Frankly, there’s nothing more to be said about the zombie apocalypse’s cinematic longevity. From one film to the next, your typical “walkers” to the Boyle-pioneered “runners” and origin of varying outbreaks to their questionable plausibility – the undead are here to stay. While World War Z‘s source material has been deservedly praised on account of its comprehensive if obviously fictional vision of such a catastrophe, controversy surrounding the film adaptation has spawned from the script’s decision to stray from its roots. Having not read said novel, this didn’t affect me in the slightest upon entering the theater, however to say that World War Z is a bit underwhelming regardless of my ignorance would remain fairly accurate.
Immediately thrusting former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane and his family into the thick of things, the initial zombie outbreak hits and hits hard as the titular patriarch struggles to get his wits about him in a desperate attempt to keep himself and his loved ones alive. Called back into action if only to expertly employ his specific skill set, Gerry must predictably, reluctantly and tearfully go his own way on behalf of the US Government’s continued search for this virus’ cause and potential cure.
Possessing a base level intelligence that rarely differentiates from what we’ve seen within this obviously hackneyed subgenre, World War Z instead employs its big budget thrills and chills in a compelling enough manner to evoke an equally basal emotional response from viewers. The globetrotting Gerry Lane’s (Brad Pitt) increasingly dire exploits thrust him into the graces of individuals as boring as the narrative’s progression, his personal quest for answers and a cure failing to capitalize on the film’s few strengths. Zombies find strength in numbers, humans panic, Gerry and friends new and old run, rinse and repeat. Granted, there’s a lot more that bubbles to the surface regarding, well, surface-level extraneous detail involving conflicting plans of action, varying human reactions to the outbreak and, of course, the corresponding long-fought “World War” implied by the film’s title, however it’s just not enough.
All in all, World War Z doesn’t quite compare to the laudable ocean of intricacies Brooks’ source novel reportedly sports. Forster’s adaptation, while barely accurate and apt in its depiction of Brooks’ vision, sports a mild semblance of intelligence here and there amid a flood of cataclysmic, often action-oriented happenings. Pitt’s strong central performance outshines that of his costars, tossing in another worthwhile addition to a floundering too-little-too-late mess of questionable intentions. For fans of apocalyptic zombie offerings, World War Z is serviceable at best, the central character’s singular trials and tribulations trumping everything that could’ve been if such shallow creative liberties hadn’t been taken.