Zombies had their moment. It was somewhere between 28 Days Later (2002) and Zombieland (2009). With all possible outcomes of a zombie apocalypse explored, you’d assume Hollywood producers and audiences alike had had their fill of watching the dim-witted undead. But alas, 2013 has already brought their revival with Warm Bodies, and now World War Z; the big budget zombie movie to end all big budget zombie movies (we hope).
But that’s not to say that WWZ doesn’t take a fresh look at the source material. The film adapts Max Brooks’s book about a worldwide zombie apocalypse, where a UN inspector (Brad Pitt) is chosen to investigate the disease ravaging earth’s population. His search takes him to South Korea, Jerusalem and finally Wales, to find Patient Zero, who might present the cure.
It’s odd to see a bloodless zombie film (edited for a PG13 rating in the US), and it makes WWZ more action than horror. What it manages well is creating mass panic and hysteria, as well as horrific scenes of bodies piling up. The rest is computer graphics and an overuse of 3D. The acting is also a mixed bag, with Pitt morphing into a Tom Cruise-style action hero and the rest of the cast (Peter Capaldi, Mireille Enos, Ruth Negga) showing him up.
The zombies themselves are the more animalistic/possessed kind of creatures that we have seen in 28 Days and Weeks (meaning that they can run fast) rather than the ones that walk with arms outstretched.
It’s the final third (written by Damon Linelof, who co-wrote Star Trek Into Darkness and Prometheus) that impresses the most, lifting WWZ into a watchable action thriller. Set in a medical research centre, we see Pitt and co tiptoeing around (noise awakens the creatures) while trying to find a cure. Suspenseful and dark, this provides the only real threatening subject matter in an otherwise predictable apocalypse.