My friend got some free tickets for a World War Z preview on Friday. I never turn down free movie tickets if I can help it, but I was actually looking forward to seeing this. I have a love-hate relationship with zombie movies, and the early reviews had me cautiously optimistic.
And this was a premium preview, with free popcorn and soda, a photo op where they green screen you on to the movie poster, and free t-shirts. Live 105 was there, giving away special “survival packs” of swag, and there were rumors of something special, probably zombie cosplayers.
The movie was supposed to start at 10, but there was some kind of delay, so I was reading my Kindle. All of a sudden I heard cheering from the bottom rows, and looked up, expecting the cosplayers. But it was just some guy throwing out some free shirts. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited, since we were getting the shirts after the movie anyway. Then I recognized that the dude flinging the shirts was Brad Pitt. He was just stopping by to wind down his cross-country promotion tour and hoped we enjoyed ourselves. It was pretty cool. I managed to get a free very blurry photos.
And with that, the movie started!
And I really liked it!
[Mild spoilers] Most zombie stories are told from the point of view of an average person who has no idea what is going on and is just trying to survive. This movie is told from the point of view of an ex-UN peace keeper who has a lot of experience surviving chaos and still has friends in high places. Very quickly he goes from man on the street to man officially figuring things out. I really liked seeing the catastrophe from that point of view, partly because I’m an epidemiology nerd, and partly because it gave the movie a bit more of a sense of hope than most zombie movies. That’s not to say that I wasn’t cringing from the tension for the whole movie! At one point when they are in a lab, I had to cover most of my eyes and just look at the lower left hand corner of the screen. The tension was that bad!
I also liked the premise of the zombies. One of the negative reviews I saw was disappointed in the lack of gore, but these zombies aren’t trying to eat anyone. Like the rabies victims they are initially confused with, these zombies just want to bite people. So the lack of gore fits, and was actually a relief to me. The zombie behavior is also based on ant swarms, and in a weird bit of kismet, I just read a book about ants last week. I recognized the swarming behavior immediately, and also noticed that zombies take down helicopters the way ants murder frogs. You don’t have to read a book about ants to enjoy the zombies, but it does add another layer of nerve-clenching.
I really enjoyed myself, and I think if you like zombie movies for the tension (and not so much for the gore), you will like it too. There are also some funny moments and quite a few badass moments. There was one scene when Pitt is walking down a corridor like a huge badass, and the whole theater burst into applause.
I do have a few nitpicks, which I will tell you because I am pedantic and like to share this kind of thing. But even though I was aware of them while the movie was going on, I was able to shove them aside and just enjoy myself.
Nit 1) Cities with international airports are infected fastest, because of air travel. This is the big fear in real epidemics, but since the movie says that zombies incubate somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 seconds, this doesn’t make any sense. Unless there is some kind of generational decrease in incubation time, but they don’t mention anything like that.
Nit 2) The zombies have no circulatory system anymore and don’t seem to eat or drink. And yet they continue to function. The human body, even the undead one, needs something to power it. How long can they really be expected to maintain, especially if they’re expending so much energy swarming? I’d be expecting zombie die offs around 3-4 days after infection, especially for the most active. A sequel could answer this, because it is feasible in the time frame of the movie that they just don’t know enough about the zombies yet to answer these questions.
Anyway, if you like zombie movies for tension more than gore, go see it!