June 20, 2013


At a nascent stage in the development of World War Z, someone must have said, “I want a zombie action movie,” and somehow no one else decided to build upon that.  The checklist was “Zombies” and “Action”, and everything else that makes a movie was chucked in as an afterthought.  “Family” became the “humanizing” element of a paper-thing protagonist, and zombies became nothing but a generic threat with well-established rules and an entrenched fan-base who don’t seem to mind the horror sub-genre growing weaker and more thoughtless with almost each new property.  Despite its valuable resources like strong source material, an international setting, and a talented lead actor, World War Z is content to deliver some thrilling action scenes, and then leave the audience with nothing but a rotting carcass.

After a zombie rampage destroys his home city of Philadelphia, former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is called back into action to find out the source of the outbreak and discover a cure.  Lane reluctantly agrees so that his family can remain safe on an aircraft carrier where a command center has been set up to combat the epidemic.  The film proceeds to take Lane on a repetitive journey where he shows up in a country, learns a little bit of information, and then has to flee from hordes of CGI zombies.


There hasn’t been a zombie movie with the blockbuster budget of World War Z, and that’s a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it allows director Marc Forster to create some exciting set pieces with a sense of scale we’ve never seen in the genre before.  Despite whiffing on the action in his previous blockbuster flick, Quantum of Solace, Forster has delivered the best aspect of World War Z by expertly balancing the overwhelming horde of the undead with the tight-quarters, claustrophobic chases that are a staple of the fast-moving zombies made popular in 28 Days Later.  However, unlike Danny Boyle‘s hit film, Forster has to make the concession almost every blockbuster has to make: a PG-13 rating.  Forster’s zombies are visually tame, and there’s admittedly no guessing the twisted logic of the MPAA ratings board. Nevertheless, it’s still somewhat odd that a basic cable show like The Walking Dead can take their gore so much further than anything seen in Forster’s movie.

Forster also plays by a far more lenient set of rules for his zombies such as only needing 12 seconds to tell if someone is infected or not, amputation being a way to stop zombification from occurring, and biting as the only way to spread infection (as opposed to zombie fluids getting into someone’s mouth).  Again, this is an action film, and any attempts at horror are secondary.  It can occasionally manage a jump scare, but World War Z never gets to the true terror of a worldwide epidemic.  Even when the zombie attacks are in full force, no one seems particularly scared aside from one of Gerry’s daughters.  Everyone else is going through the motions of flee, collect supplies, and generally behaving as if this is a run-of-the-mill natural disaster.


It’s particularly disappointing when you consider that Paramount bought the rights to Max Brooks‘ novel of the same name, and then used almost none of it.  As I’ve said before, directors are under no obligation to stay faithful to the source material, but it’s odd to almost completely ignore that material, especially when it has so many fresh ideas to offer.  Brooks approaches the situation from different perspectives and how each country would respond—usually with harsh choices to ensure the survival of our species.  It goes into aspects you wouldn’t naturally think of like armies refusing to fire on their own possibly infected citizens, and the ineffectiveness of particular weapons against the undead.  It’s a long, drawn-out conflict with huge casualties and ugly decisions, i.e. a world war.  Instead, it feels like the problem in the movie is solved in about a week.  As my friend and fellow critic Curt Holman pointed out after the screening, a more fitting title would be “Brad Pitt Zombie Project”.

Just as confusing as why the film would disregard the novel is why Pitt signed on at all.  He also produced the movie, and, aside from the chance to possibly launch an action franchise with him as the hero, I can’t understand why he decided to play such a poorly-written role.  Using Gerry’s family as shorthand for “stakes”, the movie gives him no personality or anyone to play off.  For a film about saving humanity, there are almost no authentic human emotions.  The extent of Pitt’s character is that Gerry has a keen sense of observation such as noticing the 12 seconds it takes for someone to turn.  That’s a skill, not a personality.


World War Z isn’t about characters.  It’s a visual effects reel, and a showcase for Forster to say, “Look!  I can do action movies!”  The behind-the-scenes production problems and the attempts to fix them haven’t yielded a mess, but instead the exact opposite: a clean, empty space.  It’s a movie that may take place on a global stage, but the world lacks definition.  With no world and no war, all that’s left is the “Z”, which can stand for zombies or what you catch when you’re sleeping.

Rating: D



  • peter

    A D from Matt? That means the movie is good! I start to get worried when he grade a movie with an A

  • Lance

    D! What!
    Actually, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve heard it’s actually than all the rumors around the reshoots would have let people suggest. I’ll post back here after I’ve seen the film tomorrow…

  • Lance

    D! What!
    Actually, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’ve heard it’s actually than all the rumors around the reshoots would have let people suggest. I’ll post back here after I’ve seen the film tomorrow…

  • jay

    D thats a shame, i heard this movie was surprisingly good from a lot of other reviews. probably gonna see it tonight so i can judge for myself.

  • Oolie zool

    Everyone knew this was going to be shit. Don’t crap on this guy for calling it what everyone knew it was, SHIT.

    • MCP

      I agree as well, Matt doesn’t have the best opinions at times. But, ya this looks like the crap I had this morning…

  • Jessica Johanna

    I must say I enjoyed the movie. I know the script could have been so much better, and I didn’t like the last part of the movie, but I don’t think it was bad.

  • DoobieDave

    Goldberg…just a typo correction. You meant to say “paper thin” protagonist. You accidentally added a “g”.

  • Norbit

    So another blockbuster ruined by this talentless hack called Damon Lindelof, right? I’ll wait to buy the Blu-Ray with the original epilogue set in Russia, thanks.

