Well, Niall from Raging Fluff takes the first shot for this month’s Genre Grandeur – War with his review of World War Z (2013)
Niall has been a faithful contributor to this series for a few months already and if you don’t already follow his site, I urge you to check it.
To be a part of this month’s Genre Grandeur – War, all you need to do is shoot me an email to email@example.com and I’ll put up the review.
Looking forward to getting some great reviews this month.
Fire away Niall!!!
World War Z – 2013
“This isn’t the end. Not even close. We’ve lost entire cities. We still don’t know how it started. We bought ourselves some time. It’s given us a chance. Others have found a way to push back. If you can fight, fight. Help each other. Be prepared for anything. Our war has just begun.” Gerry Lane
Okay, yes, it might seem a stretch to call this a war movie. But we talk about the War on Cancer; why not the War on a Virulent Pathogen? Maybe it’s better to call it a composite war film, as it has elements and motifs from practically every aspect of the genre. It’s a Men on a Mission Behind Enemy Lines movie like The Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare. It has battles every bit as chaotic and bloody as Saving Private Ryan. Thousands lay siege to a small group as in Zulu. It has a reluctant hero who just happens to be ridiculously skilled at practically everything; hello, Sergeant York. Soldiers sacrifice themselves to protect their comrades (pick any war film you like for that one). And hey, the word ‘war’ is in the title (in the same vein, if anybody wishes to categorise War of the Roses as a war flick, I won’t object).
Where it differs from the genre, though, is in the fact that nobody knows how the war started, and after a while, nobody cares. And while the majority of war films since the 1970s have been essentially anti-war pictures, World War Z is gleefully aggressive. There’s none of your sentimental, sorrowful ‘what a senseless waste of humanity’ nonsense or any namby-pamby pleas for understanding the enemy. Fuck all that: just kill as many zekes as you can. I like that little touch of derogatory jargon from the army grunts; it’s the natural successor to krauts, gooks, slopes, and ragheads, and it’s in keeping with the film’s reactionary tone.
At least the film comes by its title honestly. This is a globe-trotting flick with characters from all over the place. While the hero is of course an American (it’s still a Hollywood film after all), he works for the United Nations. Mind you, the film gets a good dig at that organisation’s frequently finding itself playing catch-up: “More books, fewer receptions, Boutros-Boutros.”
There’s a kumbaya moment in Jerusalem with happy Israelis and Palestinians singing together that is quickly spoiled by thousands of zombies climbing over the wall (presumably because they can’t find the tunnels). Question: with what’s currently going on in Gaza, if World War Z was released now, how would audiences react to the notion of a giant wall around Israel?
I’d heard that there were all sorts of problems making World War Z. Apparently it bore no resemblance to the book other than the title. At one point producer/star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster weren’t talking to each other. After a rough cut was put together, nobody liked it. The entire third act (set in Russia) was scrapped and rewritten (Goodbye, Matthew Fox, enjoy your five seconds of screen time). Millions of dollars were spent on a reshoot, the finale now taking place in Wales. Presumably the filmmakers thought of a zombie showdown there after spending a Saturday night in Cardiff. I would love to see that original third act to compare how it was to the finished product. I guess it wasn’t exciting enough, though it sounds very intriguing (Mireille Enos trading her body in exchange for protection in a refugee camp; Moscovites sacrificing old people to the zombies).
I didn’t know what to expect from World War Z other than carnage and fast zombies. It totally blew me away. It moves so fast and is so eager to make your pulse race I can forgive its cliches (and it has a ton). What Brad Pitt actually did for the United Nations before he was fired is never really explained. He was some sort of war crimes investigator, and in the movie’s bizarre logic, even though now he’s just a suburban stay at home dad who makes pancakes, as far as the UN is concerned, he’s the perfect guy to bring back to tackle zombies. He certainly proves capable: he can kill, fly a plane, dress a wound, notice a peculiar zombie habit in the midst of chaos, and make an imaginative leap to find a way to defeat the undead that the world’s top virologists never thought of. And his long windswept hair looks perfect.
And in a cameo that riffs on his role as the apocalyptic nut who unleashed a pandemic in Twelve Monkeys, David Morse plays a renegade CIA man who knows of a surefire way to stop the zombie plague. Showing off his bloody, gummy mouth, he describes what North Korea did: they pulled the teeth of 23 million people in 24 hours. “The greatest feat of social engineering in history.” It’s the film’s eeriest and most serious moment, mainly because it’s the sort of thing you expect the North Koreans would do in real life.
Thanks again to Niall for this great review of a movie that predominantly features my home country 🙂