First, this movie is NOTHING like the book. They bought the title. It’s not an adaptation. If you go in expecting the book, you will leave wanting to vomit your half-digested popcorn on the ticket taker. Second, I went in with low expectations. If you can do the same, I highly recommend it. After one hears that the whole last act wasn’t written when they started shooting, we go in expecting inconsistencies and glaring moments of storytelling stitches. And that is what we get. As soon as act three starts, you will see a different movie. You are likely either a fan of the first part of the movie or a fan of the second.
The first part is an action film. Many will say the Israel part is the best part. For the first part of the movie, YES IT IS. That is a perfect nugget of high budget cinema. Here’s what I mean: It’s not deep, but it touches on a profound and timely issue. It doesn’t go deep into any character, even our protagonist, but we do get to see his wheels spin. Since it’s Brad Pitt, it’s okay we only see wheels spin and not a monologue about society. It’s tense and scary. That. That right there. Shot solidly and CGI’d in a way that made me grab my 3D glasses and gasp, this piece requires only a high suspension of disbelief. I liked it. I feel guilty this morning, like I had a one night stand with a hedge funder. But I liked it. Act One and Two: Action film. Things happen fast, muscles get tense, roller coaster swooshes us through. It is fun to see our old, iconic low-budget film monster get his decaying flesh a moment in the ultra-budget limelight. We have never seen zombies with this much money and it’s fun (ooh I feel so guilty) to watch. Now on to Act Three.
Act III is an independent film. A zombie movie. Act III is familiar territory. It feels comfortable in here. It feels like a “real” zombie movie. Suddenly, I was introduced to characters I wanted to get to know and follow and fall in love with. We get up close and personal with the zombies we’re used to -zombies who act. And it has humor. Throughout the movie, the humor is there as low-sodium seasoning. It has a strict diet of one-liners. But act three lets us laugh with the characters a little more as they react to the complete WTF of life (er, death…uh, undeath). It’s too bad by the time we get there, many of us have turned off that part of our movie watcher brain and expected to have an A to Z tension ride. Act III is an indie film that deserved an Act I and II. It does not deserve to be tacked onto a poorly planned Hollywood treatment, like a piece of tissue paper on a razor cut.
I grew up dragging my mother to Romero films. I loved Romero. I love creepy things chasing good (and bad) people. Slow. Fast. I don’t care. It’s creepy things! Chasing people! Romero had no intention to make “realistic” zombies. He wanted cheap, scary monsters. He, to this day, is no stickler for continuity, realism, or even deep character development. He makes his statement and his art using cheap, scary monsters. It’s simple. It works. It’s fun. I not only forgive it. I love it. So I feel okay forgiving WWZ which has the full intent of making a movie with expensive, scary monsters and no real desire to do much else. I forgive it. I will even say I liked it. But I hope the potential not realized here does happen in the next 100+ million horror movie.
Pros: Fun, tense, acting doesn’t distract, characters are never “horror movie dumb”
Cons: Storytelling Frankenstein, acting doesn’t mesmerize, audience has to shift gears
Recommendation: Big screen, low expectations