Knee-jerk review: "World War Z"

1. Let the record reflect that we are huge fans of Max Brooks' novel, upon which this movie is based.  It's a cleverly constructed book that pretends to be an exhaustive, non-fiction oral history of the "zombie wars." The format adds fresh spin to predictable genre tropes.  If you like zombies, go read it.
2. And Hollywood so loved the book that it ultimately decided to invent a new plot and avoid the Ken Burns vibe that made the novel so memorable and beloved.  That's showbiz.
3. That said, it's still a pretty good movie even if it has absolutely no business sharing the name of the Brooks book.  
4. It's not really a zombie film like 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead with those long sequences of screaming and running and gonzo, humans-versus-undead, gory fighting.  There's a little of that, true, but it's also rather tame and sanitized.  Which is in keeping with the film's cute little PG-13 rating.
5. Brad Pitt.  Yeah, he's a movie star.
6. In some ways, it's like a James Bond movie, with the hero globe-hopping (which does sort of jibe with the global sweep of Brooks' novel, we'll begrudgingly admit) to try and piece together an international mystery.  Brad Pitt even gets an attractive female bad-ass sidekick like Bond always seems to collect along the way.  It sort of worked for us.
7. But it was also a little hard to buy how the movie suggested that there's no one else in the entire world who's going to the trouble to do what Brad Pitt's character is doing.
8. Much has been made - well, we suppose it depends on what occupies your spare-time reading list as to whether you might agree with how much has been made - of the film's big production problems.  The filmmakers shot a huge ending in Russia, decided they hated it, hired a bunch of expensive writers to rethink the ending from scratch, then spent more money to shoot a new ending.
9. And damned if it doesn't work.  The third act involves a quiet, creepy mission deep into a medical lab that happens to be overrun with zombies.  It's the sort of slow-burn set piece you might see on one of the better episodes of "The Walking Dead" and it's a great contrast here to all of the huge, over the top action we'd been seeing for 80 minutes.  It may just save the whole thing.
10. Daniella Kertesz.  Yep.
11. At first we marveled at how skillfully the filmmakers shade Pitt as a resourceful, skilled hero.  He knows what to do and when to do it.  But then we started to notice he didn't make many mistakes, either.  Typically, audiences want flawed heroes.  That way, their adventure can transform them and make them into better people.  That transformation is where a lot of a movie's cathartic emotion comes from.  But we saw none of that here.  What does Pitt learn exactly?  If we squint and tilt our head just right, maybe you could argue that he's learning to see how the world is interconnected and how we're all a part of Mother Nature's brutal experiment.  Maybe.  Part of his final realization about the zombies connects back to an early talk he had with a doomed doctor.  But it's a stretch and we know it.  For the most part, he seems like the same selfless family man bad-ass all the way through.  Which diminishes the film's ultimate impact.
12. Is it just us, or did it seem like it was the Muslim celebration that caused such big problems for Jerusalem?  Discuss amongst yourselves the political and cultural significance of that filmmaker choice.
13. Can we please have a moratorium on using asthmatic kids and lost emergency inhalers as a plot point?
14. The opening 15 minutes or so feel pretty real.  To us, this is how American society would break down: quickly, with little media explanation and a lot of guns.
15. Poor Mireille Enos, a critically-beloved actress stuck for all of the movie pining away for her husband on a cramped Navy ship, waiting for him to call her.  If that weren't annoying enough to women everywhere, the story then has Enos make a selfish, bone-headed move that leads to the deaths of several people.  Women.  They're so silly!
16. The plane crash is nuts, just as you'd expect in a movie like this.  Of course it's just our two heroes who survive.  Of course the plane goes down close enough to their final destination that they're able to walk the rest of the way.  And of course Pitt's injury is just serious enough to allow him to lay some bloody, actorly grimaces on us, but not so serious that we ever fear for his life or so serious that he's sidelined from the action of the climax.
17. The US military ruthlessly disposing of all "non-essential personnel"?  Yeah, we buy that.  It's not personal, Sonny.  It's strictly business.
18. Check it out.