Early ‘World War Z’ Reviews Have Critics Divided

Published 2 years ago by

World War Z Skull poster Early World War Z Reviews Have Critics Divided

June 2013 is a month sure to be dominated by DC’s Superman reboot Man of Steel, but several other potential tentpoles have been jostling for attention. One of those – Will Smith and M. Night Shymalan’s After Earth – has already tanked in release and underwhelmed critics while yet another is gearing up for release.

Producer-star Brad Pitt’s World War Z has begun screening for critics, and the early responses are in. Despite the well-documented production problems, more recent footage has at least underlined the sense of realistic desperation felt by Pitt’s Gerry Lane, a former United Nations inspector now tapped to find the source of the zombie infestation ravaging the globe. It remains one our most anticipated releases of the month, and now we have a cross-section of reviews.

The general consensus is definitely mixed, but it doesn’t sound like the utter disaster many people were likely expecting. Interestingly enough, British actor Idris Elba – a standout in Prometheus and Thor  – tweeted a favorable early response, which perhaps sets the general tone for the reviews (read it HERE).

IGN‘s review was generally positive:

But World War Z, inspired by if not really based on the popular book by Max Brooks, isn’t just a zombie movie. And this is where that line about the president comes in: The film, which Pitt also produced, is designed to be less a horror movie than it is a globe-spanning, international thriller, albeit one with zombies in it. This isn’t Rick and Shane camping in the woods. Nah, Pitt’s character, Gerry Lane, jets around the world — well, what’s left of it — in search of an answer to how to stop the plague before it’s too late! You could say this is the epic of zombie films… and it works for the most part.

While Total Film took the movie to task for “sorely lacking in heart,” the zombie menace did the job:

Forster’s zombies aren’t really zombies at all, and they often look more like an angry football crowd on a Saturday night – but there’s never been a more impressive horde of flesh-eaters on the big screen. Sprinting, gnashing, leaping and head-butting their way through civilisation in a swarm of thousands, the Zombie apocalypse finally looks big enough to be believable. Globetrotting from one epic set-piece to the next, WWZ  is at its best when the screen is filled – with CG hordes pouring through crowded streets, piling high at city walls and overrunning helicopters like ants.

Digital Spy definitely enjoyed the experience, while underlining one aspect which may prove off-putting for the gore-hounds out there (which is a zombie movie’s traditional core audience):

Diehard zombie fans may find there’s not enough gore, no lingering close-ups of the undead feasting on entrails, but grossness is replaced by a richly thick atmosphere of constant threat. The hellish tableaux of cityscapes where the masses are made to look like colonies of bacteria blooming in a petri dish are truly horrifying, and Gerry is always an inch away from being swallowed up in it.

world war z zombie wall Early World War Z Reviews Have Critics Divided

Telegraph is not so impressed, and highlights the real issue that fans of Max Brooks’ original novel will have to overcome:

Brooks’s novel was a thinly-veiled parable about American foreign policy and post-millennial anxiety, told from several points of view: in fact, it had much in common with Steven Soderbergh’s terrific 2011 medical thriller Contagion. Marc Forster’s film junks the satire and multiple perspectives, and instead recasts the story as an uncomplicated globe-trotting thriller. On one side we have Lane and a roster of temporary sidekicks, and on the other, an inexhaustible supply of the living dead.

The Times of London was generally favorable in its overview, and includes an intriguing – if curious – reference to a famous 15th century Dutch painter:

Despite a lavish budget heading for $200 million (£131 million), World War Z borders on a damp squib for traditional zombie fans. More an action blockbuster than a horror squelcher, it contains spectacular crowd scenes that have an Hieronymus Bosch quality, but the film lacks strong meat — of the emotional and bloody zombie-cannibal sort.

World War Z helicopter swarm Early World War Z Reviews Have Critics Divided

So what does an average moviegoer make of all this? World War Z sounds like it will prove to be precisely what it is: a huge, globe-spanning popcorn movie very loosely based on a complex, celebrated novel starring Brad Pitt and faceless hordes of CGI zombies. Taken in this context it doesn’t sound like a bad thing, despite the exhaustively-reported spate of production problems.

