A True Book Adaptation It Isn't. But World War Z Still Has Its Merits.
World War Z.
Director: Marc Forster.
Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski, Max Brooks.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Matthew Fox.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes.
Damn, I hate when I'm wrong. Admitting it is the equivalent of having to shove a bloody, severed foot in my mouth.
A gross visual, perhaps, but bear with me.
In this case, I'm referring to the months — nay, years — of shit-talking that I've personally done since learning of the long-gestating film adaptation of Max Brooks' phenomenal 2006 novel, World War Z.
As with most everyone else who's read the book, I've been a fan of it since my very first reading. Its (obviously fictitious) look at a future Third World War — in this case a battle between the living and the undead — offers ingenious social commentary, as filtered though a series of retrospective oral interviews on the fight conducted by a United Nations Postwar Commission agent.
All along it seems, Brooks (son of Mel and Anne Bancroft) knew that Hollywood would one day rise from the grave to claim his work as its own and, in doing so, turn it into a big budget zomb-fest as lifeless as the monsters detailed within. So he put most of his efforts elsewhere — namely the book and its rather cinematic oratory counterpart, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. The only appropriate treatment for the package, fanboys decried, would come via the hands of well-to-do TV network wanting to turn the story into a gritty miniseries boasting the docu-realism of District 9 — a potential option that surely would give The Walking Dead a zombie shuffle for its money.
Alas, this was not in the cards for World War Z. Eventually, Brad Pitt himself acquired the rights to the book, signed on as its producer and, eventually, as its top-billed star.
Here's the good news: Pitt's offering isn't the lifeless corpse that so many once feared it could be. The bad news, though? A true adaptation this is not.
Other than our hero (Gerry Lane, played by the always charismatic Pitt) working at the UN and looking into the zombie concern, this film really shares no resemblance to its paperback brother of the same name. Inspiration is a more accurate term here — so much so that it's something of a disservice that the book and the film carry the same title at all. Presenting it in this capacity is to proffer a lie in some regards; fans of the novel will undoubtedly judge the film by the book's standards, when, really, they shouldn't do so at all.
If you take away one thing from this review, let it be me telling you not to do that. Instead, I recommend audiences approach this film as a standalone story with its own ideas. Still, much like the book, World War Z aims to be — and mostly succeeds — at acting as a jarring and realistic look at just what could happen if a zombie-like disease spread at an epidemic rate on a world-wide scale. And, in the grand scope of zombie canon, there's indeed a place for this World War Z somewhere in between 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead.
No, it may not have the “brains” that either of those other attempts at this well-tread story have. But it does take the ever-so-popular subgenre to a few fresh, innovative places. Yes, the wave-like flow of zombie hordes, which I'm sure youâï¿½ï¿½ve seen in the trailer and maybe even heard us nerds make fun of on the Internet since its debut, can look a little silly at times. Yet, at the same time, I can't name a single other zombie film that encapsulates the sheer panic at the scope and scale of the threat as well as this treatment does. And where the film at times lacks in CGI, it makes up for in the practical performances by the zombie themselves, what with their creepy animalistic dormant states and schizy movements.
Ultimately, though, World War Z — as should be known heading into viewings given its PG-13 rating — is a zombie film for the masses. It's Hollywood's truest big-budget popcorn take on the genre yet, all covered in butter.
A scary prospect? In theory, yes. In practice, not at all. At least credit the big studio Hollywood world with this much: World War Z is a much more entertaining watch than any of subgenre pioneer George A. Romero's last three Dead films.
True adaptation or not, that's got to count for something.
Score: 7 out of 10 braaains.
Also in theaters this week…
Director: Dan Scanlon.
Writers: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Dan Scanlon.
Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi.
Where's it playing? Various Metroplex megaplexes.
Everyone's favorite cute, cuddly and monstrous Pixar-animated twosome is back, this time a little younger and less experienced (but no less entertaining) than when we last encountered them. As the title implies, this story centers around our lovable heroes, Mike and Sulley, first befriending one another at college. I think I've dated a few girls I that went to school there.
Much Ado About Nothing.
Director: Joss Whedon.
Writers: William Shakespeare, Joss Whedon.
Cast: Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg.
Where's it playing? Angelika Dallas.
When you make one of the most successful, most ambitious comic book movies of all time, what do you follow that up with? Well, if you're Joss Whedon (director of The Avengers, among other nerd-worshiped fare), it's a low budget, black-and-white, indie adaptation of Willie Shakespeare's comedic tragedy — or is it tragic comedy? — about two pairs of lovers struggling to make love prevail. This adaptation features Dallas native Amy Acker, who you might recognize from the Whedonverse for her roles in Angel, Dollhouse and The Cabin in the Woods.
The Bling Ring.
Director: Sofia Coppola.
Writers: Sofia Coppola, Nancy Jo Sales.
Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson.
Where's it playing? The Magnolia.
Oh, Sofia Coppola. What happened? Your films use to be avant-garde, beautiful, captivating and, at the least, interesting. The Virgin Suicides! Lost in Translation! But now, you make films like this — a glorification of self-entitled Generation YOLO-ers so desperate for their 15 minutes of fame that they lie, cheat and steal, steal, steal their way to the “top.” This film tells the story of some kids who want to be famous for nothing and are inspired by their ironically famous-for-nothing, celebutante heroes. Ugh. I literally hated everything about this film. Save yourself some time and money (and anger) by just reading the Vanity Fair article it's based upon.