It’s a zombie apocalypse in World War Z, an action movie that moves at breakneck pace with little time afforded to flesh out its plot or characters. Make no mistake, this is no horror movie. Sure, it might have elements of the genre – zombies – but it’s really a bloodless action blockbuster for the masses… with jump scares. Even the zombies are the fast ‘runner’ type rather than the mopey, slow-moving variety. This might sound like a bit of a bummer for horror enthusiasts, but for the popcorn-eating public World War Z is undoubtedly a rousing success.
Wasting no time, director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) dials down the shaky cam and quickly livens up a traffic jam with a zombie outbreak. How or why zombies managed to overrun worldwide civilisation so suddenly is a mystery, but Forster doesn’t slow down to give you time to criticise. It’s either keep up or fall behind. On one hand this works to the picture’s credit – it moves with speed and purpose, spending the majority of its runtime on creative and varied action sequences, most of which do a good job of building tension. Of course, this is ‘action movie tension’ and not abject horror. But on the other hand, the screenplay leaves its characters without personality. Brad Pitt’s Gerry is likeable but we don’t really get to know him beyond face value. All we know is that he has a family he cares for and is forced back into his old job as a UN investigator with experience in warzones in order to find the source of the zombie pandemic.
Normally, a movie like this would spend some time at the beginning to build its characters but that doesn’t really happen here. It’s that extra layer of emotional and narrative depth that’s ultimately missing from World War Z. Indeed, if you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic story with strong character development and rich themes about violence and human nature in bleak, desperate circumstances, you’re actually better off playing newly-released video game The Last of Us – it might just be one of the most riveting narrative experiences I’ve ever had.
World War Z however is, as its name suggests, a war. When you have a trio of characters battling the undead while armed with the holy trinity of zombie-fighting melee weapons – an axe, crowbar and baseball bat – one begins to wonder whether this is the real videogame. I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the book of the same name that it’s based on, but World War Z is in any case an immensely enjoyable and rewatchable action flick – if only there was a bit more meat on this marathon-running corpse. At least it has enough momentum to support its planned sequels.
A final, quick word on the 3D: don’t bother. The opening credits are probably the most interesting thing visually that take advantage of the effect, but they don’t justify the extra cost.
A light, fast-moving and polished action movie that has you riveted in excitement – not horror.