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‘World War Z’ Review : The Terminator Salvation of Zombie Epics

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As a car in abundant supply of oil will attest, sometimes having too much liquid at your disposal will result in a vehicle blowing lots of smoke but lacking in chug.

Such is the case with ”Dude, Where’s My Third Act?” Or, as it’s butchered script’s title page reads, “World War Z”.

Inspired by the book by Max Brooks (though it essentially only takes the title and leaves the rest for the literary world to discover), the Brad Pitt ‘vehicle’ was intended – I assume – to be a jaw-droppingly unique and spectacular action epic that’d offer up a new spin on the zombie sub-genre. But as star/producer Pitt, the film’s (!) and director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) will probably tell anyone over a few sherbets come the Paramount Christmas party, things didn’t quite go to plan here. In fact, the plan was so botched, you’d think Johnny English was on detail.

The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world – by aircraft – looking for answers, and later, a cure, for the zombie epidemic that’s swept the world. While he’s visiting plague-ridden counties digging for a solution – and dodging zombies – Lane’s family, including wife Karin (Mireille Enos of TV’s “The Killing”) and two kids, sit on an aircraft liner – housing the government’s big-wigs and immediate families – praying for his safe return.

With its extravagant, badly-spent $200 million dollar budget (can’t say it’s all right there on the screen, either), and some drastic script changes (the film’s third act seems to now be completely missing, as is that old thing “characterization”, not to mention complete characters – one played by Matthew Fox of ”Lost” fame totally Malick-ed; see if you can spot him!) a once-promising mega-movie (described by the filmmakers during production as being a globe-spanning thriller in the vein of “The Bourne Identity” – ha!) is downsized to an eye-rollingly average “Resident Evil” movie that’s as all-over-the-place as one of its loose-lingering villains.

If, however, a badly-edited, CGI-heavy, same-old coffin dodgers flick, and one that’s seemingly missing it’s third reel (you’ll all yell ‘is that it!?’ I promise you!) is all you’re expecting here, then this’ll go down as well as that over-sweetned Coke Zero your cup-holder cages. “World War Z” has the vital ingredients required for a zombie movie : lots and lots of dead dudes, just as many hapless humans, and a matinee idol that saves the day without too much sweat-breaking and personal loss. And to give credit where credits due, this one also offers up a couple of very spectacular, visual-effects heavy moments of moviedom mastery that’ll blow the socks of the irregular cinemagoer.

Unfortunately for “World War Z”, a few minutes of watching zombies attack an airplane full of passengers, or a breathtakingly cool sequence involving zombies taking over New York (the moments you’re seeing in all the commercials) , does not a good movie make. Nope, what they’ve made here is a good 20-minute showreel for the movie that could’ve been.

The film in its current form (I say current because I wouldn’t be surprised if a director’s cut was put together later on, restoring whatever was taken out) actually reminds me of the ill-fated fourth “Terminator” movie. Like this, “Terminator Salvation” has significant script problems (lack of characterisation, the absence of a decent third act, and is devoid of punch) and seemed to have been hacked away at in the editing room, with the scenes that made it put together like an out-of-order jigsaw without all of its pieces. And just as the good efforts of Christian Bale (and a CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger) failed to make up for the injustices of that film, the always-engaging Brad Pitt doesn’t deter one from spotting “World War Z”‘s issues.

It’s not quite a case of “World War Zzzzzzz” here, but had Pitt and those 20 minutes of nicely-constructed visual-heavy zombie sequences been swapped out, you’d be out like a light before the Paramount logo had emerged from the mountain.

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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