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.
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.
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.
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