World War Z – A Zombie Movie with Heart…and Black Blood.

I approached World War Z with a bit of apprehension. Summer movies can be hit or miss and I was in no mood for being stuck in a theater if the film swung to the predictable and boring side of things. Articles and tweets have been swarming for months about the film being over-budget and about new writers needing to be called in to save the script which raised some definite red flags.

The diligence and persistence of the producers to keep pushing to make the film better was worth the effort because the result is a smart, exciting zombie film which somehow manages to have a heart without being schmaltzy. Time magazine called the film, “…the summer’s most urgent, highest-IQ action picture.”

The film is very loosely based on a book with the same name by Max Brooks which came out in 2006. The book is described by the author as “a fictionalized version of the interview techniques of Studs Terkel.” It has multiple narrators discussing the zombie phenomenon throughout the world. The film-makers have taken grand liberties with the story arc, for example: now the entire story is told through the perspective of the main character, Gerry, played by Brad Pitt. Max Brooks is adamantly proud of the results. *fun fact, Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.*

The only negative feedback that I’ve heard has come from the die-hard zombie group. Gone are the lilting, brain crying zombies of yore. These zombies haul ass and will bite at any part of the body they can reach. Also gone is the prolific gore of recent zombie films. There is little blood in this film as the zombies spew a black oil like goo. The effect is useful because it helps to keep the viewer’s focus on the action of the characters and the real terror in being attacked as opposed to being distracted by awesome bursts of blood. If you like the terror and horror of zombie films, don’t worry. It’s still there. Plenty of tense moments and seat jumping surprises.

I could go on and on about how I loved the earth palette color choice and how it accented the storyline of our abuse to the environment being partly responsible for the zombie infestation. I could pontificate on the significance of the one wall which actually keeps zombies out being placed around Israel, or that China was implemental in solving the crisis but what pleased me the most was the new take on action hero as portrayed by and written for Brad Pitt.

I’ve never understood the appeal of films with men who flaunt their heartless, coldness with blunt anger. The “heroes” who use revenge as an excuse to brutally harm and murder and who we are led to cheer on because of their “strength.” Brad Pitt’s Gerry creates an entirely new way of playing an action hero. While he still kicks some butt, he does so begrudgingly and always to serve a specific purpose. His interaction with women is respectful and tender and in no way demeaning or sexualized. He is smart but modest, physically strong but controlled and he never loses the sense of horror of what is going on around him. It informs the film and teaches in a subtle, beautiful way what it means to be a real man.

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