Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Movie Review: World War Zzzzzzz

Or "Whatever happened to Pepe?"

World War Z is a film in which Brad Pitt is as bad at whatever his job is supposed to as his wife-like thing, Angelina Jolie, is good at running. A series of glaring errors and incompetencies propels our full-maned hero all over a globe reeling from the first phase of the zombie apocalypse, whilst his family and all other characters do absolutely nothing. Luckily he has one skill, the power of observation, that allows him to save the world, or at least to slightly delay the end of the world long enough for several sequels to be put into production. In other words, it's your standard zombie flick.

The problem is that it isn't supposed to be your standard zombie flick. It's supposed to be the serious zombie film. Gritty, realistic, pick your adjective. We're supposed to come away thinking "Wow, that's what would really happen if zombies attacked!" Personally I came away laughing hysterically at the zombies that literally squawk like parrots and twitch like they're trying to qualify for the Special Olympics.

Aside from being the wrong kind of dumb, the zombies are apparently our answer to renewable energy: they run impossibly fast, jump incredibly far, and live for weeks on end with no apparent food, water, or other sustenance. Is the virus-that-maybe-isn't-a-virus according to a toothless version of the bad cop from House actually a power-generating nanobot? Did Patient Zero swallow a nuclear reactor? Or does our "realistic" zombie film simply take place in a universe whose only rules are 1. looks cool for the CGI team and 2. isn't too taxing on the writing team? I think you know where I'd put my money.

Taking their superpowers at face value, it's clear these zombies pose a legitimate challenge to our hero and the world. I certainly wouldn't expect Larry (Seriously, I think his name was Larry. Larry the Action Guy. Film at 11.) to have an easy time of it. In fact, with zombies like these, I wouldn't think it would be necessary at all for Larry to take inexplicably stupid actions in order to contrive conflict. I wouldn't think it, but I would certainly be wrong.

Here's a quick list off the top of my head of incredibly bone-headed moves responsible for driving the plot of this film:

-Larry's boring daughter has boring ass-mar and loses her boring inhaler, necessitating a trip to a pharmacy that is being looted by panicked citizens.
-The entire boring family goes into the store. No one stays with the RV, an obviously valuable and arguably necessary tool for survival in this situation.
-The family splits up once inside the store full of crazy looters. For some reason, two looters decide they'd rather vaguely molest Boring Wife despite this being a thoroughly public place and there being more pressing issues than...whatever the fuck they were doing to her, I don't know. This shit's PG-13, how am I supposed to tell the difference between rape and a stop-and-frisk?
-This WHOLE TIME Boring Daughter's ass-mar is FINE. She is breathing normally. Why are you in this store? WHY?
-Back outside, the RV is gone. OBVIOUSLY. Now they must stay in a zombie-infested building and escape by helicopter off the zombie-infested roof, but not before making friends with some not-white people (who die the instant the White Protectors leave) and picking up a stray: Pepe, the adorable Mexican boy slash future boyfriend of Boring Daughter.

-Now safely aboard a U.N. aircraft carrier (Is this a thing? The U.N. has its own navy?), Larry learns that he must go on a mission to track down Patient Zero, else his family will be kicked off the ship, because space is so very limited. No one seems to have a problem with Pepe taking up space, however, proving once again that Mexicans are invisible to those in power.

-After literally just landing at the first stop in their Quest, the virologist genius from Harvard (because that's where virology geniuses come from), whom Larry is tasked with protecting, freaks out, trips, and shoots himself dead. Larry's sole job was to keep this guy alive. Larry sucks at his job.
-A group of soldiers who don't owe Larry anything decide to do him a big solid by refueling his plane. Larry returns the favor by forgetting to silence his phone. What happens when you forget to silence your phone during a movie, Larry? You get fucking torn apart by noise-loving zombies, is what. A whole bunch of people die and whatever was stored in the back of the plane is lost as dumb Larry and the moderately competent pilot escape and head to...

-...Jerusalem, Israel. That's right: Jerusalem in is Israel now, did you know? Not only is it fully owned and operated by the Israeli government, they also built a massive wall around it just in time for the zombie apocalypse, and no one at all had a problem with this. Apparently there is a single-state solution!
-So Jerusalem is the genius city that's totally safe from zombies. They're even letting refugees in through these long chain-link tunnels that keep the zombies out. But wait, how is the entrance to the tunnel secured? Never mind about that.
-Ok, now Larry the Genius uses his powers of observation to recognize that that yodel-singing Jews and Arabs do is really obnoxious. Oh, and it drives zombies into a murderous rage to the point that they can suddenly scale this massive wall via human pyramids (apparently the zombies are fans of competitive cheerleading.) Of course Larry forgets about his power of speech and fails to warn anyone in time. Also the helicopters shown prominently circling the city and keeping an eye on the zombies fail to do anything about the giant zombie mound at the wall. And even though the top of the pyramid could only reasonably allow maybe four zombies to climb over the wall at a time, the entire city is immediately flooded with zombies. Of course. And naturally this singing was the loudest noise during this whole zombie siege, which is why the zombies didn't freak out until now. Louder than the bombs, and the helicopters, and the planes, and the guns. NATURALLY.

-So much for Israel. Time to hijack a plane, because the only smart character, the moderately competent pilot, decided to fuck off as soon as the zombies scaled the wall. Of course there turns out to be a zombie on the plane, even though literally every other zombie has been far too much of a spaz to hide anywhere, let alone hide for almost the full duration of a flight from Israel to Somewhere, Europe. Anyway, at the last minute, everyone becomes zombified and the only option is to crash the plane. Obviously.
-Fast-forward a bit to Larry the Illustrious entering a code on a keypad, a task which requires two hands, apparently, leaving no hands left to carry the only weapon he has. Maybe he'll pick it up before he goes through the door..., he won't, he'll just leave it outside like a FUCKING IDIOT. Now he has to dramatically inject himself with a random disease and attempt to walk past the zombies unarmed. Luckily this works and now Larry can make all the noise he pleases. [Spoiler Alert: He does.]

-But wait! The big bad U.N. thought Larry was dead, which apparently vetoes his family's right to stay with the fleet. Off they go to Nova Scotia, where...well, actually, where nothing happens. Larry reunites with them and everything's fine. Time for a long monologue about how there will DEFINITELY BE A SEQUEL, GUYS.
-Now the real question of the film: what happened to Pepe? Is he still on the carrier? Is he in Nova Scotia? Did they eat him? Seriously, guys, what the fuck happened to Pepe?

Of course I could blast holes like these in just about any zombie flick, and yet I like a great many such films. WWZ perhaps could be forgiven for its pretense at being a serious film if it were at least a fun action film. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, WWZ is the one thing no decent film can be: rated PG-13. This means we have a zombie film with almost no violence and zero gore. Even if you don't like violence or blood in movies, this is a terrible thing. WWZ was toned down to the point that it was literally impossible to know what was going on.

Example 1: the virologist "shooting himself in the head" looked for all the world like he tripped and broke his neck. I didn't know the guy shot himself until Larry said it.

Example 2: Larry amputates some Israeli chick's hand (with a knife, while she's just holding her arm out casually, because that's how you make a realistic film), but the cut is made completely off-screen. I didn't know what he actually did to her until ten minutes later when he changes the bandage.

Example 3: Larry basically stomps a zombie to death while the camera remains pointed at Larry from the waist up. This isn't some artistic moment exploring the tragedy of brutally killing what used to be a human being or anything. It's literally just Brad Pitt's slightly gleeful face while we hear rather tame crunching noises in time with his steps.

Conclusion: violence should be seen, not heard.

The end result: this movie is boring as fuck. I have never been so bored in a movie theatre in my life. I actually turned around in my seat to see what people in the audience were wearing, because that was more interesting. I braided my hair. I counted things. I tried to devise a way to use the Kindle app on my phone without disturbing my neighbors. I tried basically everything short of walking out (which a number of smarter audience members did.) I literally took a nap, which at least makes the title apt.

In short: do not see this film.


S. Misanthrope


  1. I was impressed with how good this flick looked, but I did expect it to be a lot better in the script. Good review.

    1. As we learned with Prometheus, looking good counts for exactly diddly-squat when the plot defies logic at every turn.