tell ya who the real spoilers are: these namby-pamby crybabies who will (i guess) refuse to see a movie because waaah waah it isn't anything like the book. seriously. tell the stephen king fan that. really?!
also, my answer to this ridiculous gripe is twofold: one, different medium, so suck it up, crybaby. stories get told different visually, and there's nothing saying a different PLOT couldn't achieve the same message, or tone, or point. two, how about this; STANLEY KUBRICK. that dude took two books (a clockwork orange, the shining) and made his mark on western art through film. those movies are nothing like the books. or maybe sort of. or maybe not at all. the point is, the people behind Z aren't Kubrick, but you have to realize that adaptation doesn't taint source material. the book's still fucking there. and departures from source material can take us to some unforgettable, equal-if-not-more-powerful, places. i'm a King girl, but jack nicholson frozen in the topiary maze is far more powerful in a way than the book's ending, which has him get blown up in the hotel's basement. they both work in their respective mediums, but only to equally powerful effect. and like i said, the book's still there. so suck it UP, crybaby.
world war z was one of the best movies i've seen in a long time. big, big-budget movies, that is - no copouts with some marvelous indie film shit. it's big, expensive, expansive, and marvelous. you really do feel like you get all across the globe with it.
the pandemic itself has a smidge of CG to it, but though it's there and visible (and at times not THE best, but anyone who goes or doesn't go to movies based on quality of effect is someone i worry about and don't want to associate with, and in the horror/zombie genre, there has been decades of visual abuse, so, really, not a valid argument for a zombie-ish movie) the real power is something like what 28 Days Later had, those sweeping urban landscapes overrun. the sublime sort of horror of complete takeover.
the film itself starts, after a little smidge of normalcy that's already been undercut by too-loud murmurs of global epidemic and a sort of preachy but (i think) excellent tone- and theme-setting credit sequence, all shots of technology and crowds juxtaposed with militarisation and animal savagery, in tight chaos. enormous car crashes, gridlocked traffic turned into an instant massacre. and the most brilliant thing happens, and it's loud and right in the foreground: as a dump truck plows through dozens of cars, killing people everywhere, someone is recording it on their cellphone camera.
that. that right there.
it's finally the answer to why fast zombies, why world war z filmed as a sudden and roiling pandemic panic. because nature is brutal (a humorously-undercut speech in the second act, the opening title sequence, give us this) and humans are fast, techologically tied to one another, and generally fucking stupid. it's a preachy thing to hit on, but it totally works, imo. louis ck made the point once that we live in a world of wonderous technology and we're ungrateful as hell about it. it's wasted on us. the film has the same conclusion. both brad pitt's character and the unknown mass-death-filmer make heavy use of a cell phone, but only one of them understands the benefits of the technology--and, as the sequence in south korea shows, even his justifiable dependence on it is probably not a great idea.
speaking of the south korea sequence, it's fucking great. GREAT. it's got more of Aliens in it than goddam Prometheus did, and with less squandered potential. basically, brad pitt lands to refuel in the company of Space Marines. and the movie expands from genre in this sequence, too--this is a movie about being overtaken by forces, which is a somewhat broader iteration than just "omg it's zombies."
although there's also totally zombies.
the defense of swift action - north korea, israel - and risky decision-making - the third act, which reverses the usual pace of zombie movies and decides NOT to let us all conveniently go to hell forever - runs throughout, which sort of seems to undercut the happy-ish ending. or so i thought at first. but maybe that's just the idyllic shots of nova scotia lulling me. and i admire the balls of the movie to have a voice-over in the end that flat-out says "the war has just begun" rather than give us some GOTCHA moment all m. night shamalayan style where the lady comes out of the water and bites someone at the end of the credits. in the blockbuster world, it's pretty much the rule now to give some further twist at the end. one of the few things i have to credit christopher nolan's needlessly-grim-tortured-superhero movies is that they stay classy enough to be the exception. and then there's X-Men. blegh.
