Review: Pitt and his zombies entertain in 'WWZ'
This publicity image released by Paramount Pictures shows Brad Pitt in a scene from "World War Z." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)
Might there be a real-life zombie apocalypse one day? Not likely, but then again, the way zombies have chomped their way into our pop culture the last several years, it's maybe a bit less implausible than it once was.
What IS increasingly quite plausible, alas, is a scary global pandemic, and "World War Z," the long-awaited Brad Pitt thriller, cleverly melds that real-life threat into the more fanciful zombie premise. Talk about more bang for your buck: Once you've settled back into your seat after a good snarling zombie chase, there's nothing like the thought of a SARS outbreak to get the blood racing again.
But let's just say right here that the one apocalypse you won't see in "World War Z," based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel), is an artistic one. There was lots of talk about this mega-budget 3D movie, co-produced by Pitt and directed by Marc Forster, falling on its $200-million plus feet, what with a postponed release, a re-shot ending, endless script drafts and major crew changes along the way.
This publicity image released by Paramount Pictures shows Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, left, and Daniella Kertesz as Segen, center in a scene from "World War Z." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Jaap Buitendijk)
But in the end, it's pretty much what you'd want in a summer blockbuster: scary but not-too-gross zombies, a fast-paced journey to exotic locales, a few quite thrilling action scenes, and did we mention Brad Pitt?
Oh right, we did. Surely this isn't a performance to rival Pitt's work in "Moneyball" or "The Tree of Life," but given the lack of time for nuanced character development, it hardly seems meant to be. What Pitt offers the film is pretty much what his character, a level-headed former U.N. investigator, offers the endangered planet: Nothing too flashy, just a comfortable, intelligent presence that keeps things grounded and just might win the day.
That last part, of course, remains to be seen: The filmmakers hope "World War Z" is just the first in a franchise. And so, the story may have a long way to go.
But the beginning — especially the first half of this movie — is promising. As fans of the book know, it was written as an oral history, a collection of individual accounts. The filmmakers wisely ditched that format for the sake of immediacy.