Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World War Z Review

If there's one thing that I cannot stand, it's people who think that a movie adaptation needs to be exactly like the book.  Movies and books are two different art forms, and while sometimes what works in one works in another, that's not always the case.  Probably one of the best examples of a movie adaptation is To Kill a Mockingbird, and I think that a lot of people would agree with me on that.  However, if you're familiar with the book like I am after having taught it for over ten years, you know that the movie really cuts out a lot of stuff.  There's a fantastic chapter with Ms. Dubose, a character who only gets one short scene in the movie, that's basically a mini story-within-the-story.  While it's good reading, it's a good thing that they didn't include it in the film, as it would have simply slowed down the pace and gotten the audience involved with a character who wasn't going to have any major role in the main story.

This all brings me to World War Z.  I read the novel a few years ago, so it's not exactly fresh in my mind.  When I heard that they were making a movie, I wondered how the heck they were going to pull that off.  It doesn't read like a straight-ahead narrative.  It's written as an oral history, as humanity is on the verge of making a comeback after a devastating war against the undead.  It doesn't follow one character's arc throughout, and while maybe it would work as a miniseries that featured different characters in every episode or two, it would be pretty awkward and confusing as a straightforward adaptation.

In other words, I had no problem with the idea of them changing things around and focusing on one character.  The fact that Brad Pitt was going to be playing him was a plus in my book as well.  For me, the important thing is when it comes to a movie adaptation is whether they get the main point of the story across or not.

So, do they do that?  Kinda.  The story contains the usual zombie tropes, and all of that is there in both the novel and the movie.  However, the novel ends with a sense of hope.  You don't feel as though it's all over, but there seems to be a sense that humanity will pull through in the end.  The movie does that, although in a very different manner in which the book does.  Personally, I think that the movie makes a good choice (I'm deliberately trying to be vague here in order to avoid major spoilers).  If they did it the way it was done in the book, it would have made for a terrific action scene, but ultimately it would have suffered from the same problem as the end of Man of Steel - lots of devastation with little audience investment in what's going on.  The movie brings it all to a more personal level, which is what a movie should do.  After you've spent so much time with a character, you want the ending to focus on him.

For the most part, the movie definitely feels like it exists in the zombie apocalypse that Max Brooks created for his book.  Sure, the differences between that and other undead stories (The Walking Dead, George Romero's Dead movies, etc.) are pretty slight, but this has its own vibe to it if you've seen your fair share of zombie flicks.

As for how the movie is overall in terms of quality, I'd rate it as an above-average action film.  It's definitely more of that than a horror film, but it definitely has a few good scares in it.  My wife and I commented on how we found ourselves holding our breaths through several scenes.  If you're really into zombies, catch it in the theater - at least, you will be entertained.  If you're only somewhat interested in them, give this one a rental.  While it's nothing spectacular, I wasn't bored for an instant, and there are some genuinely original bits of imagery that I haven't seen in another zombie movie.  Plus, the CGI actually enhances the story, and I only marveled at it after the fact - I didn't sit there and think to myself:  "Look at all those CGI zombies scaling that wall."

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