but overall, the movie hits the point that you need to stay adaptable and mobile. it's a real reversal from the usual survivor/zombie movie, where you hole up and the action comes not from going out to meet zombies, but from the occasional breach in the security system.
as a political/cultural critique, the foregrounded phone does a lot of the heavy lifting in the movie. it's early, it's thematic, it's simple to identify. but the film also take the time to undercut nearly every trope of "let's solve the global crisis": the fleet of ships in the atlantic ocean that now serve as military/government headquarters, it's filled with people who say convenient things like "the memo used the word 'zombies'" and "we've lost d.c." but it's also filled with jackasses who might know things but know nothing we want--they kick brad pitt's family off the boat when they think he's dead. they're smart, connected dicks. the movie uses them to dispense information and invites us to do the same and never, ever makes the mistake of trusting them. pitt's ride bails on him in israel; he has to hitch a ride on a commercial airline. it's every bit the undercutting of the military it should be, ending notwithstanding. plain old soldiers aren't so bad, and law enforcement for the most part gets a pass - the one policeman we see first acknowledges that brad pitt is totally in his rights shooting a man who's attacking his wife, then is later seen as one of a herd of attacking zombies, but hey, he's just some dude. this movie introduces the greatest red herring ever, too, under the guise of The Superscientist Who Will Save Us. guess what? he doesn't. he gives a preach speech about nature and epidemics, then, instead of either being the lugged-around brains and maybe even having Pitt's character sacrifice himself at the end so the doctor can Save The Day, his ass gets dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and the more capable people are left to handle shit. the cultural critique is launched against cities, against reluctance, against false senses of security. against the hope that some doctor, or some force, or some wall, will protect us. and against noise, of all things. being quiet works against these things. it's a little eerie.
the biggest message the movie hits, though, is the benefits of simultaneous strength and weakness. having faults. the hint that leads to a vaccine comes from the crippled, the dying. uncertainty is met head-on. the only seondary who stays with Pitt for long, and who survivies, and who is tough as shit, is a female Israeli soldier who survives a bite when Pitt chops her whole hand off. she has one hand. she survives a plane crash, drags Pitt to a WHO building, and, easily holds her own through the entire rest of the film. she's like a humorless Tank Girl. i mean that as a compliment. she's tough as shit.
i keep going back to admiring the nerve of this movie to do the pacing like it did. it starts loud and end-of-world-y, then, even as it stays tense through the first and second acts, and noisy through most of the movie, it slows down and hushes up at the end. when the big BUM BUM BUM stuff should be happening, it scales down to, like, 5 people in a silent hospital, and a hide-and-seek game where the turning point is the squeak of a door hinge. the final dramatic conflict is Pitt in a well-lit, motionless cubicle with a zombie chattering its teeth on the other side. it was massively ballsy to do this, and, i think, massively effective. the only comparison of a blockbuster i can think of off the top of my head is in Jurassic Park when the children are pursued by raptors in the kitchen, and then the tension is the thickest while the little girl's at the computer trying to get a door to lock. of course that one ends with t-rex roaring and that money shot of the "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" banner. the money here is a little more understated...
...and here's where i hit the real reason i love this movie: i'm scared of zombies. like, they're the thing i have nightmares about. i'm genuinely afraid of them. especially fast ones. the fear of beng overtaken with no choice. brad pitt injects himself with a random deadly disease, his gamble pays off and he's basically invisible to the zombies. he draws them away from the exit, they sprint toward him in a gnashing mass in a choked corridor... it's the classic bit where you're doomed. but they part right around him, and he casually goes to the exit. then goes on to start the vaccine. which works. (for now, the movie belatedly reminds us.)
brad pitt solved zombies and i love this movie for that. i almost feel weird that the world didn't end at the end of the movie, and of course brad warns me that this war isn't over, but i'll be goddamed if i learned that sometimes the world isn't gonna go to hell. a cynic like me wants to reject that ending, almost, but hey. c'mon. someitmes we can outsmart some brain-dead zombies. why not?
um, five stars? i guess? whatever, go see it.
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