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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: World War Z

September 26th, 2013

World War Z - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack or 3D Combo Pack

World War Z was one of the most anticipated films of the summer, as it was based on a popular book and starred Brad Pitt, one of the biggest movie stars around. However, there were hints of problems, including extensive reshoots. In the end, it cost $190 million to make and while it pulled in more than $500 million worldwide, it will likely need a little help on the home market to break even. Will it break even on the home market? Or is it a flawed execution to a really good idea?

The Movie

The film begins with a montage of news programs talking about various topics, include climate change, the cannibal zombie from Florida, an outbreak, and similar stories. We then meet the Lane family, Gerry and Karen and their two daughters, Rachel and Constance. It's a rather typical morning with Gerry making pancakes for his wife and daughters. He used to work for the United Nations going into hot spots, but quit so he could spend more time with his family.

Their morning commute is a nightmare with traffic at a standstill. They are trying to figure out what is going on, because between the helicopters and the sirens, it certainly doesn't seem like the usual morning traffic problems. Whatever is happening is big and when Gerry gets out of his car to see what is going on, a cop on a motorcycle orders him back into his vehicle. Gerry complies, only to see the cop hit by a runaway garbage truck. Gerry sees the path of destruction the garbage truck is making and sees it as a path to get his family out of harms way. Unfortunately, he's a distracted driver and there is an accident. The family is okay, but their car is not. The day gets even crazier when the family witnesses a woman head butt her way into the windshield of a car and attack one of the occupants, they realize it's time to get the hell out of Philadelphia, so they steal an RV and take off.

They are not too far out of the city when they get a call from Thierry Umutoni, whom Gerry used to work with at the U.N. He's calling, because Gerry used to deal with situations like this. Although, quite frankly, no one has ever had to deal with a situation like this. They make it to Newark, New Jersey, to stock up on supplies while they wait for Thierry to send a helicopter to rescue them. While they are grabbing supplies, someone steals their RV, so they are forced to hide out in an apartment building till the morning. They manage to find a family living there who let them in. Gerry tries to convince them to leave with them, but is unable to. Unfortunately, after they leave, the family is attacked and only Tommy, their young son, gets out. But at least they made it out of Newark to the U.N. command ship.

Once there, Gerry and Thierry begin to talk and the news isn't good. The epidemic has spread worldwide with 95% of people bitten infected immediately. The other 5% just take a little while longer. While the term Zombie has been used by some, the scientists aboard think it has to be a virus. If that's true, the best way to combat it is to track it to its source. If they do that, they might be able to come up with a vaccine. The person taking the lead on this is Dr. Andrew Fassbach, but he's young and has no experience in matters like this. However, Gerry does have experience, but he doesn't want to go. However, he's forced to go, or his family will be removed from the ship. Their first stop is South Korea, but what happens there is a spoiler.

There are many people who call In the Mouth of Madness the best adaptation of a H.P.Lovecraft story, despite the fact that it isn't based on any Lovecraft story. It's just fits so well into the themes. Likewise, World War Z is arguably the best video game adaptation I've ever seen. I know it isn't based on a video game, but it really feels like one. Gerry travels around the world meeting NPCs, getting an important piece of information to continue his quest, many times the NPC dies, and then Gerry moves on to the next location. This is the best live-action Resident Evil. It is not, on the other hand, a good adaptation of the original novel.

Fans of the World War Z, the novel, likely won't be pleased with the movie, because a lot of the elements that made the novel interesting were jettisoned from the movie in order to increase its mass appeal. World War Z doesn't deal with a lot of the themes in the book and instead is a simple zombie movie, but on an epic scale. For the most part, it works in this regard. However, it is episodic and too often we learn nothing about the characters that we meet. The end result is an above average action film, but nothing spectacular. It is worth checking out, but not essential viewing.

The Extras

There are not a lot of extras on the Blu-ray. Things start with an eight-minute look at the origins of the movie from an unpublished draft of the book to the making of the film. Looking to Science is a seven-minute look at the science behind zombies. Finally, there is a four-part, 36-minute long making of featurette. All of these extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray, and even then it is not a lot.

The technical presentation is good, but not great. The film was shot both digitally and on film and sometimes the contrast between the two mediums presents problems. Some scenes are a little soft while others are a little too clean. Also, the film has a washed out look, but this was an aesthetic choice and not a problem with the transfer. The audio is better than the video with clear dialogue and ample activity in the surround sound speakers. The 7.1 surround sound track has a very active bass and the sound design is great with plenty of directional effects, pans, etc.

I don't have the 3D release to compare.

The DVD costs just over $16 while the Blu-ray combo pack costs $19. That's a great price, especially with the exclusive extras. The 3D combo pack costs $24, which is exactly what you expect for a 3D release.

The Verdict

Hank Green killed zombies. Hank Green killed all of the zombies. Hank Green is one of the Vlog brothers and he put out a video a while back explaining that the science of zombies explains how zombies can't work. World War Z is perfectly acceptable for a summer action movie. It isn't nearly as mindless as a lot of action films that populate the summer months, but it doesn't live up to its source material either. The DVD has no extras, so it is only worth a rental. If you are interested in buying grab the Blu-ray Combo Pack or the 3D Combo Pack instead.

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Filed under: Video Review, World War Z, Resident Evil, Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, Fana Mokoena, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido, Elyes Gabel