Blu-ray Review: World War Z

When a movie goes through loads of production problems, completely re-shoots the ending, and at times even leaves questions up in the air as to whether or not it would ever see the light of day, it’s not usually a good sign for potential box office. In the case of World War Z, however, the exact opposite happened and the film became a massive success worldwide to the point where a sequel is incredibly likely. So what happened to make this box-office miracle take place? Well, first and foremost, the movie was damn entertaining.

World War Z is loosely based off the novel by Max Brooks, and when I say loosely, I mean just that. The book is a national bestseller, and it’s a story that takes place 10 years after the Zombie War took place, with various tales from all around the world from different people who were there. The movie takes place right at the start of the breakout, and instead of a journalist going around writing about these different takes on what happened, we get United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) travelling the globe, looking to find out what caused the outbreak, and how they can use that knowledge to fight back.

World War Z is a loaded film for its two-hour run time, and with so much globetrotting to do, and so many things to discover, certain parts of the overall story suffer along the way. There are plenty of coincidences, and a lot of the times things work out perfectly for Gerry, even if everyone around him is killed moments later. That’s not to say that Gerry is invincible; however, the story does jump from area to area at a pace that makes it so that certain answers have to just fall into Gerry’s lap, regardless of how dire things are around him.

While this may make some roll their eyes, it’s done in a fast-paced, extremely entertaining and overall effective fashion that really leads to some intense moments. In its original form, World War Z was rumoured to be the first of two, if not three films. There were high hopes for the franchise, and that’s why you may notice that Matthew Fox’s character is in the final cut for about 30 seconds total. Originally he was supposed to have a much bigger, much more interesting role in how things played out back home; however, when they decided to re-shoot the ending, his character all but ended up on the cutting room floor.

So once the third act of the film comes around, you’ll notice a change in tone, as that’s where the re-shoots and rewrites mainly took place. Instead of a much bigger, much crazier finale, we get a much more intimate scenario taking place. And while it would’ve been pretty awesome to see the original idea play out, the ending they went with does fit in nicely.

A big selling point for this film is having Brad Pitt on board. I can’t say for certain whether or not the film would’ve done worse had it just been a regular Joe taking on the main role; however, there’s no doubt that Pitt’s star status, and appearance in a zombie film, definitely helped sell a good chunk of tickets. What also helped sell tickets to those who may have been skeptical is solid word of mouth, because Pitt really knocks it out of the park and makes this a journey you want to take with him.

On the directing front, Marc Forster (Stay, Quantum of Solace) succeeds at making a high-octane action film, with a mix of suspense and mystery within it. There are some absolutely beautiful shots that he gets of the mayhem going on, and the visual effects department also nails it, giving these zombie hoards a fantastic insect-like quality to them at times. This is especially true in the Jerusalem scene where they charge the wall like ants.

World War Z has a lot going for it, considering how much it had going against it throughout production. This is a highly entertaining film, with Pitt carrying almost the entire thing on his shoulders in terms of character. There’s a good chunk of clichés that happen throughout; however, that’s expected in a film of this nature, and it’s the story surrounding the clichés that help break them away from other films of this genre.

World War Z should be commended for trying something a bit different in terms of an overall story, by not only globalizing this outbreak, but also following it from country to country so that we can watch how different places initially reacted to the news, and how they choose to go about stopping it in their own way. Packing all that into a two-hour film isn’t an easy task, and while it does make the film a little contrived at times in terms of just how easily things come together as Gerry travels the globe, for the most part World War Z succeeds in doing so, creating a fun, yet intense zombie flick for viewers to sink their teeth into.

The Blu-ray transfer for this film looks great, as Paramount continues to deliver on this front with its releases. The video quality is top notch, with some fantastic visuals throughout presented in the highest quality. The sound mixes are also superb, with a great sense of presence given to every aspect of the film through this outlet.

Considering how massive the film became, and how many cool behind-the-scene extras they could’ve done, World War Z is surprisingly light on any sort of special features.

Origins – This featurette is just over eight minutes in length and sees the producers, director and writer all talking about how the film came to be, Brad Pitt, and working on the film overall.

Looking to Science – This featurette is just over seven minutes in length and delves into some of the history of zombies and how that, as well as how parasites travel, worked into the film.

While it’s unfortunate that we didn’t get more in terms of special features (especially after the success of the film worldwide), World War Z is a Blu-ray disc worth owning for the movie itself. The transfer done by Paramount is fantastic, and since the odds of them ever re-releasing this film with more features (at least on this format) is highly unlikely, this would be the version to own.

Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions Present World War Z. Directed by: Marc Forster. Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindolf, J. Michael Stracynski. Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Running time: 122 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: September 17, 2013.

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