World War Z is a zombie film made by a parents group. A sanitised entry into the genre to ensure that twelve year-olds can lap up the action without mum or dad having to wash urine soaked sheets in the morning.
After a zombie pandemic sweeps the world, a former United Nations employee, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), is tasked with finding the source of the outbreak that might lead to a cure.
Images of the world in chaos and news reports cautioning about global warming open the film to warn of how terrible we are as a human race. It's an intriguing platform for director, Marc Forster, to establish his zombie apocalypse. Sadly, the idea isn't followed through, and the dull Lane family are our companions on the journey. After learning Gerry is good at making pancakes since changing careers (the film's attempt at character development) the chaos begins with sprinting zombies ravaging the streets. During the confusion early on it becomes apparent that one of Gerry's daughters "wants her blanky" (more character development) and the zombies are about as frightening as a basket of kittens. Forster riffs heavily from Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later rage zombie playbook, but rather than being frightening like Boyle's creations, Forster's zombies shriek like parrots and trample each other in CGI swarms like customers at a department store closing down sale.
Shooting for the widest and youngest audiences possible, Forster removes all the grit and there is not a speck of blood on screen. Any moment of violence seems to be intentionally kept off screen, and not in a clever way to intensify the gruesome images in your mind. World War Z doesn't earn its zombie stripes and while it didn't need to be a complete bloodbath, it doesn't have to play in the kiddie pool either.
The screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan with rewrites from Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard features Gerry globetrotting to infected hot-spots. Each country is a different action set piece and none of them manage to spark the adrenaline. Forster's handling of these sequences is terrible, and it's hard to make out what's going on with the camera moving like it was tied to the back of a bucking bull. The plot is even misguided enough to theorise that the Israeli West Bank was built on purpose to keep zombies out. I'm sure people suffering from the conflict between Israel and Palestine are going to be thrilled with this re-imagining of their history. Also, the constant hunt for a cure to the outbreak is annoying and it's obvious that Forster is frothing at the mouth for a happy ending.
The horrid dialogue is especially bad in a moment featuring a group of soldiers trying to navigate an airfield without attracting the attention of the zombies. When they get unwanted attention a soldier says "looks like we woke the dead". Really? In a zombie film? Absolutely terrible.
I'd like to formally apologise for using the word "zombie" throughout this review. World War Z doesn't even deserve to right to be associated with the word or any of its subsidiaries. It's a flaccid film that slowly decays on screen to the point where it's completely brain dead.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies