** (out of four)
Here are some things that don’t make sense to me:
-- Adapting a book that is all detailed oral history and no thrills into the exact opposite—a film that aims for streamlined excitement and minimal human interest within a planet consumed by zombies.
-- Making a zombie horror film restrained enough for a PG-13 rating that relies mostly on faceless, generic CGI oceans of sprinting, screaming monster maniacs—particularly when the book’s zombies were slow.
-- The entire third act of “World War Z,” which, without spoiling, involves characters taking a logical leap and then acting in a way that’s not even consistent with their findings. It’s like they realize they can survive on a glass of water and insist on busting into a Gatorade factory anyway.
This probably should have been expected. Vanity Fair has a thorough article about the many extensive financial and conceptual problems behind director Marc Forster’s (“Quantum Solace”) adaptation of Max Brooks’ completely different 2006 book. In one day two weeks ago, star Brad Pitt made brief appearances at screenings in Chicago, Atlanta, Austin and Philadelphia, probably so people would say after the movie, “I can’t believe we saw Brad Pitt in person!” instead of, “We could have re-watched ‘Contagion’ instead of that mindless drivel.”
Reportedly costing Paramount somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million, the needlessly 3-D “World War Z” isn’t a total disaster. Pitt’s a credible hero, as his ex-UN investigator works to protect his family and save the world while an increasingly large contingent of snarling baddies craves delicious human flesh. Numerous scenes pack the urgency of a civilization in chaos, reduced to panic and instinct.
Yet with confusing action and muddled dialogue, “World War Z” takes a perceptive story about withering global society and makes it about the special treatment one invincible man receives from the government. In a zombie invasion, most people wouldn’t be saved by helicopters or survive a terrible plane crash within convenient walking distance from a medical research facility.
The film is summer entertainment too bleak to be fun and too bland to be memorable. It’s a product that makes you wish for an escape from all this so-called escapism.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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