Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Ghoul Versus World War Z

Click here for the a look into the troubled production of this movie!

We open with a black screen that says “Plan B”. I take this to mean “Plan A” has failed and we'll start off the movie knee deep in zomb- oh, turns out that was just a studio logo. They got me good!  The film opens with a montage of worldwide news reports. They start off innocent enough, but more and more start mentioning a virus. A virus? Oh boy, here we go again... another movie where the zombies aren't actually zombies but just INFECTED. Credits play to the side of the screen, Matthew Bellamy of Muse getting a music credit. Well, if this film turns out to be bad at least it'll have some good music.

We start with a house in Philadelphia, where Brad Pitt and his wife Karin get ambushed in bed by their two daughters who wake them up for breakfast. As they go about the day, we learn the older daughter (Rachel) has asthma.  You ever notice kids in these movies ALWAYS have to have a physical ailment that'll flare up at the most inopportune, but also most dramatic, moment?

As they're out on a drive and listening to the radio, we learn the outbreak has gotten much worse across the world. The family gets stuck in some major gridlock as something big in happening up ahead, as evidenced by helicopters flying overhead and a freaking explosion not long after.  A garbage truck decides its had enough and starts steamrolling through traffic. Pitt starts following the path he's clearing but gets NAILED by a car that smashes into the driver side of the car. Fortunately, his Lead Character Forcefield extends to his entire family and they walk out of the car without a single scratch.

Through seizure inducing jump cuts, we see a group of Infected chasing down every person in sight. I say Infected because they're making Usain Bolt look like a slow old man and are only biting people, not eating them. Armed soldiers are everywhere, and yet oddly not firing at anyone even when they clearly have a open shot.  As he runs away with his family, Pitt watches an Infected turn a man into a fellow Infected via bite. As they're near a train station, a prerecorded message counts down to the upcoming train. The countdown parallels the man's transformation, which is twelve seconds. This will be very important later on, which the movie makes sure we know by doing the whole scene in slow motion.

Pitt and his family jack an RV and drive off. Overhead, military choppers discuss with each other that their containment has been an epic fail. Maybe if you'd used those guns you were holding instead of standing around watching Infected it might have worked a tad better. Also, the only barricades I saw were roadblocks made of flimsy wood. Has there EVER been a competent military in a zombie/infected movie?  Much later as they're driving outside the city, Rachel begins to have an asthma attack. And -GASP- she has no inhaler on her. Here we go folks! Pitt parks the RV to try to comfort her, turning it off for some reason. He tells her they'll go get an inhaler as he gets a call from his old friend UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni, who says he needs him to help deal with the crisis. Pitt used to be a UN Inspector of some sort, but it's never really defined, just that the job didn't agree with him.

Thierry says they'll have an extraction point set up for Pitt within the hour. Meanwhile, Karin tries to start the RV but this is a movie so it won't. Pitt's younger daughter Connie finds a rifle in the RV, and we now officially have all the pieces in place for an epic Infected attack. Only... the RV starts and they drive off. Huh. That was pointless.  They make it to a grocery store in New Jersey, where mass looting is going on.  This is either because of the outbreak or because it's New Jersey, they honestly never make it clear.  Pitt wisely takes the rifle with him, but unwisely takes his entire family with him. He really should have parked the RV a ways away and had his family hide in there. Inside the store there is a really funny part where an employee is just walking around all casual like watching people rob the place blind, but maybe he used to work at Walmart, where this is an everyday occurrence.

Pitt goes to find albuterol medicine for Rachel, coming face to face with a creepy gun wielding man who... helps him find it. This movie's kind of weird. Pitt hears Connie screaming for help as Karin is being attacked by a man and the employee we saw earlier. Yikes, there goes all the levity from the previous scene.  Pitt yells at them to stop, the one guy pulling out a pistol and shooting at him. Creepy Gun Wielding Pharmacist is nowhere to be seen, so Pitt shoots back with the rifle. In a nice touch of reality Pitt isn't a crack shot and takes a couple of shots to kill the guy.

