(US - 2013)
Directed by Marc Forster. Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof. Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Matthew Fox, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Fana Mokoena, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Moritz Bleibtreu, Ruth Negga, Elyes Gabel, Ludi Boeken, John Gordon Sinclair, Michiel Huisman, Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido. (PG-13, 116 mins)
The film version of Max Brooks' acclaimed 2006 novel World War Z was in various stages of development before filming finally started in 2011. It was an infamously troubled shoot that had multiple script rewrites and clashes between producer/star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster (MONSTER'S BALL, QUANTUM OF SOLACE) that got to the point where the two eventually stopped speaking directly to one another. The ending was completely scrapped and most of the film's second hour was completely rewritten and reshot, which bumped the film's December 2012 release date to summer 2013 and ballooned the budget to $200 million. There's no denying that the completed version of WORLD WAR Z is the biggest zombie movie ever made, with an epic and occasionally legitimately stunning hugeness that looks terrific on a big screen. But it's very episodic and lacking in cohesion, which is bound to happen with so many cooks in the kitchen, and it has little do with Brooks' book other than the title and zombies. J. Michael Straczynski's original script was tossed and rewritten by Matthew Michael Carnahan (THE KINGDOM, STATE OF PLAY), and then Carnahan's ending was ditched as LOST co-creator and mercenary screenwriter Damon "Will Rewrite for Food" Lindelof (PROMETHEUS, STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS) was brought in to devise a new closing act. Lindelof eventually left and his contributions were reshaped by THE CABIN IN THE WOODS director Drew Goddard. And somewhere in there, Oscar-winning USUAL SUSPECTS scribe Christopher McQuarrie reportedly had an uncredited go at it as well. It's amazing that WORLD WAR Z isn't a complete fiasco, but while it has its strong points, it certainly begs the question: did anyone ever consider just adapting the book?
Just for comparison's sake, it would be nice if the eventual Blu-ray edition included Forster's original cut with the Moscow ending as a bonus feature. WORLD WAR Z is entertaining as a mega-budget spectacle, but it leaves hardcore zombie fans wanting more. There's hardly a drop of blood spilled onscreen--these aren't flesh-eating zombies--and you can see more splatter in a TV commercial for the AMC series THE WALKING DEAD than you'll see here. When Pitt, Kertesz, and Favino are making their way down the dimly-lit corridors of the Wales facility searching for the undead, it brings to mind similar sequences in European zombie classics like Jorge Grau's THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974) and Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND (1981), both of which will undoubtedly enjoy a longer shelf life with genre fans than the diverting-while-you're-watching-it-but-forgettable-afterwards WORLD WAR Z. Will zombie fans still be talking about WORLD WAR Z 30 or 40 years from now? Will they even be talking about 30 or 40 days from now?