Casual summer movie audiences have most likely made up their minds about this one already, and June will likely have enough counter-programming to satisfy the crowds allergic to roving swarms of the undead. Judging from the early critical responses, there are two main factors about World War Z which may prove to be liabilities: the wild deviations from the beloved source novel and the marked lack of blood and guts.

world war z trailer brad pitt Early World War Z Reviews Have Critics Divided

The Max Brooks novel was a rare mix of suspense, cutting social commentary… and zombies. The book was always going to be rough to adapt, give the multiple viewpoints, the episodic flashback structure, and the lack of a central protagonist. But a book is a book and a movie is a movie, and when word hit that it would become a blockbuster adaptation, smart fans knew to expect the filmmakers to take certain liberties.

The harder sell might be the lack of gore to the hardcore blood-and-guts crowd. While Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake was arguably responsible for the on-going zombie craze, and it was indeed a summer blockbuster hit, it was also gory as hell and didn’t feature any A-list stars. This makes World War Z something of an anomaly. It certainly has a lot of ground to cover in order to just break even at the box office, but it will be fascinating to watch it’s progress.


World War Z opens in theaters on June 21st, 2013

Source: The Playlist

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  1. Even though it does not resemble the comic adaption, being a comic geek, I will be disappointed but I am going since it is a summer no brainier fun movie and I will not match the relevance to the book. Take it for face value and just let go. JMO

  2. I know this wont be in the movie.

    But, if you read the book, you had to know if Mets Fan was real, or her imagination.

    • I listened to the audio book (had Mark Hamill in it!). It was *excellent* and i thoroughly recommend it. Listening to a voice actor really brought it alive for me. I am going to see the movie, but I am trying my hardest not to associate it with the novel.

  3. You know, I’m not sure I agree with the oft-repeated sentiment that the book was always going to be hard or impossible to adapt. Sure, it was going to be hard to make the movie as good as the book was, but why not just follow the structure of the book? Wouldn’t making it documentary-style with dramatizations of each witness’ experience work?

    • @Bub

      Not hard to reporduce, it just was not a book you can cram into one movie. The narrative takes atleast 2 movies, if done right.

      • I’m not so sure it would have needed 2 movies. Maybe once when movies were a standard 90 – 120 minute run time, but now when we’re at the point of regular 3 hour movies I think it could be done. Good chunks of the individual stories were longer mostly because Brooks had to describe everything: a visual medium like a movie gets around that. Some of the individual interviews could be only 15-20 minutes.

        As an example, Heavy Metal’s one of my favorite anthology movies ever, and that manages to fit 6 (7, if you consider the opening and closing framing sequences) individual stories in a 90 minute run time, and still pull off a cohesive running narrative. It could have been done, if they wanted to put the effort in to doing it.

        • Yeah, but that covers one source, there are atleat 12 sources in World War Z that are compelling enough

          Battle of Yonkers primary needs to be done right.
          The Entire Mets Fan scenario comes to mind as something that has its moments.
          Kondo escape

      • Pulp Fiction, Contagion, 2 Days In the Valley, and several Robert Altman films are examples of telling multiple stories in a single film that work effectively. It just comes down to being a little disciplined about what you keep and what you cut from the written source.

    • No, I completely agree with you. I feel that it could have been done as a documentary style, with each witness’ experience being self contained, like in an anthology movie. People have quickly forgotten just how many individual stories you can cram in to an anthology movie and it will still turn out good. There’s a few stories from the book that could have been excised for time, but a 2 1/2 hour movie is the norm now and that could have certainly covered most of it. The saddest part of this movie’s production is that we’ll never see some of the cooler, or more interesting, stories onscreen and that disappoints me to no end.

  4. From what I’ve seen and heard of this film, I’m honestly surprised at how well it’s turned out to be considering all the production problems it had. Not saying it’s going to be a great film, but looks to be a pretty decent one at the least.

  5. Wow, those opinions are silly. For me, it doesnt matter. I like to sit back and enjoy the fantasy monsters is all I care about and good technology and storyline, thats all.

    I hope to see sequel and 3rd movie according to three books. :)

    • Three books?

      Did you read World War Z?

