Friday, November 09, 2012

Zombies. Again.

The hook of Max Brooks' "World War Z" was that it told a mostly conventional zombie movie story (zombies happen, things go bad) in the style of a historical narrative. Judging by it's trailer, "World War Z: The Movie" - which is already almost-garaunteed to be a huge pile of shit, BTW (seriously, your movie is so bad that a Damon Lindelof ending is going to HELP!? - has opted to just be a mostly conventional zombie movie. Brad Pitt stars, because other actors were starting to get jealous of him having been in nothing but really good movies for the last half-decade or so and Brad Pitt is humble like that:



So... doesn't look TOO bad, but also doesn't look deserving of Brooks' awesomely exploitationish title. If you're not going to film the book, then a title like "World War Z" where the Z is for Zombies should be selling something that looks like "Starship Troopers" crossed with "Planet Terror;" whereas this just looks like the flashback parts of "I Am Legend" with less interesting cinematography.

BUT, I'll give it this: Zombies are reliable enough that if you can't think of anything new to do with them narratively something new visually can still be "good enough;" and in this case swapping their default behavior patterns from "feral humans" to "fire ants" looks like it could maybe do the trick - the "zombie wave" is a money shot if I ever saw one, regardless of how the rest of the thing is.

I don't think I'll ever be "okay" with fast zombies, if only because it just doesn't "work" with that whole "walking dead-person" thing that's supposed to be the whole point of this particular monster. When "28 Days Later" invented this schtick, part of the new angle it took was that it was "zombie horror" but with creatures that weren't zombies - they ("The Infected") were something else. I feel like we should've stuck with that, instead of conflating the new "Infected" monster with the then-resurgent zombie meme.

Maybe that's still the best move: Someone should come up with an entirely new classification for "Fast Zombies." It would actually make more sense, since the whole point of Zombies as monsters was to play on fear of death and the fast ones aren't really doing that - especially not in THIS. I like the wave/ants motif partly because it's the next logical extension of what Fast Zombies represent - no fear of death, but fear (and, let's get real, hatred) of other humans. A big, writhing, mindless, vicious horde of humanity (but "de-humanized" so it's okay to enjoy mowing them down, importantly) bulldozing over and through everything in it's path? That's not about death anxiety, that's about... well, take your pick: Overpopulation? Urban sprawl? Crowd panic? General disconnect from "everyone else" in our increasingly self-centric modern lives?

19 comments:

David (The Pants) said...

I see two kinds of zombie:

1. Undead "reanimated" zombie

2. Infected "virus" zombie

The former of the two is the slow kind, as it is a reanimated corpse, like Frankenstein sort of, but like the original Night of the Living Dead kinda stuff. Sometimes it's magic that brings the corpses back to life or sometimes it's something else.
The latter of the two is the "raging cannibal" kind, and is based around the disease eating away, making it hungry and merciless. Usually spawned from an infection or something.
You're spot-on about the different zombies being representative of different fears, as that's how I see these two, but never really put it to words.

And yeah, that visual thing is the coolest part of an okay trailer for a meh-looking movie based on an I-should-read-it book.

Mika Hirvonen said...

One other reason why zombies are so popular as the enemy is the uncanny valley. They look human, but they're not. That can work with both fast and slow zombies.

Most traditional zombie movies have used this for personal tragedy; The zombies can be slow and still lethal, because the survivors will hesitate and still try to deal with them the same way they deal with aggressive fellow humans: They avoid confrontation, they plead, they flee, try to trap and detain them, they fire warning shots and so on.

The book used this theme on a larger scale; Traditional armies are designed to fight other humans, so they were pretty much impotent against the initial onslaught. There is no morale to crush, bullets, shrapnel, incendiaries and hydrostatic shock won't stop them, there are no logistics, communication lines or command structures to cut and exposure won't finish the job for good.

The bus scene with the tidal wave gives me hope that they kept that theme in.

JeanChose said...

28 days later didn't "invent" running zombies, dear critic sir. Those can be seen at least as far in the past as 1990, in Return of the living dead (my personnal favourite on the zombie subject) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wylpeAXYcBQ

Anonymous said...

Honestly, it wasn't until I saw those great, sweeping shots of the hoards of zombies that I was sold on this film.

How many zombies have we seen in one shot in previous films? Hundreds at a time? I want to see thousands, hundreds of thousands. I want a real sense that they are the dominant species, not us.

This film might just deliver on that by dropping the usual 'small space with a small cast' motif of the traditional zombie movie and opening it up to a world-hopping epic, a la "2012".

R said...

So so sick of zombies. There are literally hundreds of other monsters who haven't been done to death. Why not bring back the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Heck, even good ol' fashioned hell demons would be a refreshing change.

Just can't understand this "Zombie Apocalypse" obsession that's all the rage right now. Why are people so nihilistic-ally obsessed with society collapsing and the need to re-kill the dead/kill the "infected"? Are we all that bored with modern society that we want to see it come crashing down just so that we can be "heroes" by indiscriminately killing other people (but it's OK! They're not people anymore, they're zombies! Because the whole issue of zombies being traumatic to off because of their former humanity has just been forgotten)?

Sorry, the whole zombie apocalypse thing rubs me the wrong way. It just doesn't reflect well on us at all.

Anonymous said...

So... it's Left 4 Dead the movie....

Serial Wordsmith said...

@R

Amen brother. I've never been on board with the whole zombie craze and it's gotten even more tiresome as it's been dragged out. By this point Zombies are as played out as Vampires.

Give them a rest until someone has a new angle.

SirRosser said...

@R

Because zombies have only been popular for a few decades, but beating a dead horse is as old as colloquialism itself.

Jim said...

Holy hell this looks terrible. I was really hoping they would go the fake documentary-route. Globe trot from continent to continent, meet new narrators and explor the socio-political factors across the world that allowed the zombie infection to spread. I mean, the book was more interested in American response to crises, apartheid, Indian-Pakistan diplomatic relations, and the differences in self identity between East Germans and West Germans than it was about the mechanics of OMG ZOMBIES YOU GUYS WE BETTER RUN!!

And Bob, You're too kind with comparing this looks to I Am Legend with poorer cinematogpraphy. It's like they systematically took everything that was the slightest bit edgy out of that compromised movie in favor of more blandness. Extreme Isolation? Nah, let's give the guy a family to drag around from place to place. Feral zombie-vampire creatures? WAY too scary! Let's just make them angry looking people. Will Smith? Let's try less intimidating. Brad Pitt? No, even LESS intimidating! Homeless-Brad Pitt? GOLD!

Sigh...honestly, I'm kinda sick of Zombie movies too, but this had the potential to be a great Epilogue to the Zombie movie. The book is designed as something that looks back on Zombies as something that once overwhelmed us, but now has been nearly vanquished. What better way to bookend the zombie-craze?

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see anything mentioned about Max Brooks, I can't help but think of how his dad had one of the biggest career nosedives before Nicolas Cage went from Academy Award nominations to "NOT THE BEEEEES!" This man wrote The Producers, a film everybody loves. Even people that hate The Producers love The Producers. He won best screenplay for that film, then he promptly forgot all about such petty things as "context" and threw random wacky shit at the screen.

Max Brooks, unfortunately, merely went from "oh, that's... vaguely interesting, I guess?" with The Zombie Survival Guide before promptly crashing with World War Z.

Joe said...

@Anon 9:37

Eh, I'm a little more sympathetic to Mel Brooks. The guy practically invented pop-culture parody. Then, he got old and his sensibilities became really dated. Comedy's such a fickle thing, really dependent on its time and place. Doesn't diminish his legacy a bit.

Anonymous said...

@Joe and Anon 9:37

Aside from the problem of his style's age, I heard he kinda lost his mojo and drive when his wife passed away.