    • toksin

      Please someone tell me WHY THIS dude gets work? WHY? Is it because he can’t make fun of himself on Twitter so in return that it makes him look ‘smart’ of some sort? I have never seen so much rubbish when this dude ‘writes’ I mean sometimes it is a matter of opinion sure, but this guy has done the LOST ending. Need i say more? The people who watched that show for years should have sued him. Prometheus? A joke. Into darkness’s ending? pleaase. And now this.

      It really proves that you dont have to have talent to make it in Hollywood. bar none.

    • Josh Ochoa

      Damon Lindelof didn’t end up doing the rewrites Drew Goddard did; they even reported that on this site…also World War Z is one of the better blockbusters of the year IMO though the actors are all paper thin.


      or dont bother at all and just read the book and use your imagination to make the best version of WWZ you personally want to see in your head ;)

      agree about Lindelof, everything he touches turns to childish nonsense, total hack

  • LEM

    You remember that book about toy ray guns? INDEPENDENCE DAY.

  • fitzchiv

    matts reviews are absolutely worthless.

  • Major Undeclared

    Seems like the comments are more about Goldberg than the movie. I disagree with him quite a bit, but he’s hit the nail on the head. This movie feels like a mid-90′s Michael Crichton zombie movie.

  • Mikey The Riot

    saw it, its great! Way better than Man Of Steel (although theyre completely different movies)

    • Strong Enough

      you’re insane.

  • Pingback: WORLD WAR Z (2013) Review | The Reel Scoop

  • Alan Burnett

    “As my friend and fellow critic Curt Holman pointed out after the screening, a more fitting title would be “Brad Pitt Zombie Project”.”

    … yeah, amazing anecdote, there. Your friend sure sounds like a Winston Churchill-style wit.

  • Liderc

    This movie is actually getting some decent reviews from top critics. Everyone expected it to be such a terrible mess but it ended up being somewhat interesting. We’ve just witnessed another Goldbernegative© review.

    Remember, this same person gave Iron Man 3 a B rating when it was so bad people were falling asleep – not to mention walking out after The Mandarin “reveal.” And don’t give me “oh it made 1.2 billion so it must be good,” yeah the Twilight films and Transformers 3 raked in over 1 billion too.

  • Bloughmee

    Why is everyone dissing on Matt Goldberg? He’s absolutely just telling it like it is – you can try to polish a turd but you’ll still have a turd – just now on your towel. It’s 100% obvious (to me, anyway) from the material they chose for the trailers that WWZ was a WWSnooze. When the trailers suck this badly – the movie is not going to be far behind. OTOH, big budget action movies are seldom dramatic masterpieces so this should surprise no-one reading this. No worries about summer box office – it’ll make everyone a small fortune on DVD/Blu-Ray. Idiots in India will spend a week’s pay to own a copy.

    • Liderc

      Iron Man 3′s trailers looked amazing, but it was a insanely terrible movie. So trailers aren’t always a great indicator.

      • Ozweego

        Agreed. I really wasn’t all that impressed IM3 or Start Trek ID for that matter. They looked amazing in the trailers but the that’s where it all ended for me.

        Like all movies I will give this one a chance and see what happens. It isn’t doing to bad on RT so it’s worth a shot. And lets face it, if I were to base my movie viewings on Goldberg’s rankings I wouldn’t even know where my local movie theatre is.

      • Elephant

        Very true. As Jeff says below too, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek delivered good trailers but the movies were letdowns. Man of Steel was the only movie that delivered what the trailer promised, and then some.
        The other problem with WWZ, as I’ve said elsewhere, is that Brad Pitt is boring. He always looks preoccupied with something else. Read WWZ’s review on Salon, same opinion there. As Salon says, imagine Tom Cruise in this character. I haven’t seen WWZ, but I bet Brad Pitt doesn’t have a hand to hand fight with a zombie. You just know that, in the same role, Tom Cruise would’ve taken on a small army of zombies, found a cure, saved his family, saved the president, etc.

  • Guest

    this movie is good especially the zombie madness in israel

  • DannyD

    I liked it, thought it was a great flick little lacking in places but none the less good.
    sure i haven’t read the book so i can’t compare the too.. but i liked it the cast were great.. and i’m getting the book off a friend to see the difference

    • book>>>>

      be prepared for a shocking difference ;)

  • move on

    for gods sake, are people really going to try defend this crap and slag off Matt AGAIN!?! lol

  • /tv/

    While the movie is no doubt actually crap, or at least average – don’t take this review for what it is. Matt Goldberg is a notoriously bitter little Jew who HATES movies and loathes the time he has to spend reviewing them.

    Look elsewhere for a more accurate opinion, at least one written by someone who doesn’t hate all movies.

  • Jimmy B

    Marc Forster made one of the worst Bond movies ever (Quantum of Solace) and now this… Maybe it’s time to stop making blockbusters, Marc.

  • Saltonstall

    This might be a slightly harsh review, but most of Matt’s complaints here are valid. It’s an improvement on Quantum of Solace, but that’s not saying much.

  • mattfullofshit

    I won’t read matts review until I watched the movie. I agree to most people ate saying about Matt Goldberg. HE DOESNT DESERVE TO REVIEW MOVIES. COLLIDER MUST FIND OTHER PERSON TO DO HIS NONSENSE REVIEW!

  • NMphotog

    Matt was right. This thing was a total stinker. The vast majority of people in the theater I was in laughed almost the entire movie. It’s crap.

  • Philip

    Another disappointment in a summer of weakling efforts. It comes alive during the fifteen minutes or so spent in Jerusalem, and the money shot in which zombies scale the wailing wall is well worth seeing on an IMAX screen. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is a total flat-line. If I were to grade this movie, I’d give it a C.