Plagued by production troubles, rumored tension between star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster, and expensive reshoots that entirely reworked the final 45 minutes of the film, World War Z opened this summer with a very large target on its back. The final result, however, was far from a disaster. Though many anticipated a major box office bomb from Paramount, World War Z was actually a rather effective summer tentpole whose intensity caught on with audiences to the tune of $540 million worldwide. With a potential sequel on the way, the film is now available on home video. Hit the jump for my review of World War Z on Blu-ray.
Very loosely based on the novel of the same name by author Max Brooks, World War Z tackles the zombie genre on a global scale with an eye towards something more along the lines of an international thriller rather than a full-on horror film. The result is an interesting if a tad underwhelming effort that excels when it’s not in blockbuster mode. Pitt’s gravitas brings a lot to the lead character of Gerry Lane, given that he’s basically a conduit that guides the audience through the zombie-filled world. The CGI and bloodless approach to the zombies makes them feel more like a faceless hoard than an encroaching threat, which in turns leads to set pieces that are compelling enough but lack any sort of “wow” factor.
The film is at its best in close quarters and during the more quiet dialogue scenes. The intrigue that propels Lane to search for the source of the outbreak is much more interesting than watching mountains of zombies fill every nook and cranny of a city like an invasion of ants. The final portion of the film at the W.H.O headquarters—the one that was written by Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard after principal photography had wrapped—takes an intimate approach to the zombie pandemic, making for a genuinely tense and thrilling sequence.
Even though the characters are thinly drawn and the villains of the film fail to become menacing, there’s enough meat on the story to keep things compelling. If Forster and Pitt had taken the tone of the final portion of the film and applied it to the entire feature, one imagines something a bit more lasting or fulfilling might have materialized.
The Blu-ray of World War Z comes pre-set with the unrated version of the film as the default. This cut runs seven minutes longer than the theatrical release, but the added footage is mostly extra shots of carnage and a heck of a lot more CG blood. It’s essentially a very soft R-rated cut of World War Z, but the haphazardness with which it was put together (ie. the very fake-looking CG blood spurts) doesn’t amount to anything that’s substantially better or worse than the theatrical version.
Those who followed the production closely probably would have loved to see the film’s original third act that took place in Russia as an “alternate cut,” but sadly Paramount chose not to include any footage from that material on this Blu-ray release.
The transfer quality of both the picture and audio are excellent, with no noticeable flaws.
Again, I would have loved to have seen an honest, in-depth look at the film’s post-production process and how the extensive reshoots materialized, but in the Blu-ray extras, Paramount pretends that the film’s current ending was planned all along. There’s not one mention of the word “reshoot,” and zero footage from the original ending is included on the disc; not even storyboards or concept art. Disappointing to say the least.
- Origins – An 8-minute featurette that briefly touches on Paramount’s acquisition of the novel and assembling the cast. Very surface-level, EPK-style interviews with Forster, Mireille Enos, and others. A word of warning, though: Pitt doesn’t not appear in any interviews on the Blu-ray.
- Looking to Science – A short featurette that delves into the “science” of zombies and the biological precedents for Forster’s approach to the creatures.
- WWZ: Production – A four-part documentary that runs a total of 36 minutes, canvassing all of the major sequences from the film. There are some neat behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the pic’s big set pieces, but again there’s nothing particularly illuminating or candid with regards to how the film actually came together.
Though many were expecting a Battleship-level disaster, World War Z proved to be an entertaining-enough summer blockbuster with a compelling hook. The execution is a tad underwhelming, but the third act is genuinely tense and Pitt provides enough of a hook throughout the rest of the film to keep the audience engaged. As far as the Blu-ray release goes, though, it’s supremely disappointing to see that Paramount glosses over the film’s production issues and disingenuously presents the third act as a pre-planned piece of the puzzle. A more in-depth look at the reshoot process and a peek at the original footage would have made this purchase worthwhile.