Reviewers are split on director Marc Foster's big-budget chiller
Reports of cost-overruns and reshoots seemed to spell trouble for "World War Z." However, the big-budget zombie film has scored respectable reviews from critics and is on-track to have a solid opening at the box office this weekend.
Based on the best-seller by Max Brooks, son of comic legend Mel Brooks, "World War Z" hopscotches around the globe tracking the progress of a pandemic that's turning the population into flesh-eating monsters.
Many reviewers described the apocalyptic thriller as scary, escapist fun, even if they griped that the cast of thousands, led by Brad Pitt, wasn't given much to do besides flee from the undead hordes. The Paramount release earned a decent 68 percent "fresh" rating on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, just slightly less than the 76 percent "fresh" rating maintained by its chief box office competitor, "Monsters University."
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde found the film more tedious than frightening. In particular, Duralde said that the film's global scale prevented director Marc Foster from coaxing flesh and blood performances out of Pitt and the other members of the cast. He even suggested that Mr. Jolie might be due for a trip to the barber's chair.
"Pitt pours himself physically into the role, but there's not much meat for him to attack dramatically," Duralde wrote. "The character reminded me on more than one occasion of Tom Hanks' Vatican expert in those Dan Brown movies: Both men jump to brilliant conclusions with the tiniest amounts of evidence, and neither of them has a haircut that's flattering to any adult male."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott left the film with more favorable impressions. He acknowledged that "World War Z" did not represent a bold step forward for the undead genre, but praised the film for creating imaginative set pieces.
"The zombies – computer-generated en masse and carefully made up for close-range viewing – are creepy and cool, though the movie doesn't quite meet the challenge of making them seem truly new or scary," Scott wrote. "But if you want to be diverted and mildly disturbed, they, and 'World War Z,' will at least temporarily satisfy your appetite. And of course they would feel the same about you."
Like Scott, Slate's Dana Stevens found "World War Z" to be a nicely buttered piece of popcorn entertainment. However, she noted that the 11th hour rewrite of its ending marred the thrills and chills that had come before it.
"It's clear that these are fragments of a larger story that's been trimmed for the sake of expediency, but given how efficiently 'World War Z' has delivered jolts and screams over the course of its sleek 116-minute running time, it's easy to forgive this rushed and slightly muted finale," Stevens wrote.
David Thomson of The New Republic gave "World War Z' one of its more enthusiastic appraisals, lauding the film for its energy and momentum. The only negative note he sounded was the film's potential to spawn a franchise, which he fretted might prove to be an enervating quest for profits.
"This is a very entertaining film on which Brad has an outside chance of getting his money back," Thomson wrote. "There are also words at the end portentous enough to suggest that while a zombie's bite is very dangerous, sequelitis may be more damaging."
Not everyone was as tickled as Thomson. "World War Z" is a film without purpose or much of a plot, New York Daily News critic Joe Neumaier wrote in a one-star pan.
"It's an anemic actioner that fosters excitement like dead limbs as it lumbers toward a conclusion," Neumaier wrote.
"The guts of it all is an unimaginative, overly familiar evade-run-destroy framework," he added. "There is a mildly tense, rain-soaked escape on a plane that's essentially copied several more times. The been-there, gnawed-that result gets moldy without any sparks of inspiration."
Never mind the throngs of bogeymen, Mr. Pitt, steer clear of the Daily News.