Leaving the store they find the RV is gone, so they decide to hold up at some nearby apartments. Pitt calls Thierry, who says the rescue can't happen until sunrise now so they make plans to meet on the roof of the building. Inside the apartments they are taken in by a kind family who feeds them and gives them shelter. Pitt takes a nap, awoken by flashback footage of scenes that happened earlier. This also doubles as the film's drinking game, take a shot every time Pitt has a flashback.

Pitt tries to talk the family into coming with them, but they refuse. As his family fights to the roof, Pitt gets pinned down by an Infected who coughs blood into his mouth. He is saved by Tommy, the little boy from the family who took him in, who shoots the attacker dead. They finally make it to the roof, Pitt rushing to the edge of the building and preparing to jump. He counts to twelve but does not turn like the man who was bitten earlier.

He explains to the mystified onlookers he got blood in his mouth, but his wife tells him he'll be okay. And... he is. Wait, what? How in the world does the virus spread then? We see it spreads by bite, so it has to be an exchange of Infected bodily fluid. One would think Infected blood in your freaking MOUTH would be enough, but I guess not.  The chopper arrives right on time as more Infected (including Tommy's parents) start arriving. One of the chopper soldiers is MATTHEW FOX, who escorts Pitt's family on board.

You can't even count this as a cameo as he has no lines and is on camera for maybe three seconds. I didn't even know it was him until I saw his name in the credits at the end and went “Huh?!”  There's actually a reason behind this. In the earlier draft of the film, Pitt loses his wife to another man while he's in Russia. Matthew Fox was set to play the man, and was going to be a major player in the proposed sequel. Fox later had to drop out of the film due to his commitment to the film Alex Cross, so whatever role he played in the rewrite was reduced to this blink and you'll miss it cameo.

They land on the UN Command aircraft carrier where Thierry catches Pitt up to speed: the President and most of the Joint Chiefs are deceased and the Vice President is missing. Long story short: the world is boned. We are introduced to Dr. Fassbach, who is the last great hope of humanity. He's convinced it's a virus and that he can stop it. They believe they'd tracked the virus's origin to South Korea, and they want Pitt to go along. Pitt won't leave his family, but the Military Asshole In Charge says he'll kick his family off the ship if he doesn't.  Incompetent military, check. Completely evil military, check. All we need is a soldier to show us a picture of his sweetheart back home and we'll have a Bingo!  Karin is against this, but Pitt says they have no choice. He gives her a satellite phone and says he'll call her once a day to let her know everything's okay.

As Pitt flies to South Korea, we cut back to the carrier where we see the soldiers being absolute dicks to Karin and her kids. After all the work they went to establishing how much trouble the human race is in you think they'd try to make the survivors be a tad sympathetic, but I guess the audience is too stupid to know what a Great Guy Brad Pitt is so we really need assholes to make him stand out. 5-to-1 says he rescues a puppy by the end of this movie.  Possibly two.

The plane lands in a completely dark airfield in the rain, and we are treated to a slick framed shot of the team carefully exiting the plane. That's probably something I should mention, this movie really hasn't looked that great thus far. Every action scene has been in the Why-The-Hell-Are-Directors-Still-Using-This Shaky Cam mixed with erratic jump cuts that make it almost impossible to see what's going on. A lot of this is due to the movie bafflingly being PG-13 (I'm watching the Blu-Ray Unrated Cut, but it's still taaaaaaaaaame) to hide blood and gore so they could get more ticket sales.

Ninja Infected begin attacking in droves, Fassbach panicking and running back into the plane. He trips... and dies? What?! I had to rewind this several times to see what happened, when he tripped he accidentally shot himself in the head with this pistol he had in his hand. Thanks PG-13 rating!  Friendly soldiers arrive and help get the team to safety. Their leader, Speke, explains the infection started with the base doctor who has bitten by a villager. They locked up the Infected in a cell and ended up burning them all. Pitt is interested by one of the clean soldiers with a lame leg who was completely ignored by the Infected as he tried to escape the cell before he got bit.

