I read the book already, so I had lowered expectations already, so I went into the theater fully prepared for disappointment.
I should stop being so cynical. This movie was great! The many gents who adapted Max Brooks’ masterpiece for the screen, Damon Lindelof included, took what they could, which was very little, and had fun with the rest, which was a lot. The main similarity is the fact that both media jump around — the book tells the story from locations around the world, and the film has Brad Pitt travel to locations around the world in search of a cure/solution/remedy/panacea.
And therein lie the similarities. It would have been ridiculous to keep with the book’s vignette-style storytelling in a two-hour movie; perhaps a miniseries is in this franchise’s future? Who knows. But I enjoyed the hell out of watching Brad Pitt (attempt to) play an everyman and kick some ass, but not too much ass, and (spoiler alert) save humanity. Or at least, imply that he saved humanity.
In fact, my only beef with this movie is that the zombies moved really fast. Like, insanely fast. Rabies-infected-superhuman fast. If you think about zombie literature and lore, the logic in World War Z doesn’t add up. Why would something undead gain so much strength and speed from its undead state? A zombie is only a zombie if it does the zombie walk. These Z’s sprinted, and it was terrifying.
What was also terrifying (and thrilling) was the suspense in this thing. I read that Lindelof had a hand in rewriting the ending, which originally was supposed to be some sort of battle-showdown-war situation. Instead, it brought Brad’s character, Gerry (not a believable name, sorry), into the World Health Organization somewhere in the UK, to retrieve crucial test tubes filled with diseases that healthy people could inject into themselves to appear “invisible” to the zombies — a solution not entirely unheard of in the zombie apocalypse; think of Rick et al smearing themselves with guts on The Walking Dead to breeze right past the walkers. Upon arriving at the WHO (and encountering a very sour Peter Capaldi, whose face I was delighted to see anyhow), Gerry learned that those precious tubes were in a zombie-infested area of the building. So, through stealthiness and sexiness, as Brad does, he Entrapment-ed his way through this section of the building, [spoiler alert] retrieved the sera, injected himself, returned unharmed, and presumably saved the world. (This is where that aforementioned implication comes in.)
It’s much more satisfying to see Gerry persevere mentally (and somewhat physically), rather than purely physically, because he’s shown us throughout the movie what a neat guy he is. Really. He and his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) have two kids, and they take on a third when a little boy follows them out of his family’s dire situation. Gerry’s worked on high-level “CIA shit” before, but he quit doing that so he could be Mr. Mom. Now that he’s back in the game, and the stakes are literally the highest they could be, we want him to succeed so he can go back to pouring cereal. Nevermind the millions of lives he could be saving; he’s a hot dad with a nice life. To turn something so monumental like the zombie apocalypse into the story of one measly family, and to have that family be worth caring about, is a feat. Props to the writers, however hellish those rewrites must have been.
And props to the casting directors, for introducing us to Daniella Kertesz, who played Segen, a fearless soldier partnered up with Gerry in the second half of the movie. She dimmed Pitt’s star power in a good way. Sometimes it’s hard to forget about the wattage when Pitt or Julia Roberts or George Clooney are on the screen, but Segen and her effortless humility made it a lot easier. Double props to them for including my boyfriend as a soldier, too.