      • Well yes actually there are three books, The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z and Recorded Attacks

  6. My take on the divided critics is simple, those who got paid and those who did not by the big studio. My personal opinion is, This was a waste of my money and at best it deserves to be viewed only if you have nothing better to watch on aDVD night at home. Brainless like thge Zombies and the millions of New World Order brainwashed masses. I give it two thumbs down as in Roman Colisseum Down !

  7. This should have been made into a mini series like Band of Brothers and The Pacific, each interview a 1 hour episode 7-12 episodes would have easily covered the best of the book… Looking at you HBO!!!

  8. Gonna Watch . Don’t Care about any Review it’s Gonna be Blockbuster Movie of the Year. WORLD WAR Z can’t wait 21 June!!! Go 4 it for BRAD PITT. a A-LIST actor in Zombie movie and he’s Brad Pitt that’s too cool.

  9. It has a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes at this time. I’ll probably give it a shot.

  10. It just bothers me how people say the zombies are just like the ones from 28 Days Later. If you have ever seen you that movie you would know they are completely different. In 28 Days the “things” are still alive and can be killed by being shot anywhere. And they have to eat to survive if not they starve. But in World War Z they are actually zeds. They are dead and don’t even really eat people. They just but you to pass on the pathogen. And Brad Pitt got blood in his mouth and he did not turn. Where as in 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later just getting saliva of an infected in you would cause you to turn. I thought it was a great movie and recommend it to anyone

    • You’re talking about niggling details, while true, are still just that.

      *Functionally* they are no different than the rage-infected from 28 days/28 weeks later: They are fast, brutal, pass on the infection quickly, and then the infected manifests symptoms within moments to minutes.

      Its a good disaster movie, sure. A good popcorn flick, with some heart here and there, and some real suspense at times. But it has its issues.

      3-stars is as high as I’d go.

  11. I have been a zombie die hard ever since I snuck into the movie theater back in 1978 to catch the Mall sequence of the original Dawn of the Dead Romero style. I was with my folks to see CaddyShack.
    In any case WWZ was one of the most compelling pieces of literature I have ever read. I was first excited to hear that the movie rights were purchased, but was crestfallen to hear the “new” plot of UN employee Gerry Lane races around the globe in a race against time to stop the zombie menace.
    I must say I was horrified (not in a good way) at the opening sequence which went something like this: in traffic, seeing an explosion in the distance, a cop breaks Gerry’s car mirror with his motor bike, Gerry gets out, another officer pulls up tells him to get back in your car and then is obliterated by a trash truck. This was ridiculous as in the scene seconds before the cop stops you can clearly see traffic backed up for miles, then a second later here comes the trash truck at full speed. It was an obvious screw up cinematically. I mean the truck came from nowhere. In any case, it goes from NO zombies, nobody knows nothing about them to BOOM, hordes of zombies and Brad Pitt and his brood running from these things.
    I was furious at the complete departure from the gradual chaos that the book slowly built up to whereas in the movie, you had 12 seconds from the time you were bit to turn into a zombie.
    My son (has not read the book)said it was cool and he could understand how the world could be taken over by zombies like the runners that WWZ portrayed. I told him NO, in the book they were slow. He said how could they do anything if they were slow they would be easy to kill. Yes indeed I say, hence the outrage at the world’s governments for hiding the epidemic until it was too late, there were just too many of them. That is what made the book so grand.
    Nevertheless, I must say the movie (aside from the beginning) was well done. I loved the grocery store chaos where Brad Puitt gets the pharmacist pointing a gun at him and then helping him. Then when he shoots the guy messing with his wife, and he puts his hands in the air when the cop runs in. Little did he know the cop only wanted formula for his child and could not have cared less that Pitt just blasted some idiot.
    I was pleasantly surprised with the movie. Although the departure to include the dead ignoring those who where terminally ill and the whole infecting yourself with a deadly virus as a way to camofluage yourself (ala the flu shot where you are given an inert version of the virus)from the book was at first taken badly. However, the way they set that up was not as the end to the pandemic, but just a way to buy some time and figure out the next move, was enough to completely set up the next film in the trilogy. Now that I have confirmed through a friend at Plan B, I am excited for the next installment (there will be a Mets Fan/the ship graveyard and yes even a Yonkers all told to Gerry Lane, to whom now is tasked to collect the stories for the WWZ After Action Report as told through the novel)

  12. Dear Brad Pitt, I demand a refund of your terrible, awful movie world war z, please dont make me come look for you…, I want my money back!

