By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin June 21, 2013 at 12:15AM
I can’t pretend to be a zombie-movie aficionado, but I found
World War Z to be tense, absorbing,
and scary. Brad Pitt is established as a devoted husband and father at the outset
so we never lose rooting interest, even though the challenges he faces grow
more extreme as the story progresses. By the time we get to the nail-biting
climax he pretty much represents us onscreen, desperately trying to clear one
hurdle after another in an effort to save the day and return to his wife and
kids. This is tried-and-true storytelling and it works like a charm.
The visual effects are impressively deployed by director Marc Forster to make every trial and encounter seem horrifically real, from the first zombie outbreak in Pitt’s hometown of Philadelphia to later, more grandiose set-pieces in Jerusalem, on a full-sized jet, and in a laboratory building in Cardiff, Wales.
Pitt isn’t depicted as a superhero. He’s gutsy and seemingly fearless, but it’s his resourcefulness and his ability to keep cool in the midst of chaos that makes his character so admirable.
I understand that the screenplay—which is credited to a handful of writers who pitched in during the movie’s long, troubled gestation—is very loosely based on Max Brooks’ best-selling book. I can only judge the finished product, which I enjoyed, all the more so because the filmmakers were forced to downplay graphic gore in order to get a PG-13 rating.
On the other hand, I found watching this in 3-D to be an
annoyance. It added nothing to the experience and left me with a headache.
(Like many current releases it wasn’t
shot in 3-D, with its director and cinematographer staging each scene to take
advantage of the process, but converted after the fact. It shows.)
By aiming to please a mass audience, the people behind World War Z may turn off horror-movie diehards who crave more blood and guts, but they’ve made a movie that wimps like me find not only palatable but satisfyingly scary.