Brad Pitt plays UN specialist Gerry Lane. The world is caught up in a zombie apocalypse and initially all Gerry Lane wants to do is protect his family. He is not allowed to stay on the sidelines because of his expertise and so Lane travels across the globe in the hopes of finding a way to save the world from the zombie threat. This movie is supposedly based on the book by the same name.
Like the book, the movie does travel across the globe but the first major break is that the movie has one set protagonist. This turns World War Z into yet another run of the mill picture because instead of telling the story from multiple points of view as would be befitting in a war that encompasses the entire world, we are forced to watch yet another film in which an American, straight, cisgender, able bodied White male is the only hope for humanity. I wonder if there will ever be a time when Hollywood will tire of offering us this trite over privileged narrative?
Instead of giving us a complex story as the book did, World War Z the movie was heavily reliant on special effects. Zombies moved incredibly fast, no matter the rate of decay. Zombies quickly scaled walls and chased humans with super human speed. I suspect that this was to increase a feeling of peril but let's face facts, just something determined to eat you should be scary enough. The story was essentially sacrificed to give us super threatening zombies.
Very few people of colour make any kind of appearance in this story. One family actually provides refuge for the Lane family. Gerry tells them that he is an expert and that they must keep moving. Of course the family of colour chooses to stay, which leads to the death of them all with the exception of Tomas their son. The Lane family quickly becomes the guardians of Tomas, who despite losing all of his family to zombies shows little to no emotion; while the Lane daughters are a wreck and filled with grief by all they have seen. This of course gave the Lane girls far greater depth of character than Tomas. The other two character of colour of any note were Thierry Umutoni (Gerry's boss) and an unidentified W.H.O. doctor. Neither were given much character development at all. Though all were focused on finding a solution to the zombie apocalypse, their answers all revolved around Gerry.
In terms of gender, World War Z was again so much less progressive than the book. Karin Lane spent most of the movie waiting for Gerry to get back. Karin served basically as a symbol of what Gerry was fighting for and had no character beyond being wife and mother. Segen is a soldier in the Israeli army, which means that she is highly trained yet Gerry saved her life on several occasions throughout the movie. She persevered though she was gravely wounded and ended up without an arm but still no matter her experience or skills, it was Gerry who was in charge.
World War Z is yet another movie in which GLBT people were erased altogether. When I see this sort of thing, I wonder if being part of the GLBT people makes a person extra tasty? There is no justifiable reason for this kind of erasure despite the fact that it is a long accepted trope within the genre. Would it really have been that hard to see someone grieving over their same sex spouse, given that one of the W.H.O. doctor's make a point of telling Gerry that everyone has lost someone?
From the moment that I saw the trailer for the movie, I knew that it could never live up to the book. This of course is a common occurrence when movies are turned into books. Who the directors choose to include and what stories they choose to tell however is quite telling. I suppose an excuse could be made that making the movie closer to the book would have been too expensive, but this is precisely why the director and the producer should have taken greater care to make the movie more diverse.
I wasn't bored by World War Z, but that really isn't saying much. It did nothing to differentiate itself from everything else that is already out there. The larger screen and the bigger budget lead to more special effects but as aforementioned, that in itself does not a movie make.