I, for one, miss the old-school zombies, the kind who, despite their ravenous hunger for our living flesh, lumber in a stoner daze and are easily eluded by even the mildly athletic among us. It gives a kind of cool comfort knowing that, if it is true that zombies are for real, we at least have a head start in the chase. Of course, the hyper hopped-up modern zombies are a whole ’nother creature, as we’re reminded in the fun and gripping new film World War Z. Here the ferocious Z factor, gone viral in world-threatening epidemic proportion, rears an especially rapacious and monstrous head. These undead are ultra-caffeinated, taking no prisoners, and sporting such scarifying numbers that they can climb a high security wall in Israel, scrambling atop each other to get their fleshy quarry.
Thankfully, the Z-threatened world has handsome Brad Pitt as a savior, a military operative commissioned to find the source of the Z attack and secure a cure. He plays the classic retired hero who quits his job to spend more time with his family and then learns firsthand about the dire situation at hand in a Philly traffic jam gone mad. An adrenaline-pumping and somehow fun-loving adventure, WWZ is deftly directed by Marc (Monster’s Ball) Forster, who keeps tongue half in cheek while tending to the narrative tautness, following our man Pitt to Korea, Jerusalem, and a Welsh WHO center, where the secret to the zombie-scourge may be lurking.
Whatever the loose plot threads involving the problem-solving elements of the story or the proverbial narrative rationality buoying the sci-fi/horror excesses, WWZ is primarily a big-budget B-movie with stunning action sequences; it’s a summer romp with a high creep factor. Like Danny Boyle’s global meltdown films, but with more irony to leaven the edginess, WWZ claims dual membership in the zombie movie genre as well as the body of apocalyptic-kitsch films in which the world’s potential demise relates not to some real worldly endgame but the cozy fantasy landscape of zombies. Über-zombies.