I watched World War Z on [Friday night? I don't know, some time since my last blog post.], and I kept thinking about it all weekend. I wrote some initial notes earlier, but now I'm going to try to string them together into a solid post. Now, I really liked this movie. I mean, like, there was a huge amount about it that I thought was outright awesome. But I'm going to start with the parts that sucked.
The parts that sucked
The opening was just psychotically intense. I was almost ready to shut the movie off by the time it got to the grocery store, which was where big complaint #2 came up:
[Trigger Warning: rape]
some strange men attack Karen in the middle of a crowded grocery store, in an unambiguous attempted sexual assault? Covering this first from a Watsonian perspective, then Doylist [Link should be non-triggering]:
(a.) why would they drop the very-necessary-for-survival task of looting to rape someone? (b.) why would they do something that would compromise their safety so intensely while zombies are attacking? (c.) how did they think it was even remotely possible that someone wouldn't murder them for what they were doing at that moment?
And, alternately, (a.) why did the filmmakers think this was a good idea? (b.) what's wrong with mundane assault? Why couldn't she have just grabbed something they wanted and they tried to fight her for it? (c.) Why didn't anyone involved in the production at any particular level of significance say, at some point, "Um, how about we don't do that?" (d.) why not at least make this a badass moment for her, and have her successfully incapacitate them? (e.) did they really need "not pro sexual assault" as a specifically established thing about Gerry? Not to make it about him, but it was totally about him. Is that the filmmakers' idea of 'exceptionally cool-headed response to collapse of civilization'? That he continues to not be in favor of the rampant, openly destructive use of women as disposable objects?
There are a total of four arguably named women in this film: Karin Lane, Gerry's wife; Constance Lane and Rachel Lane, Gerry's daughters; Segen, the Israeli soldier who plays a significant supporting role. There's one more definitely unnamed significant woman: one of the three W.H.O. doctors.
I say arguably named because Segen, the most proactively helpful woman in the film, is only called Segen. This is even lampshaded, when Gerry asks her if Segen is a first or last name, and she says it's just Segen. Segen is, according to the actress who played her, Hebrew for Lieutenant. So, she's got a title. But it's played like a name.
I'm pretty confident that it doesn't pass the Bechdel test: as far as I can remember, every conversation in this film that Gerry wasn't a part of was about Gerry.
That first criticism, about the intensity of the opening: In the context of the movie, I'm pretty okay with it. If I'd gone in knowing what I now know about how the movie goes, I feel like it would have been less troubling. The second criticism, I'm very sympathetic to the argument that folks shouldn't bother with the movie because of that.
The stuff I liked
Okay so there were kids crying in the next room during some of the important conversations, so I didn't get them 100%. But as far as I could tell, all the major plot points were really well justified. I don't think that's, like, aggressively mandatory -- I like a lot of films that make no sense -- but I always feel like it's a sort of extra treat, like an easter egg, when I can't find anything in the plot that doesn't make sense.
During the beginning of the film, I remember thinking several times, "This would be great if they just keep going down in intensity from here. And they totally did! That's what I mean about knowing what I know now: in the context of setting the stage as maximally expansive and maximally chaotic, the opening was pretty much perfect. The end, with just a few dozen zombies in a labyrinthine, vault-like building was such a cool way to bring the story to a close. The threat got smaller and smaller as the solution became more and more achievable, but to keep up the tension the film just kept getting more and more claustrophobic.
Gerry was such a cool character. He's the kind of person I'd want to play in a tabletop RPG about a zombie apocalypse. I love that he's reserved, calm under pressure, never hulks out on anything or channels some sort of manly rage, and unapolagetically caring. He's got a lot of great action hero qualities. He thinks fast, and acts fast on his conclusions. He gathers information like a sponge and uses it to solve problems incredibly effectively.
But the thing I like most about him, by a huge margin, the thing I liked most about this movie, was that he never, not once, not even a little bit, passed over an opportunity to save someone.
The obvious #1 example of this is his family, his concern for them being his top-of-the-list character trait. But he immediately started trying to save other people, too. He tried to convince the family in the apartment to come with him, because he thought keeping moving was their best bet. When they didn't come, but the kid did, he made sure that kid -- some strangers' kid -- got as much protection as he was pursuing for his own daughters.
He was ready to throw himself off a building rather than turn and hurt his family. He chopped off Segen's arm after she'd been bitten in a split second, on the long shot that it would stop her turning. When it did, he dressed the wound, and made sure that she continued to be able to run.
With half a plane turning, he tried to save the other half. Granted, he didn't save the pilots when he blew up the plane, that being the one example I can think of where he put his own survival above the slim chance of survival of two specific individuals. Even then, it was only when they refused to let him in the cockpit, where all four of them (because he definitely wouldn't have left Segen behind) could have landed safely.
Then, it ends with him risking his life on a barely plausible theory so that he will have an off chance of saving all the remaining people.
(Also, cinematically, I liked that the whole atmosphere of claustrophobia evaporated from the scene as soon as he succeeded in inoculating himself.)
So, those are my thoughts on World War Z. There are a lot of good reasons to watch this movie, and less than the normal amount of good reasons not to, though those reasons are definitely there. I'd give it a B+.