With all the reported rewrites and reshoots revolving around World War Z, it’s any wonder the film ever even made it to the big screen. Director Marc Forster may not seem like the man that should have been put in charge of such a large scale, globe-trotting action/horror film, but his final product is way better than you’d think. Considering the screenplay has passed from Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, State of Play) to Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, The Cabin in the Woods) — with a third act rewrite by Damon Lindelof (Star Trek Into Darkness, Prometheus, Lost) — it’s a kind of miracle that the film adaptation of author Max Brooks’ novel World War Z, manages to be so damn good.
Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) has left his old job at the U.N. behind and loves his new job as a stay at home dad. He loves his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two daughters, Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove). While stuck in traffic in Philadelphia, all hell breaks loose and Gerry must get his family to safety amidst the looting and rioting. TV reports indicate some kind of rabies virus is turning people into monsters and Gerry manages to find shelter inside an apartment complex thanks to a trusting family, including little Tommy (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido).
Gerry is contacted by Thierry (Fana Mokoena) at the U.N. who brings them all to a command ship in the Atlantic Ocean where he informs him that the President is dead. Gerry needs to accompany a virologist, Dr. Fassbach (Elyes Gabel), in search of patient zero and follow Mother Nature’s breadcrumbs to find out what started the so-called zombie outbreak and possibly find a cure. After landing in North Korea things go from bad to worse as the doctor manages to accidentally shoot himself in the head leaving Gerry to the search on his own taking him from Jerusalem to a W.H.O. facility in Berlin that just may hold all the answers.
While the word zombie does get thrown around a lot — including the term undead — they’re treated more as a plague of infectious rats. There’s also the prerequisite talk about head shots being the only way to take them out, along with burning the bodies. The final act is where the reshoots take over and I can’t even imagine what originally was shot. I also can’t figure out how the new final act could have cost $40 million but it certainly works. The last act also seems to develop a much needed sense of humor, no doubt thanks to Goddard and Lindelof.
World War Z is the summer’s biggest surprise considering the horrible word-of-mouth it had been getting before the finale was scrapped. But Carnahan, Goddard, Lindelof, and Forster have delivered one of Z best zombie films since 28 Weeks Later. These zombies are in your face (thanks to the 3D of course) and the threat feels far more palpable than in your standard issue zombie movie. There are scenes throughout that are forget-to-breathe intense, and what more could you ask for in a big budget summer zombie spectacle?
Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures