Friday, June 21, 2013

"World War Z": Bloated homage to the Zombie horror genre

One week after a big Clark Kent movie, we get a big B movie, with homage to almost every 50s genre, sort of like “Johnny X” (June 17), but big and bloated, with 3-D as an afterthought.  And it even makes fun of history.  This is Marc Forster’s “World War Z”, for Paramount. Skydance and GK.
Brad Pitt, as UN investigator, recalled to work Gerry Lane, looks tired and past peak in this one. 
The film has a promising start.  Pitt, wife (Mireille Enos) and family are caught in a “Traffic Jam”, but this time in Center City Philadelphia.  There’s no explanation at first. So this could the way an M. Night Shyamalan film would begin. (like “The Happening”, June 14, 2008 on the “cf” blog – and indeed “we lost contact”). 
There’s a TV shot of an approaching derecho on a weather map, and mention that an outbreak of rabies has spread to twelve countries (at least it’s not contagious, like SARS.)  A motorcycle cop cruises by and tears off a side view mirror.  (I’ve done that myself.)  Pretty soon there are explosions in the street (unfortunately, prescient of Boston), but then all chaos breaks out.
The film only slowly introduces the zombie news, as Pitt’s family escapes to Newark, a section 8 apartment building, and then is rescued by the Navy by chopper, taken to a ship, where his family will stay, as he globe trots and watches the chaos.   
Before the escape, Pitt’s daughter asks dad “what’s martial law?” Pitt’s character answers, “it’s house rules for everybody.”
There’s a provocative sequence in Jerusalem, where a great Biblical wall has been built.  There is an interesting notion suggested about Israeli intelligence (“Gatekeepers”) that it deliberately encourages some officers to play devil’s advocate.  But there’s also the insulting idea that Israel, in building the real wall in the West Bank, regards Palestinians as the zombies.  It seems politically unfortunate to choose this metaphor for horror film entertainment, given the tension in the area (and the work of activists like George Meek – International Blog May 20.

There is also an earlier sequence in Korea, where the script says that North Korea stopped the epidemic by pulling the teeth of all of its citizens in one day, a kind of "clear choice", a rather tasteless, reference to living conditions for peasants in the super-Communist hermit states. 
The end of the film proposes ideas a little more worthy, say, of “28 Days Later”.  You can immunize yourself against the zombie virus by having a deadly disease yourself.  Choose meningitis.  Escape to a safe zone, and then get your antibiotics. 
I don’t think there’s much hope left for the world at the end.  But the mass scenes of the “undead” scaling walls are impressive. 
This is hardly a film about the danger of a pandemic.  The undead just appear too suddenly.  But the website (here) and trailer say, “There will be no warning.”

I saw this opening night in 3D at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield, VA, auditorium about 70% full.  But the audience was laughing at the film toward the end, not with it. I don't think this film was going after a "stars count" Maybe it gets one-and-one-half from me.
Roger Corman actually made a film called “The Undead” back in 1957, about a witch, that played on Saturday night “Chiller” in the early 60’s.  There is a companion “The Disembodied” by Walter Grauman.  .  

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