Bloated on its own (reportedly) $400 million budget and logy with an odd inertia for a globetrotting tale, World War Z is the most flavorless sort of blah that Hollywood regularly vomits forth.
Z cannot decide if it’s a horror movie, albeit one with its squeamishness dictated by a need to recoup those outrageous production costs by trying to draw in younger teens. The camera quite literally turns away at the first hint that even a peek of blood might be forthcoming.
World War Z has no guts of any kind: it has absolutely nothing to say, and it takes a long, dull, circuitous route to get there.
There was potential here, and I’m not even referring to Max Brooks’ magnificent novel, from which this movie borrowed a title and little else. There’s the start of a motif about our indifference to looming disaster: the opening credits play over a montage of TV clips in which the first hint of news of an unknown virus spreading among human populations is lost among a cavalcade of screaming pundits and crap TV, where a talk-show host cooing “Your shoes are so cool” comes across with the same level of import as the latest dire global-warming projections. But that satirical thread is lost when the film turns into an intense sort of urban disaster, as former UN worker Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are stuck in an apocalyptic traffic jam as Philadelphia falls to fast-moving, rabid zombies.
Gerry is the most insipid sort of Hollywood hero, “heroic” merely by dint of his placement within the film as the central character. We know nothing about him beyond that he worked for the UN doing something vague but generically dangerous, which is what he continues to do as he hops around the planet following up on a few wispy clues as to the virus’ origin.
The “best” thing about World War Z is the global scope of the disaster it shows us: it’s sketchy, but still more than similar films have achieved. It’s possible that scope couldn’t have been achieved on a significantly smaller budget, but the sad, infuriating, septicemic irony is, that scale means nothing without human characters to care about, in a film that seems to want to be taken primarily as drama, not as cartoon sci-fi action — not that it could possibly work on that level, either. My real fear is that Z is just bland enough to spread around the world quickly.
God help us if it’s successful enough to suggest to Hollywood that this strategy should be repeated.