The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Enjoy

June 28, 2013

Benji Tunnell: 'Z' a spectacle, but characters disposable

JOPLIN, Mo. — There is a lot that $190 million can buy you in a movie. Hordes of zombies scaling walls, multiple locations across the world to help bolster global box office showings and even a dashing leading man to help establish a future franchise.

All of these things are delivered by "World War Z." But it appears that one thing that money, as well as five screenwriters and massive reshoots, can't buy is character development, and that quickly becomes an issue.

"Z" is the story of a virus that has spread throughout the world, creating legions of zombies who are quickly overrunning all corners of the globe. Air travel has helped facilitate the spread of the epidemic (thank you, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"), and thus no one is safe and no area is untouched.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry, a vaguely sketched-out UN employee who has some undetermined job. But he was once a warrior in the field, having dealt with hostage situations and other stuff. It is quickly determined that he is the only living human who will be able to find the source of the plague and help lead humanity to a cure.

So he is dispatched to various parts of the world to try to track down Patient Zero, all the while fending off wave after wave of mindless, ravenous creatures (it is unfortunate that Congress didn't get credited for inspiration).

When you're dealing with a movie about millions of undead swarming the world and devastating mankind, with but a handful of holdouts putting up a fight, you probably want to be able to distinguish between the personalities of said undead and the heroes opposing them.

"Z" opts instead to create characters that are just as disposable as the zombies they are killing, distancing the viewer from them and eliminating any chance of developing an emotional attachment to any of them. This is a problem, especially when your star and producer is Pitt.

The stars of the film aren't actually the humans, but the special effects. So little care and effort go into developing the "stars" of the film that they are rendered completely disposable.

You have Gerry and his wife, some redheaded lady. There's his youngest daughter Ñ Whiny, I think her name is Ñ and then his oldest daughter, Asthma Girl. Truthfully, it doesn't matter the names of his family members, because they are only distinguishable by one trait each, and they disappear for 90 percent of the movie.

Likewise, the people that Gerry encounters along the way are quickly forgotten. The only one who continues to travel with him is a female Israeli soldier who is bitten, then has her hand lopped off to stop the spread of the zombie germs. (I really wish I had known this tactic in the second grade. I could have avoided years of painful cooties treatments.)

So, what is left is a movie that is as mindless as the creatures it portrays. Not that this is entirely negative.

There are some great set pieces throughout, and the zombies are genuinely scary in parts (and somewhat laughable in others, because of poor decisions in sound effects). There is a good deal of suspense as well.

The movie went through several delays, including a complete reshoot of the final act of the film, which certainly made it more audience (and sequel) friendly. That lack of cohesion, as well as the visions of many different screenwriters being melded into one script, could easily have contributed to the weaknesses of the film.

But what the film sacrifices in development it compensates for in overall spectacle. The signature shot of the zombies scaling the walls of Jerusalem is still a scary image, and the ease with which the plague spreads and decimates the world's population is as terrifying as the creatures themselves.

Fans of the source book are quick to point out the deviations from the written page, but that is to be expected to an extent, and the end result has a lot of fun.

"World War Z" works well as a popcorn movie. It requires no investment, and it will easily be forgotten when the next special effects heavy flick hits the screen, but it is an entertaining way to burn off two hours without any real thinking. You won't care about those fighting for their lives, but really, don't you have enough to worry about already?

1
Text Only
Enjoy
  • 071814_whiskeydicks.jpg Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location

    For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Film-Hollywoods Ape M_Cast.jpg Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster

    A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • polyphony.jpg Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday

    They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Regatta 2013.jpg Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape

    In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow 1 Story

  • 071814_pickin trimmin.jpg New festival focuses on short independent films

    As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071614 Glory Days_72.jpg Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts

    The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014

  • 071114_steve cindy head.jpg New exhibit combines works of married couple

    Steve and Cindy Head create different types of art, which means they can be each other's best mentor. Steve makes mixed media works assembled from photographs, headlines and more; Cindy paints vivid patterns and fanciful scenes with bold color palettes.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts