The summer blockbuster is a genre unto itself. It used to be these films were headlined by a star, were epic in nature and made audiences grip their chairs in excitement, laughter, suspense or whatever else the large film had to offer.
Now the summer blockbuster has been reduced to a cliche. Our summers are full of cinematic droll that is more and more of the same. The special effects, budgets and stakes get higher and higher, but the originality fades with every release. We rarely see anything beyond sequels or reboots during the hottest months, and they all set themselves up the same way: the world is at stake and let’s see how much crap we can blow up in the process of saving it.
Nothing is wrong with that except most of these films ignore basic things that they need like character and story. I’m here to tell you that World War Z, out today on Blu-ray and DVD, is a breath of fresh air for the fading summer blockbuster genre.
Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations employee, who now enjoy simply being a stay at home dad. That all ends very quickly (maybe seven minutes into the flick) when people start going crazy and biting each other and the world basically falls apart. Lane is called upon to investigate where this mysterious disease started so the remaining citizens of Earth have a fighting chance.
World War Z is loosely based upon the brilliant book of the same named by Max Brooks. Fans of the book need not worry here. The film merely uses the novel as a jumping off point. The stories and characters are different, but there are some very cool nods to the book and the world Brooks constructed.
What works best about World War Z is its need to cover new territory. It doesn’t feel like one of the dozens of zombie films we have seen in the past decade. Director Marc Forsters’ film is trying to be different and, for the most part, it succeeds at it. From the way the zombies look to the way they move, World War Z is not trying to be just another zombie movie. It’s trying to stretch the genre.
Covering this new ground is motivated by the perspective of the film. Inspired by Brooks’ survivalist novel which took a realistic look at what would happen if zombies attacked, Forster brings the same vision to the film. He uses wide overhead shots and globe trotting actions to sell us on the reality of what’s happening and it works.
Pitt never tries to be the action hero; he simply captures his character and we can’t look away.
World War Z manages to be one of more suspenseful zombie films I’ve seen in a long time. There’s some unforgettable and gripping scenes along with some classic shots that make World War Z completely worth seeing.
The only true flaw to the film is the tacked-on ending. There were clearly some much publicized re-shoots and budget problems and re- writes, and that is probably where the out of nowhere ending comes from. The film needed another twenty or so minutes to earn it.
Other wannabee blockbusters should take note because World War Z shows how the summer blockbuster should be done.
The Blu-ray combo pack includes an unrated version of the film (a little more bloody) and a few cool behind the scenes featurettes which give us a look at the design of the zombies and the setting up of the apocalypse on film.