    • How can you say that? The movie was actually quite good!

  13. At the end of World War Z, just as the credits began rolling, a gentleman, scratch that, an idiot spoke up from the back of the theatre exclaiming, “What? That sucked! The book was nothing like that! Booo!” I’m sure he scurried away back home, logged online, and began tweeting, posting, and blogging, furthering his rant. Much like my response to him at the theatre, I hope he receives silence in return.

    It’s true, World War Z is nothing like the book. The book is told from the point of view AFTER the war. It’s a “historical,” account of what happened during the war. Rather than make a mockumentary with flashbacks, which would have been the wrong decision in my opinion, the filmmakers decided to put us right in the middle of the action.

    When adapting a piece of literature it is impossible to bring every page, every paragraph, every nuance onto the screen. Some have come close depending on the material, but for the most part, they all have to take their own creative licenses. After all, it’s called an “adaptation,” for a reason, otherwise they would call it a copy or mimic.

    Where World War Z works (that’s a mouthful) and where so many others fail is that just because the world slips into total and utter chaos, doesn’t mean that governments, military, and law enforcement agencies go away. Quite the opposite. If anything, these scenarios bring out the best of all of them. We see generals, UN delegates, and scientists trying to solve complex issues that they don’t know anything about. Rather than going into hiding, they act. Society doesn’t crumble. Bands of cannibals and leather strapped gangs don’t patrol the streets with necklaces made of teeth. People do what they can to survive, and the higher ups try their best to find a fast and effective solution.

    At first, I thought the movie started too fast. How could something this violent and concentrated go undetected, but after a while I got it. The opening montage of news reports said it all. How many of us listen to everything we hear on the news? Exactly. So much goes undetected while we focus on issues that effect us immediately. It’s too late when the virus touches US soil. Not even social media can keep up with it.

    As far as zombie movies go this one is pretty great. Though I think 28 Days Later takes the cake in terms of realism, in-camera effects, and sheer terror, this one holds its own. Brad Pitt plays a former UN investigator who is traveling with his family just as the zombie attack on Philadelphia unfolds. The film goes from 0-60 before you take a sip of your Coke. This is a fast paced, edge of your seat thrill ride led by one of the finest actors of this generation (Pitt’s acting ability is far too underrated and lost in the kerfuffle of tabloid news).

    For those of you who stare at the ticket window debating whether or not to see a film in 3D or standard, you might want to spend the extra few dollars to see this one in 3D (I know it’s asking a lot, but maybe you can sneak some candy or a bottle of water to offset the concession stand price – deal with it). I tend to air on the side of “screw it, I want to see it in 3D.” Now not every movie NEEDS to be seen in 3D, hell there are really only a couple that absolutely have to be seen in all three dimensions (Avatar and maybe Life of Pi), but this one really surprised me. 3D is not about things jumping out at you, but it’s about layers. Luckily this film has both. Big chase scenes in Philly, particles floating about in South Korea, and tracking shots in Jerusalem make this one of the 3D events of the year. No exaggeration.

    Like so many other summer blockbusters before it, civilization is on the brink of extinction and only a handful of experts can save us. What World War Z does that so many have failed is give us hope. Hope that humanity won’t dissolve into nothingness. In the face of sheer danger these fighters stand tall, take a deep breath, look the enemy in the eye, and say, “No.”

    • Whilst to each their own,
      Your statement of government NOT failing and scientists and generals working together. Not going into hiding, bringing out the best in government. Hopelessly shortsighted. This is only the first of three movies, in the next as within the book, the governments are overrun and DO go into hiding.
      The ONLY reason we have not seen this is because the movie only depicts a span of maybe a week or two.

      Now, I must concur with your closing statement:

      In the face of sheer danger these fighters stand tall, take a deep breath, look the enemy in the eye, and say, “No.”