@Anon 9:37

As for Max, what? WWZ is incredibly good book and is bounds better than his first effort. I've never heard anything but praise from critics or readers. As someone who has never read a horror or apocalypse books I could not put WWZ down and regularly reread or listen to the very well done audio book.

Personally I think someone needs to adapt it into a History Channel style mock-documentary to pull it off the least bit accurately. I'm pretty sure the movie they made is going to lose a lot of the heart and details that made the book interesting.

Hewlett said...

@Anon 11:20

Somehow, this chain of posts made me really, really want a World War Z/Suvival Guide audiobook read by Mel Brooks with his strongest Yiddish accent. That would be amazing.

Arturo said...

DOGPILE!!!

garwulf said...

Anybody else remember when the J. Michael Straczynski script for World War Z was reviewed and declared to be genre-redefining?

Sigh.

Sometimes I think Hollywood just does not know when it has something good.

Anonymous said...

So is God Bless America really a zombie movie?

Anonymous said...

So I am assuming that this movie won't have that awesome blind samurai and otaku kid fighting off zombies in the forests of Japan?

Yeah fuck this.

Dustin Hiser said...

This trailer doesn't feel like the book at all, which I was expecting, but I have to say, it looks cool in its own right. I'm tired of zombie movies, but this one is suggesting some real scope. And those Zombie Tsunamis? I have never seen that in a zombie movie before. That looks like it could be fucking sick. I hope they at least keep the (POTENTIAL SPOILER) ocean aspect of the novel. Hordes and hordes of zombies just spilling out of the sea, racing over the beaches, and into any unsuspecting meat that's standing it's way. There's yet another loaded image and idea (the ocean rising up and annihilating everything in its path while the human race just has to grimace and take it) you can play with.

Patrick said...

Bob, you seemed to have missed the big picture yourself. I know you're focusing mainly on the trailer and how the movie will be bad (yet to be seen, the hordes of Zombies might give it the scope and feel of utter hopelessness the book gave) but, I can't help but think you missed the Big Picture along with so many others who've commented.

You only briefly mentioned in passing the most important aspects of the book. Disconnect with one another, urban sprawl, self centered lives. You left out global relations, national pride, military industrial complex, isolationism, dependence on technology and a slew of other themes.

From the trailer this movie seems to miss the big points and it seems like you either haven't read the novel, or completely missed the point of the book like other commentators whose entire posts can be summed up as "Meh, Zombies" when they aren't even central to the novel itself.

A virus, house and wild animals killing people, aliens. Replace zombies with any of those and the book remains largely intact.

It's more about the nations involved, the people's responses, the global response, and how it took a 99% population wipe out before we got our shit together and started working together like human beings should.

China hides the peasant girls disease (lol peasants who cares about them AMIRITE!?) she infects people. China covers it up and those people leave the country while infected "slow burn" style and China goes "not our problem and we won't tell anyone"

Pakistan and India are too busy still hating each other to properly do anything.

Japan is so xenophobic and isolationist personified in the Otaku who only goes out to find his home country in ruins 2 weeks AFTER everything has already happened because he loses his internet connection.

the US Armies get their collective asses handed to them Vietnam style as they learn that all of their technological advantages aren't worth anything.

World War Z could easily just be World War 3 with nations at the helm.

Mass Panic, Mass Hysteria, no information sharing, no working together, we all respond to crisis in the worst way possible and it almost costs us our entire species.

The zombies don't matter as much as you and other people think they do. The unfounded fear nations have of one another, the distrust, the disconnect. Those matter. It seems like you and te others have simply missed the big picture.

Let me tell you something I found interesting. About 5 years ago down in Texas while GWB was still President A General was giving a talk about Air Defenses and that America needed to spend x millions on Generation 5 air defenses. This was interesting for 2 reasons.

1) No one builds Generation 5 Aircraft anymore except for one country which also happens to b your biggest trade partner and supplier in the world; China.

2) This general was fear mongering about air defenses for a country that you trade with and a country that is dependent on your capital to keep it running.