Elsewhere in the holding area, we meet a Crazy with a Capital “C” CIA agent that's been locked up for selling weapons to the North Koreans. He's played by the always great David Morse, and- waitaminute. Kill him Brad! KILL HIM NOW! He's the one behind all of this! He unleashed the virus of the 12 Monkeys and that's why everyone is transforming into Infected!

Morse reveals North Korea is doing just fine during the crisis. Pitt asks how, so Morse rationally PULLS ONE OF HIS OWN TEETH OUT. He explains North Korea had the teeth of everyone pulled out, 23 million people in less than a day. No bites, no Infected. This scene is so weird and out of place with the rest of the film I can't tell if he's serious or just being crazy. If he is telling the truth, we're meant to believe the virus can only be transmitted by Infected teeth breaking skin and NOT bodily fluids? So I could have an Infected spit blood into my mouth and I'd be fine, but if his tooth touched me I'm turned?

Morse then helpfully informs Pitt that his princess is in another castle and he wants to go to Jerusalem to meet with a man named Jurgen. This is actually feeling like a video game...  As they get ready to leave for Israel, Pitt invites Speke and his men to come with but they refuse. One replies with “better the devil you know than the one you don't” and this HAS to be a line that was saved from JMS' script. In the early 2000s he wrote a phenomenal comic mini-series called Midnight Nation, and that line was basically the basis for one of the issues.

They begin the dangerous mission of refueling the plane without attracting the Infected. It's been established by now the Infected are drawn to sound and seem to have superhuman hearing, so they head there by bicycle to avoid using noisy vehicles. I'll give them a point for that, very creative. However it's at this moment Pitt's wife calls him on the phone... dammit Brad, didn't you read the sign? Lousy Hollywood punks, always thinking the rules don't apply to them.

This sets off the Infected, so Speke is like “Screw it!” and fires up the refueling truck still a distance away from the plane. The plane gets refueled but Speke gets bitten in the process, shooting himself in the head before he can turn. I would bring up a few scenes earlier where one of the soldiers mentioned to Pitt the Infected here take five to ten minutes to turn, but this never comes up again so if the movie doesn't care I won't either.  We arrive at Jerusalem, which now has a massive wall erected around it keeping the Infected out. The city is under military control but people still go about their daily lives as best they can. Pitt meets Jurgen, who reveals he learned the Infected were coming due to a transmission they intercepted from India.

Elsewhere in the city they set up a PA system to have a public concert, and this excess of noise REALLY provokes the Infected. They start forming a mountain, climbing over each other to scale the wall. Good thing there were no defenses or lookouts at the top or anything. They make it to the top and begin raining down on the other side of the city like suicidal death machines... which is SO going to be the name of my death metal band.

Jurgen instructs one of his soldiers, a badass woman named Segen, to get Pitt safely back to his plane. This sets off a huge chase sequence where Pitt witnesses two instances of the Infected passing up people instead of biting them. This chase is cut with shots of helicopters flying around outside, which were the bread and butter of this film being shown in 3D in the theaters.  If this movie's drinking game was take a shot every time it shows you a helicopter, you'd be HAMMERED already.

During the chase Segen gets bit on the hand, but luckily Pitt is a huge fan of the Walking Dead so he cuts her hand off to stop the infection and save her. The chopper that was coming to take them to Pitt's plane crashes because the Infected are able to jump up to it and bring it down. Pitt's pilot hears about the crash on the radio and gets the hell out of Israel.  Pit sees a civilian plane about to take off, instructing the soldiers with him to stop it so they can board. So Israel was completely pointless, but at least Pitt got the Achievement for completing the Jerusalem level. Boy it'll be hard when he has to play it on Veteran Difficulty though.

The plane takes off and we get a montage of the Infected taking over Jerusalem, cut with some more helicopter porn. Pitt takes the time to change the dressing on Segen's stump of an arm, telling her to “gut up” as he does. That is cool, who can I petition to have that officially replace “man up”? While changing her dressing, he has a flashback montage of the Infected passing up people which Fassbach helpfully narrates for him.

Getting a light bulb over his head, he calls his wife to talk to Thierry. Time is short since the battery on the sat phone is dying, so there's no time to explain anything naturally. He just says he needs information on where the nearest medical facility is that makes vaccines. Thierry finds this information, and has Pitt give the phone to the pilots so he can order them to fly the plane to Wales, where such a World Health Organization (WHO) medical lab exists.

Now... the second Pitt steps on the plane is where Lindelof's completely rewritten ending begins and WOW does it show.  This script is a HOT MESS, and that's being kind. Anywhere from eight to twelve people had their hands on it, giving us a very disjointed story where the tone is all over the place, but this part is classic Lindelof.

Logic is bypassed for drama, as Pitt starts getting stupid because the story demands it. We don't know what his plan is, but he honestly can't tell Thierry what his plan is? Thierry, a man with WAY more power and resources than Pitt has, could surely follow up on Pitt's plan faster than Pitt could. Pitt is stuck on a five hour flight to Wales where he'll just twiddle his thumbs, Thierry could absolutely have done SOMETHING in this time span.

The stupidity only gets worse as in the next scene, the flight attendant opens a closet and- SURPRISE SURPRISE! An Infected is hiding inside. Uh, what? We've seen the Infected smash through windows and doors to get to prey, but this one is just content to hang out in a closet? How did he get in there? Wouldn't all the noises from a plane full of people pique his curiosity?  In the back half of the plane, Pitt's spider-sense goes off and he peeks through the curtains to first class. He sees it's full of Infected now, so he quietly instructs everyone to... stack their luggage in front of the curtains? The hell?! Unless the passengers are all from the Professional Bowlers' Association transporting their bowling balls, I don't think suitcases full of clothes are going to stop super strong Infected.

Shockingly I'm right, and we have a full scale Infected Bite Party on our hands. Pitt takes a grenade from Segen and throws it into the mass. He and Segen buckle in as the explosion takes out half the plane and sucks all the zombies into the sky, but also causes the plane to crash because Lindelof. Hates. Planes. He also thinks surviving a plane crash is SUPER easy.  Pitt wakes up in the wreckage, a jagged piece of metal imbedded all the way through his side, but that's like a mosquito bite in these movies. He and Segen make their way to the WHO facility, which luckily isn't that far away. Pitt passes out from his injuries when they get there.  Back on the carrier, Pitt is assumed dead in the plane crash so Captain Asshole kicks his family off, sending them to a refugee camp in Nova Scotia.

Another movie montage flashback jolts Pitt back to consciousness. He is now bandaged up and sans jagged piece of metal. He meets with the staff there, one of which just happens to be DOCTOR WHO! This movie came out June of 2012. Peter Capaldi is credited as WHO Doctor. August 2012 he's announced as the new Doctor Who. There is no way that's a coincidence, it's about the coolest hint in the history of all hints.  But sadly he's not the Doctor yet, so he doesn't do anything.

Pitt tells the doctors he wants their worst yet curable disease, his plan to infect everyone with it so the Infected will leave us alone and then we can easily take them out. All in all, that's a pretty good plan I must say. Glad to see Pitt lost his Idiot Ball in the plane crash wreckage. The problem is all the disease samples are in the B-Wing of the building which is overrun by Infected, naturally. Which means it's now time for the federally mandated stealth level. I hate these in action games.

Pitt, Segen, and one of the doctors named Javier create MacGyver armour on their arms and legs, but not their necks for some reason. There's a pistol, but Pitt doesn't want to take it because it'll be too noisy, but Segen disagrees. They creep into the B-Wing, Javier accidentally loudly kicking a Mountain Dew can (which the camera lovingly follows as it rolls across the room) but fortunately no Infected hear it. Mountain Dew! So TOTALLY AWESOME it doesn't ruin your stealth mission!

