Witness The End

Marc Forster

Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos
Fana Mokoena

The first thing to note is that this movie has been stuck in development hell from its inception in 2006 right up to its release. Whole scripts chucked out, the source material grossly ignored, endings rewritten, reshot and then scrapped anyway; this entire production has been a chaotic mess from the get-go. And the final product really reflects it.

As with the majority of zombie-related media, World War Z follows a single character’s survival as he journeys through a wasteland, ravaged by the zombie hoard. The survivor in question is former UN investigator Gerry Lane [Pitt], who is airlifted out of the epidemic riddled panic stricken streets by friend and UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni [Mokoena]. Given refuge on a large naval reserve fleet, Lane learns that in order to keep his family on the ship, he needs to be of use. Subsequently, he agrees to escort a group of Navy SEALs and an expert virologist to trace the source of the outbreak. Upon arrival in South Korea (the believed origin of the virus), Lane discovers another clue and proceeds to the next location. Rinse and repeat that about five or six times and then end the film and that’s the entirety of the plot.

I must confess, as brilliant as it supposedly is, I’ve never read the novel World War Z. I have had the overview explained to me and the general premise, structure and unique attributes ensure it is an interesting and novel addition to zombie mythology. This film, however, is merely World War Z in name only. No longer a series of flashback interviews explaining how the discoordination and horror of the events were battled, this movie elevates one man to be some sort of warrior saviour. The man who sees simple clues, has the ingenuity, tenacity and gosh darn American fortitude to get the job done. Which is unusual, primarily because there is a continual feeling of seriousness that tries to sell this movie as a genuine global epidemical threat, as opposed to WOAH! ZOMBIES! SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD! Etc. In doing this, World War Z acts like it’s Contagion but has neither the scientific credibility nor the harsh realities of that film. I understand that the director and writers want to show how vast the spread has been and how everyone is made equal by it but a global scale danger doesn’t work if you have one man hopping miraculously from country to country, narrowly avoiding death at the expense of others. In this way, I was instantly reminded of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, which started off so promisingly and sowed the seeds for a potentially upsetting, confrontational and emotional finale before simply sprinting to the finish line with an absurd close.

Technically speaking, the camera work, direction, special effects and score all work rather harmoniously to bring an unrelenting, fast-paced action drama that unfolds fairly well. But no matter how decent the visuals, the combination of sloppy writing, naff dialogue, implausible scenarios and shoddy pacing hammer the mediocrity of this movie. One of the biggest flaws is the video game editing: Pitt arrives (usually by plane) in a new location, investigates for about two minutes then has to run/shoot his way out before he dusts himself off and arrives in the next location. This smacks of linear level-based gameplay and it’s cheap, especially if you’re building to a massive boss fight that never comes. And no matter how well he acts in the role, Brad Pitt’s ability to survive almost anything kills all tension. By pushing the “just one man trying to keep his family safe” shtick, you know full well that nothing bad will happen to Pitt and anyone introduced around him is expendable, so don’t worry about them.

Excluding Romero’s stuff and Shaun Of The Dead, films are simply an ineffective medium for telling zombie stories; The Walking Dead proved that. At present, the comic is up to Issue 110 and the TV series has been renewed for a fourth season. Both are still insanely popular and have a surprisingly broad demographic. Other than the gripping storytelling, the key factors to The Walking Dead’s success is that the lead characters have a shelf-life, everyone is a potential victim and there is absolutely no end in sight. Films don’t have that luxury. After an hour and a half or two hours, you need to wind down and finish the story. Most of the time, this means a cure or resolution needs to be found. And trying to build up something so internationally widespread and then instantly wipe the slate clean is a near impossible task – Roland Emmerich has done this countless times in countless different ways and he still hasn’t got it right. The sooner people realise this and stop trying to force feed us zombies all the time, the better. There are whispers that a sequel has been optioned (hardly surprising) but I think the damage is already done. With a very strong opening two thirds, followed by a ropey third act and a terrible ending that utterly spoils everything that preceded it, World War Z would need a literary miracle to save it from its self-dug grave of monotony.

Release Date:
28th June 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
**slight spoilers.. and a random rant about Man Of Steel**
There’s a point of contention regarding Man Of Steel that I appreciate but have come to disagree with, which is the supposed disregard for public safety and human life. While I can argue that although the real reason is just lazy writing, certain actions can be forgiven providing they are properly covered in a sequel, i.e. regret, loss, shame and guilt. However! World War Z cannot be afforded the same leniency. Having just escaped Random Location #4, Pitt starts to relax in the first class section of a plane. But don’t rest now! There are zombies on the plane….. somehow. Doing his best to fight the infection, Pitt realises that the only true way to save lives is to sacrifice everyone else.. and potentially himself. Fuck everyone, right? So, being sick of these motherfucking zombies on this motherfucking plane, Pitt takes a grenade and lobs it into the sprawling mass of teeth and clawing hands. The grenade detonates, the plane crashes and pretty much everybody dies. Oh, except Pitt, he manages to survive with a gnarly looking piece of shrapnel impaling his side but thankfully missing all vital organs. Nice one, dude! Bollocks to any potential survivors! It was too late for them!

Notable Characters:
As stated above, this really is the Brad Pitt show. And while he does a very good job, it could be said that no one else is afforded the opportunity to try. The majority of the human characters are bland, weak and transparent and the zombie beasts are typically over-the-top but not in a forgivable, terrifying 28 Days Later infected way. I think the only two individuals who stood out as remotely interesting, enigmatic or engaging were James Badge Dale as the US Army Ranger with a refreshing gallows humour and Ludi Boeken as the Mossad official who seems to have saved Jerusalem by erecting a giant wall. Unfortunately, being a zombie film of global proportions, there’s not a great deal of time to focus on these characters.

Highlighted Quote:
“Sometimes, the things you thought were the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armour.. and she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths”

In A Few Words:
“So many commendable elements are let down by tired, recycled plot elements, an indestructible hero and a complete disinterest for the originality of the novel”

Total Score: