It felt like this movie had been in production for so long that it would take the second coming for it to be any good. However, before we get into whether or not God’s son came back or not let’s examine the ways World War Z has suffered from setbacks. First thing first, Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, secured the film rights in 2007 from the novel of the same name by Max Brooks. That’s when director Marc Forster was first approached to direct. Things proceeded slowly as Matthew Michael Carnahan was hired to write the screenplay in 2009 and filming didn’t begin until around July 2011. Keep in mind, that’s still two years ago. The movie originally was set for a December 2012 release date. However, as lady luck would have it, in July 2012 the film’s release date was pushed back and seven weeks of reshoots were scheduled. Unbelievable! That’s right…seven weeks! During that time Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the third act, but he didn’t have time and Drew Goddard was hired to rewrite it. What is this, Prometheus 2? Now with all that in hindsight, the thing that worried me the most originally going into this was the flick’s PG-13 rating for what looked like one hell of a wild, zombie invasion ride. Were my worries justified? Read on and find out you will.
So remember me telling you about the re-writes and extra seven weeks of shooting? Well supposedly that yielded about 30-40 minutes worth of footage, which was included to make a coherent ending (a description of the film’s alternate ending can be found here). Can we all say thank you to Paramount for that? However, that kind of aforementioned work doesn’t come without a price tag. It inflated the film’s original 125 million dollar budget to almost 200 million. Yikes! And to top it all off there were a bunch of political struggles and angles the feature was adjusted and edited for in order to land distribution deals with certain countries and other things like that. But thats all in the past now. We can move on, right? After all, we’re not talking about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter here. Thank the Gods!
All right, let’s get down to the basics/fundamentals and discuss all that’s involved here now that we got all the non-fun formalities out of the way. After all, this is a zombie film, folks! Let’s liven up the tone around here. It’s not everyday that your film stars the beautiful, long flowing and illustrious locks of Brad Pitt. He is joined alongside co-stars Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena and a few others. And it’s also not every day that we have a Jason Bourne-like production in a zombie movie that takes us globetrotting all over the world (even if it’s filmed in foreign lands made to look like other foreign lands and even our own US soil). So with all that being said you can sense me stalling here, can’t you? I mean I almost gave you a brief oral history of the production war known as World War Z and yet I told you nothing about the movie itself, more importantly whether I love or hate it (assuming the film score graphics did not load on this page…lol).
Alright, let’s cut to the chase. I want to shout from the highest mountains how much I LIKE this film. The first time I saw this I sat there the whole press screening on the edge of my flipping seat praying to a God that I don’t know if they exist or not to please not let this movie’s ending suck…please!!! You, see, I was having such a good time with this that I was scared the ending was going to completely blow donkey balls because of all the rumored problems we heard with the film’s third act concerning re-writes and whatnot. And thankfully, the Gods or God heard my prayers and rewarded me with a fantastic, magical summer night at the cinema. While the third act may feel completely different, the first two-thirds is a non-stop adrenaline rush ride. I read all the reviews before going into to prepare myself for the stinker I expected this film to be and this may be the quickest Act 1 I have sen in a long time and we may not get too much time with Brad and his family before things go belly up, but I’ll be damn if I didn’t say who the hell cares. This is a zombie apocalypse movie, folks! Why prolong the inevitable? And that’s exactly what Brad Pitt and crew didn’t do. They didn’t make us wait too long at all before things went bat sh1t crazy and I’ll be honest, by the time Brad or should I say Gerry Lane said goodbye to his family and was whisked away by the UN on a mission where the whole world is depending upon his successful findings (talk about having the weight of the world on your shoulders), I knew deep down in my heart that Brad’s character deeply loved his family and would do anything it takes to not only keep them safe at all costs, but return home to them as well…only after he completes his mission (a man of honor and respect). Does that happen? Hell no, I’m not telling you! What do you think I’m crazy? I want you to take your wallets out and buy this one!
Now I’m going to make a bold statement and you’re going to listen here. How many fans of the hit FOX TV series 24 do we have in the house? You liked the heart-pounding action showcased in the show and the way one man singlehandedly can save the world, right? If so, then you’re going to love this flick. I know I’m going out on a limb here when I say this and I hope I don’t lose all street creds, but I can’t help dubbing this feature as the “24 of zombie movies.” It kind of has a nice ring for me. What about for you? If you didn’t see this one in the theaters, did I just peak your curiosity? Come on! That had to have some affect on you. Every one loves Jack Bauer and 24 and that’s the same exact reason you are going to be rooting for Gerry Lane in this one. I guarantee it! See this confidence I bestow? I love it when I’m right!
So let’s be honest. Yes, this film has taken a bad rap before it was even released. Yes this film has taken a long time to get out there. But please, I beg you. Don’t be a hater like I initially was. The box office success it had and plans for a trilogy now don’t lie. Don’t judge a book by its cover or in this case a movie by its years of production mess. Be honest and truthful with yourself. See it and judge it with merit and integrity. Just don’t let me hear you saying Brad Pitt is g@y or this movie is a train wreck and not support it. And yes…like the Nolan Dark Knight films, there’s not much bloodshed to be found in the theatrical edition of the film (we will discuss the unrated cut down below). I know what you are thinking. It’s a zombie movie! There has to be tons of bloodshed. Hell, even The Walking Dead has massive amounts of gore and blood, and it’s on cable television. I know. I said the same things going into this one as well. But if you think about The Dark Knight Trilogy, you still love those films regardless even without the excessive bloodshed, right? It’s the same principle here. View this with an open mind and let the film speak for itself and take care of the rest. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The stakes are high. The action is killer. And the story line was compelling enough to make me forget about all the negativity surrounding this film that I foolishly brought in with me to the initial screening and even throughout my third viewing now on the Blu-ray format.
Wow! I can’t believe that I wrote that much above already. I have not been this excited about a movie since I saw Oblivion earlier this year. However, I digress as I always do. We still have a lot of ground to cover in this review so let’s get cracking. So as you probably know, Mr. Brad Pitt is the main protagonist here. And a fine protagonist he is. Take that any way you want…LOL…just kidding. Like I referenced above, Brad’s character is kind of like the Jack Bauer of zombie flicks. It’s not that he’s untouchable in this movie, very untrue, but he’s a formidable opponent to every adversary or adverse condition he faces. He’s the perfect hero as he seems to know just what to do and he also excels in everything he does, but he also doesn’t seem to have any flaws, which some scholars of screenwriting might have a hard time with. It seems all those years of secret UN missions for the man really paid off. You can’t get the kind of knowledge Gerry has out of books or in the classroom. No sir! As far as the rest of the cast…I have zero problems with them. Everything was tight and status quo. Would have I liked my heart strings tugged a just little harder? Yes, please (probably one of my only complaints)! But that is a very minor complaint because as you know I initially thought the worse. I thought even the dialogue would be hokey and bad. I know I keep saying this, but I was so pleasantly surprised with this film and I hope it shows with my enthusiasm and film score above. Hmm…maybe it helps to go into all films with super low expectations, huh? I should have probably went into Man of Steel like that too. Dammit!
And now we’re finally on course to discussing the actual story. If you’re a fan of the novel of the same name, you should be made aware that this movie is completely different, which can either be a bad or a good thing depending upon what side of the spectrum you’re on. The book is a series of documentary accounts where as in the movie we are following the narrative plight and stakes that Gerry faces as he travels the globe in pursuit of discovering the origin of what caused the infectious zombie virus and where it began. No complaints there. Rest assured, certain elements and tales from the book are played out on the big screen. However, what I was most satisfied with was the non-stop adrenaline rush of heart-pounding action we are greeted with right out of the gate. It was incredible, thrilling and very, very satisfying. And although it could have been heightened just a tad more in my opinion, the ending resolved the film very nicely too. I won’t go into details and ruin anything, but I’m not going to lie to you and say everything ends peachy either. It was a resolution that I think was very befitting of not only the film, but also of the zombie genre in general. Take that how you will.
While we are talking about the wild action roller coaster ride within this zombie apocalypse thriller, let’s talk about the special effects. Like Jimmie Walker, they’re dy-no-mite!!! Or if you prefer affluent words like spectacular or stupendous, feel free to use those too. Yep. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy the action, but I also thrive on and drool over the film’s special effects. No dollar were wasted here. All zombies, carnage and action/stunt sequences are t1ts like they say on the Holliston FEARNet television show. For those of you that don’t know, t1ts are good (of course they are) and balls are bad. LOL. Anyway, the camera and cinematography constantly puts you right in the middle of the action and although you are not physically being bombarded it’s almost as if you can feel every bump, twist and turn. It’s Blu-ray after all, not DVD! And World War Z is still my second favorite film of the year…thus far!
Speaking of this title on Blu-ray, guess what?! This is the Blu-ray review of the film! So what do you say we start talking Blu-ray from now on? Sound good? Come on! Lets tackle all the main reasons why you’re here today and not reading that tiny, little review over at Blu-ray.com. After all, I have unboxing pictures for y’all! Come on! Let’s get this party started!
Paramount brings World War Z to the Blu-ray format with a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded track framed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. How do I put this gently? Things don’t look pretty here. However, they don’t look bad either. They look intentional. The film is meant to be bleak and muted and in that sense, they succeed here with flying colors (although colors is a really poor choice of words). The reason for the lower score though is I can never say hey this is a reference looking Blu-ray because it’s not. So regardless of the fact that this is how it’s supposed to look, I’m not going to promise you bright, eye-popping three-dimensional visuals here. Think about how The Walking Dead looks on AMC and you can pretty much see where I’m coming from with my constant mumbling and tripping over the right words to say. Things are not always sharp throughout. Although there are scenes where frizzy hair and facial wrinkles protrude, don’t bank on that happening all the time. The only time that I really reveled in the basking light that Blu-ray Jesus brings to our living rooms is when Gerry and wife carry a flare in the dark New Jersey apartment corridors or when he finds himself wandering the white laden halls of the WHO building in the film’s final act. The latter are the scenes where things actually look properly white balanced and sharpness and delineation creeps out of the shadows unexpectedly on you…just like the zombies do. So with that being said, please don’t also expect the deepest and inkiest black levels. What can I say? Colors are dull and lifeless here just like the undead invading your living room screen. It’s all intentional folks. And if you can get over that, you’ll be just fine here. The other good thing is that you’ll be hard pressed to find any blemishes, noises or artifacts in the print. Appreciate what you have and God bless…the audio’s next!
Zombie killers rejoice! Zombies beware! You don’t stand a chance with this a$$ kicking, Muse score. Paramount unleashes and lets the dogs run loose with authentic realism in the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix here on the World War Z Blu-ray release. The only thing I noticed is that the audio levels did not seem too loud, but that’s not always a bad thing either when you have the progressive band Muse orchestrating your film’s score. And what a great job they do! That’s actually my favorite part of this surround track. Well, that and the helicopter on the New Jersey apartment rooftop when you can hear the blades alternating between each of your rear speakers. That was grand! All the dynamics (including the little things like the traffic and the countdown provided by the plush Subway Sam doll), explosions and bodies slamming into each other (there’s a few…haha) and dialog are reproduced here with the utmost of authenticity. The track is robust, but as I said before a little on the low side. However, the LFE does a bombastic job of keeping things equalized, sounding aggressive and preserving a harmonious nature of being throughout. So if being immersed in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and listening to the intricate score of Muse is your thing, then by golly you came to the right place! Also selectable via the main menu, one can find French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mixes as well as English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Paramount makes World War Z available in both a Blu-ray Combo or Blu-ray 3D Combo with an Unrated Cut packed with their claims that it contains “even more thrills and action too intense for theaters, along with the theatrical version of the film.” The combo packs feature UltraViolet and more importantly an iTunes HD Digital Copy and boast in-depth looks at the making of the film, the seamless blending of practical and digital effects, the science behind the Zombie outbreak and some more. While it’s not a lot, let’s just remember…it’s the film that counts, right? Here’s hoping that one day Paramount double dips and puts together a Blu-ray package with both the unreleased ending we have heard so much about and an audio commentary (as I think this film begs for one). I’ll buy it! Will you?!
- Unrated Version (HD, 122 mins.) – I’m not sure if this counts as an extra or not, but it’s billed as one and we’ll juts roll with it. So here we go…theres really no choice in the matter. You only get the unrated version of the film on the Blu-ray disc. The theatrical version, which is 7 minutes shorter with a runtime of 115 minutes, is DVD and Digital Copy only. So I saw a bunch of additions here that made up the extra seven minutes from a longer intro to extended scenes in the New Jersey store and apartments, while at sea, the CIA prisoner pulling his own tooth out, during the zombie attack on the plane and the aftermath of the Jerusalem situation. In addition to the extended sequences, this was also the chance for Paramount to satisfy all the haters who screamed about there being no blood in a zombie flick. Well there’s blood in here now! You happy?
- Origins (HD, 8:21) – The filmmakers discuss collaborating with renowned actor/producer Brad Pitt to create a Zombie film the likes of which have never been seen and how the project all came about. Seems that Paramount won the auction to the rights of the book of the same name. Producer Dede Gardner talks about why the film appealed to Brad Pitt as it was both challenging and world affecting in the movie’s global scale. Cast and crew talk about what the movie means to them, how its translated from the book and ultimately how the movie is set up…basically a wakeup call to the UN (although the book is actually set out farther and recounts the events of the actual war). Marc Forster also talks about how it was to work with Brad Pitt and their challenge to create something fresh and new here and he also talks about the importance of family here (the crutch that propels our hero forward). Short, but sweet!
- Looking to Science (HD, 7:28) – The producers explore the scientific realities of Zombie behavior in science and nature as well as Zombies in literature and film. The origin of the word Zombies dates backs to the early 1800′s in Haiti as slaves in the field were referred to because they were all drugged up…appearing brainless and dead. They also pay homage to George Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead…as they should. They talk in detail about the nature and behavior of how Zombies would act in the real world comparing them to a swarm of ants or termites like how they scale the walls in the film. They also discuss viruses and their affect on biological systems and compare that with the topic of parasites in the real world because they try to pass on their own genes in the host much like infected Zombies…so to speak.
- WWZ: Production (HD) – When you select this Extra, you have a choice to Play All or play the following four segments individually. The decision is yours! You got the power!
o Outbreak (HD, 8:31) —Go on set with Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster for a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s breathtaking first attack in Philadelphia…the movie’s opening sequence. They talk about how everyone doesn’t know what’s going on and how real viruses spread around the world making it a very scary place to live in. It’s very cool to see how Glasgow was recreated to make it look like Philadelphia. Interesting, huh? Dede Gardner discusses how lucky they were to find Glasgow and talks about how it has not been filmed in much either. I’m still blown away that it doubled as Philadelphia. Aren’t you? Every one still brags about Brad Pitt here too. Love you, Brad! It was interesting to learn how the American cars used here are not legally allowed to drive on the roads there. And hey…the National Guard is here too! Check this one out! I love watching extras run.
o The Journey Begins (HD, 8:39) —Here we get to delve deeper into Gerry’s fight for survival during the dramatic escape in South Korea, but first the visual effects department talks about the incredible “safe” shots they can achieve using the green screens. It’s kind of cool how they shot on a stationary ship with green screen walls to make you feel like you are out to sea in the film. The scale here is large, but you already know that. The actors and crew talk more about the scale and magnitude of the size of the movie and the hundreds and hundreds of extras employed throughout. Finally we discuss the scene with both the rain and bicycles the soldiers employ to combat the fact that the zombies attack due to sound as they try to make their way back to the plane to escape and head for Jerusalem.
o Behind The Wall (HD, 9:41) – Here the filmmakers allow us to explore the epic scene in Jerusalem and discover the incredible logistics of creating the elaborate stunts and crowd sequences. They actually shot in Malta to double for Jerusalem and they had to make an extraordinary amount of Israeli costumes to keep the authenticity. However, Segen, the female soldier who protects Gerry on the rest of the journey, is a Jewish actress. They felt it was very important to cast someone like her. The infamous wall shot here was dissected and explained that it took over one year to make that. Nice! They show how they used CGI zombies to run erratically through the streets and intermix with the human actors portraying their undead counterparts.
o Camouflage (HD, 9:25) – This one starts out with the adrenaline fused, heart pounding plane crash before we experience the final confrontation between Gerry and the Zombies and discover the phenomenal scope of the film’s production. We see how the plane crash was made. Whether this is your thing or not, it does take a little of the magic away from the scene. We also take an intimate look at the third act of the film at WHO, which feels conjointly different the first two-thirds, but is equally as satisfying to me. I mean, how much larger can you get after you made it this far? Hopefully we will find out in the sequels. LOL. Yes! I used the S-word! And while we are at, how about a round of applause for WHO scientist zombie, Michael Jenn. This lad deserves an Oscar nom for his performance here. Best zombie performance ever! Really!
- DVD (SD, 115 minutes) – On the separate DVD disc you will find the theatrical version of the feature film in standard definition. This is good for the kids in the back of the mini-van.
- iTunes Digital Copy (HD, 115 minutes) – This is the theatrical cut of the film with two extras here, “Origins” and “Looking to Science,” both discussed above in detail.
- UltraViolet (HD, 115 minutes) – You know it’s weird. On the back of the Paramount box, like the rest of their most recent releases, it says you can only redeem one, the iTunes or the UltraViolet Digital Copy. However, I have never had an issue claiming them both. Have you?
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the glorious unboxing of the Blu-ray set!!! However, before we get to the actual shots of the product, I want to share a few pictures of the way Paramount makes every Blu-ray review I do for them so very special. Check out the below promotional box the Blu-ray review copy showed up in to fellow Blu-ray reviewers around the nation. It was so cool in fact that a thief couldn’t help stealing it out of the box before I got my grubby paws on it. So if you are reading this, THIEF, thanks a lot for ruining my Tuesday and extra thanks to my Paramount contacts for providing us with a replacement copy so quick. I’m forever in your debt.
Tell me how cool that is? You want to steal it, don’t you?
And inside we have the Blu-ray’s zombie slaying Gerry Lane in his hero, money shot on the slip case.
The back of the epic slipcase. The cover art on back of the Blu-ray case is the same.
The protective wrap covering the pristine, virgin Blu-ray and DVD discs inside! Open we must!
Holy zombie brains, Batman! Can you contain yourself any longer?! I can’t!
Inserting the Blu-ray disc for the very first time into my beloved Playstation 3.
And last but not least, here’s the main menu on the Blu-ray disc. Eat your heart out, walkers!
Well, I hope you enjoyed the above Blu-ray unboxing pics of World War Z. No one appreciates the magic of opening a new Blu-ray for the very first time more than I do as I take a deep whiff in of that addictive, mind-bending aroma of the freshly sealed blue plastic that’s finally able to breathe real air. And of course…I think as a consumer it’s always radically cool to see the product and everything you’re getting before it’s actually in your hands. Don’t you? It’s like trying it out before you buy it.
Although the Internet has been buzzing as of late with Brad Pitt and talks of all the unused ideas for for a proposed trilogy of films, all that really matters to me at the end of the day is how I feel about this film. In my honest opinion, World War Z, as stated before, wraps up nicely and feels very much like a stand alone movie. Sure there’s room for expansion. You can always continue where they left off or go on a different character’s journey or account like in the case of the source material, but if a sequel is never made, I’ll be just as happy. Well, I can go on and on about it all, but I think I’ll defer that to the comments section below if anyone has any opinions, comments, questions or complaints to make about this Blu-ray review. Let the record show that I did commit a “Matt Goodman” and raised the film score up half a notch as with this now being my third viewing of the film in a newly minted “unrated” cut, I can honestly say this is one of my favorite films of the year and I’m not ashamed to admit when I’m wrong about things like I did with my initial theatrical score of a 4. My apologies. I guess I’m human after all. Boo! Zombies get to have all the fun!
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World War Z infects Blu-ray this Tuesday, September 17th.
It’s available now everywhere via your favorite Digital Download retailers too.
And for a hilarious look at the unboxing on video and more check out this guy’s YouTube review here.