Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “World War Z” (The Movie, Mostly)

Dear Frank,

World-War-Z-posterYou and I have been through this already, the whole thing where I don’t love zombie stories as a rule. BUT! That rule has plenty of exceptions, including the times when those zombie stories go post-modern.

Which is to say that yes, Frank, I am one of those people who has read Max “Son of Mel” Brooks’s (wonderful!) World War Z. It’s a really cool book! I mean, I read it years ago, but I have noble intentions of rereading it soon, and appreciating its intelligence in approaching the idea of a zombie outbreak post-facto.

I have also read a draft of J.M. Stracynski’s attempt to turn Brooks’s book into a screenplay that would then become a movie. And I have read so many of the articles about how making this movie was a major kerfuffle.

::SARCASM VOICE:: Oh, you mean attempting an intellectual approach to a classically low-brow genre wasn’t warmly embraced by a major motion picture studio? I AM SHOCKED. ::END OF SARCASM VOICE::

My point is: I saw World War Z with the lowest of expectations… and I really liked it! (Oh, God of Low Expectations, I do not know what your totem is but I clearly regularly worship at it.)

It’s not a super-complicated plot, Frank — in fact, I’m setting myself the two-paragraph challenge in describing it! Here… we… go…

There are suddenly zombies all across the world. That is bad. (Especially because they go from human to zombie in 10 seconds.) Brad Pitt used to be very good at dealing with weird dangerous shit for the United Nations, so they re-enlist him to figure out what the fuck is happening with these zombies. He agrees to do so after they threaten to kick his wife and kids off the aircraft carrier floating safely away from zombie-infested lands.

So Brad Pitt Investigates (btw, “Brad Pitt Investigates” is a series I would watch on the regular NO LIE), and after following the clues, CSI style, from South Korea to Jerusalem to Wales, hits upon a stop-gap solution: The zombies ignore humans who are sickly, so after a pretty intense sequence with the doctors of a Wales WHO facility (tragically, no relation to the other Doctor who hangs around Wales), Brad Pitt rescues a bunch of deadly-enough diseases that are then synthesized into a “camoflage” vaccine. And then EVERYTHING OKAY!!! (Well, until the sequel.)

I might be dismissive in tone here, but I did enjoy this movie, Frank! A genuine surprise, given my for-real hatred of other Marc Foster-directed movies like Monster’s Ball and Quantum of Solace.



I of course have complaints: For one, any half-intelligent human being can tell how badly this was cut together from previous drafts and pre-existing material. I’m not going to into all the cogs that don’t slip into gear, but let’s be clear: World War Z (the film) is the nit-picker’s equivalent of tee-ball.

And I was genuinely disappointed by the opening. I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that there are two different approaches: “normal life gets fucked up by the infected” and “the infected are among us CATCH UP AND DEAL.” World War Z, through some amazing sort of sorcery, combines both approaches. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work.

But really, honestly, my biggest complaint is this: WHO THE FUCK CASTS FUCKING PETER CAPALDI (AKA MALCOLM TUCKER) and then DOESN’T LET HIM SWEAR?!? ARE YOU ON DRUGS, SON? C’MON!!!!

Here, Frank, I know you’re confused as to why I’m so upset — here’s an example of why:

To the film’s credit, Frank — when I sat down in the movie theater, I maybe sorta needed to go to the bathroom, but figured I could hold it. About 20 minutes later, I was like, nope, I’m gonna need to go before the end credits roll.

So then the question became when to duck out to the ladies’, and to the movie’s credit, I was impressed enough by the way it was handling the nuances of life post-zombie infestation to prioritize those moments. Which is to say that I waited not for a sequence that was clearly gonna be super-talky, but for one of the film’s (surprisingly few) action sequences.

I’ve seen plenty of scenes of zombies storming cities. I haven’t seen smart high-level discussion of how human governments would try to cope.

It’s not as smart as the book was. But the God of Low Expectations, (S)He knows what (S)He’s doing.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on June 26, 2013, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Oh, wow. That video is beyond awesome. I guess I’ll have to check out In the Loop and The Thick of It pretty soon.

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