World War Z starts out as a decent film once you get past that it has barely any basis at all in Max Brooks' novel of the same name. It's insulting to license a novel that ambitious and intelligent and turn it into a generic war movie with a horror twist. Brad Pitt plays a retired UN operative called back into duty when a mysterious ailment causes corpses to rise from the grave and violently attack living humans. Reluctant to accept the reality of zombies, the surviving world forces call on military and medical experts to seek out patient zero and find a cure.
For most of the running time, World War Z is a palatable action/horror film built on the framework of a war movie. The action scenes are serviceable. There are some ambitious concepts being explored, which is honestly the big advantage of the zombie genre. Like vampires and sexuality, zombies are entwined with social commentary by virtue of the greatest stories in the field.
This story has a big heart behind it, couching the concerns of the world on a family forced closer together than ever before. However, all the heart in the world does not cover for poor story structure. World War Z build and builds and builds, adding more excitement and energy with each passing scene. Totally improbable physics and an absurd timeline do not pull you out of the story.
Then you hit the third act and the whole film goes off the rails. The film grinds to a halt with the zombie revisionism. This is why writing a whole new story and associating it with a licensed property is a bad idea; if it turns out considerably worse, the creative and production team look like fools for throwing away what they had to work with. World War Z removes itself so far from the purpose and narrative approach of the novel that there is no way to end the story.
The mark of a great horror movie is that you accept whatever narrative conceit drives the nightmare. We know that a serial killer cannot murder us through our dreams, yet we accept that Freddy Kreuger can take revenge on the next generation in Springwood because of the crimes of their parents.
Here, the last act is so ridiculous and removed from anything that happened before that it becomes laughable. All the good will built up with the really nice jumps between the field investigation and the family left behind is erased when the solution to the zombie menace is revealed.
It is one of the most ridiculous resolutions to a horror film I have seen in 20 years of dedicated horror film watching. I have not spent most of my life taking up the cause of horror as art to let a film that squandered away both excellent source material and a solid build of suspense onscreen go by without commenting on an ending this poor.
To call the final act of World War Z a disappointment is an insult to films that stumble in their final moments. Screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof; screen story writers Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski; and director Marc Forster revel in this ending. The creative team behind this misguided series of brain dead decisions milks this horrendous conclusion to what was otherwise a fine action/horror film until the filmstock itself is barren and devoid of life. There is nothing left to harvest.
Everything good about the story, the acting, and the quality of the film itself is razed to the ground, leaving a heavy ash of disappointment in its wake. It's bad enough that a novel that spans 10 years of of worldwide combat is condensed to a week or so of story telling before you even consider how the magic bullet will most likely destroy all of civilization before even a third of the population could rise from the grave and infect the rest.
World War Z is the kind of damaging, mind-numbing pablum that makes people dismiss the entire horror genre as the cinematic other. To ignore the massive failings at the end of the film is to accept that horror films only exist for a few cheap thrills and a whole lot of disappointment.
Thoughts on World War Z? Share them below.