "World War Z" does not do this. Instead, it's mostly just Brad Pitt running around in various countries, talking to people and then eventually running away from a swirling mass of CGI zombies.

Granted, the idea of a globe-trotting action film centered on a zombie apocalypse does have some merit, especially given that nothing of the sort has ever been attempted before. It would help, then, if this had action scenes worth a whiff or a hero that had any sort of significant defining characteristics. It has neither.

Brad Pitt is Gerry Lane (which also happens to be the name of a car dealership in Baton Rouge, a fact that distracted me the entire film). He's a family man now, but his old job involved going into tumultuous hotspots around the world for the United Nations, though it's never exactly clear what he did or why. This undefined skillset is what makes him the only one capable of heading into the fray and figuring out the origin of this zombie outbreak.

And it's also what breaks him away from the one engaging part of the film: His family. The opening scenes of the film, where Lane and his family are trying to survive the chaos of the initial outbreak are pretty good, all things considered. There's a real sense of desperation and the scale of the attack in Pittsburg is impressive. It felt dangerous.

All of that disappears once Lane goes on his own. He travels to a couple of boring locations, talks to a few people who dump exposition at him and ultimately ends up just running from zombies. The film also feels small. For a story that spans the globe and for an outbreak that literally threatens the world's entire population, this overall scale of what director Marc Forster shows us feels remarkably contained.

I will say that the film has some decent ideas up its sleeve, particularly the way it wants to draw parallels between the zombies and the brutality of animals and insects in nature. The notion of zombies as a killing swarm is an interesting one, but it's never explored in any significant way.

Some of these complaints could be forgiven if there was something, anything, that defined Lane as a character beyond simply wanting to get back to his family. As it stands, there's hardly a reason to call him "Gerry Lane" as he's not really a character at all. He might as well have just been "Brad Pitt" because he's never written as doing anything that makes you think he's anyone or anything other than just Brad Pitt.

This could have been helped if he was given someone to interact with, a sidekick or something, anyone for him to play off of or even talk to beyond being given exposition. There's an Israeli soldier who comes under his care about two-thirds of the way through the movie, but she seems to have even less of a personality than Lane.

So with a main character wholly bereft of a personality and action scenes that are little more than a blurry whirl of (horrible) CGI and running, there's more or less nothing of value for the majority of the film's runtime. I don't know who told Forster that he could or should be an action director, but between this and "Quantum of Solace," it's clear he needs to go back to doing stuff like "The Kite Runner" and "Stranger Than Fiction."

Will "World War Z" be one of the worst movies I see this year? Possibly not, but it will likely be one of the most bland.

Grade: F

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