This is the way the world ends—not with a bang but with a gobble. Passable but essentially dumb, World War Z, about a zombie apocalypse, has a deceptively global scope. Korea, for instance, is represented simply as a rainy dark airport, while many of the aerial shots of Jerusalem are so synthetic it’s like looking at some pastor’s mockup for Sunday school.
The finale unfolds in Cardiff, Wales, where the metaphor for civilization destroyed is a milkman’s smashed electric truck. It’s like the Father Ted parody of the movie Speed: gape over the end of Western civilization or cry over spilled milk.
Every big zombie movie—and World War Z may be big enough to kill the genre for a few years—is an exercise in weird xenobiology. Here, the zombies go into power-saver mode when there’s no one for them to bite. When human game’s afoot, the zombies call to each other like velociraptors; when they charge, they roar so loudly they gobble, like angry turkeys.
Brad Pitt, at least, knows who he’s supposed to be in the movie: a dropout former hellhole inspector for the United Nations turned stay-at-home suburban Philadelphia dad turned proactive hero. At one point in the film, severely wounded, he manages to go on a long, unlikely walk through zombie-plagued streets to find a laboratory he’s never been to before. Presumably, GPS survived the invasion.
The film cuts through Newark, South Korea, Israel, but what, exactly, interests director Marc Forster—that is the puzzler. Mostly, World War Z isn’t about anything but our stalwartness in the face of zombie attack. The mentions of degraded ecology and the weirdly Michael Crichtonesque monologues about the wanton killing power of nature are ludicrous when addressed to computer-generated hordes rushing around by the millions.
Although the film is about as coherent as a street yammerer, the movie does exist to demonstrate the heroism of Brad Pitt and his willingness to go to the wall to save his semidirected, shoved-off-to-one-side and pain-in-the-ass family.
‘World War Z’ is in wide release.