As they head down the stairs, they finally make enough noise to attract a lone female Infected. Despite being armed with a baseball bat and a crowbar, Segen choose to shoot her with the loud pistol which of course draws of ALL the Infected. Ah, so THAT'S where Pitt's Idiot Ball went.  Pitt stays behind to play bait while Segen and Javier go get the sample, since Pitt would rightfully have no idea what he's looking for. This doesn't work as the Infected end up going for Segen and Javier, who run all the way back to the A-Wing with Doctor Who.

Pitt makes his way to the now deserted lab, which is sealed by a key-coded door. He's about to smash it open when one of the doctors calls him on a nearby phone with the code. He chooses to set his crowbar down to enter the code, leaving it outside as he enters the lab because there's NO WAY an Infected is going to end up outside the lab so he won't need to bludgeon anyone to death.  Pitt has no clue what's what, so he just takes all the samples. He turns around to leave through the door, which now has an Infected standing in front of it. WHOA! I did NOT see that coming! Thankfully this is not done as a huge jump scare so I have to give them points for not going the easy route.

Sighing, he decides to inject himself with a sample but has no idea which one to use. The doctors watch from a camera, frustrated they can't tell him which one as there's no phone in there. Pitt writes a message to tell his family he loves them, holds it up to the camera, and injects himself with a random sample. Through his shirt. Normally I'd bitch about this but it's obvious he's pretty sure he's going to die so sterility isn't a big deal at this point. After waiting awhile, Pitt opens the door AND IS BITTEN INTO OBLIVION BY THE INFECTED!  Nah just kidding, could you imagine though? Pitt safely walks past the Infected and stops for a victory Pepsi to celebrate. This ranks among one of the funniest scenes in recent times, all that urgency and world saving nonsense can TOTALLY wait for some sweet product placement.

We see he's opened up a Pepsi machine and makes all the cans drop out to cause a loud noise to draw the Infected. I immediately wonder how he was able to open the pop machine quietly, or really at all. Those machines are borderline impossible to open up so easily unless you have some specialized keys. All the Infected bunched up outside the A-wing run right past him to get to the cold, crisp, refreshing, delicious, thirst quenching- wait, Pepsi isn't sponsoring this blog.  Yet. WINK WINK Pepsi!

A bit later, we see Pitt get a life saving injection of medicine. Not through his shirt though, which is rolled up to expose his bare arm. Yay proper medical injection in a movie!  Cut to the refugee camp in Nova Scotia, where Pitt arrives with his family happily waiting for him. Pitt narrates this isn't the end, as we get a montage of the after effect of his discovery, mankind finally able to fight against the Infected. Pitt says it's bought them some time and given them a chance.

Cue the credits, which are set to the instrumental version of the AWESOME Muse song “Follow Me”.

World War Z turned out to be a blockbuster smash, a near miracle considering the problems it had even getting made. Critically it didn't fare as well, getting very mixed reviews. It's definitely much better than your average summer blockbuster, but just barely. It has a great pace that keeps you interested the entire way through, but most of the action scenes are indecipherable or just endless running. The tone is wildly uneven throughout, especially Lindelof's third act which stands out severely to the rest of the film.

Oddly enough, the third act is my favourite part because it's not trying to overload your senses with mind numbing action. Pitt, who carries the entire film on his back and is really the only actor trying at all, shines here. The scene where he is resigned to the fact he has to inject himself with an unknown disease is beautiful, as is the one where he takes a few moments to sit down before testing out his theory in the most dangerous way imaginable.

This one scene really makes you wish Foster had done the entire movie with this restraint (and kept JMS' script), as he would have had something REALLY special on his hands. Instead we mostly get a video game where Pitt pointlessly wanders from level to level for his next mission objective and runs from a lot of Infected.  This is the first movie I really can't recommend unless you're heavily into the Infected genre, are a massive Brad Pitt fan, or want to see the funny Doctor Who reference. Not a bad film per se, just very forgettable. Here's hoping the sequel doesn't suffer from the developmental hell this one did and start off with a strong vision.