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World War Z (3D Blu-ray Review)

19 Sep, 2013 By: John Latchem

Box Office $201.87 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D BD combo
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images.
Stars Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Peter Capaldi, Matthew Fox, David Morse.

With its similarities to a certain megahit zombie-apocalypse show, World War Z might be more aptly titled The Running Dead. The film’s plot runs through the bullet points of the undead-fighting checklist we’ve come to know on “The Walking Dead,” except these zombies are faster and we get to see the global impact of the plague.

Because World War Z sticks to the basics, fans of the genre will likely find it an effective and entertaining zombie thriller.

It begins quietly enough, with former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) out for a casual drive with his family in Philadelphia when zombies overrun the city. With reports of similar attacks all over the world, Gerry’s old pals at the United Nations are able to get his family safely aboard a flotilla in the Atlantic Ocean, in exchange for Gerry helping to hunt down patient zero with hopes of finding a cure.

It’s here the film adopts its most engaging aspect, transforming into an intriguing procedural as Gerry follows the clues to determine the best defense against the zombie hordes. His mission leads to Israel, which has erected giant walls to hold off any attacks. That the zombies might find a way to breach the defenses is not unexpected in a movie such as this, and the chaos that ensues is probably World War Z’s best sequence.

Part of the fun is seeing recognizable actors pop up in small roles to help Gerry along the way (one, representing the unintentional meta-reference of the moment, involves new “Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi turning up at the World Health Organization — credited as W.H.O. doctor).

The final act rests on a discovery that is a bit convenient, if not outright implausible (as much as the word “implausible” can apply to a movie about a zombie plague), but works to give the story a satisfying conclusion without cutting off room for a sequel.

The movie’s production problems have been well documented, from its deviation from the source material (the original Max Brooks novel was structured as a series of diaries from the survivors 10 years later), to writing and filming a whole new third act. If you didn’t know any of this beforehand, you wouldn’t get a sense of it on the disc, not only because the movie comes together as well as it does, but also that the only extras on the disc are a few watered-down featurettes that don’t delve into anything that could have gone wrong. According to most reports, the film was going to end with a massive battle in Russia, and ending with Gerry beginning to search for his family. Only remnants of this plotline remain in the final film, most notably Matthew Fox in a bare-bones role as a soldier who helps Gerry’s wife.

Letting the extras take an honest look at the production would have really elevated the home video release by giving fans a fascinating glimpse at the filmmaking process. As it is, the most interesting of the featurettes focuses on the science behind zombies.

The Blu-ray includes an extended cut that runs seven minutes longer, mostly adding graphic footage that would have tested the ‘PG-13’ rating. From a narrative standpoint, this is the better version. Those with the ability to view the 3D version, however, will have a dilemma, since the 3D effects do a good job amplifying the perception of danger.

Since the 3D version is the theatrical cut, the choice basically comes down to the 3D version for a more-visceral experience or the more brutal extended cut in 2D. Both are effective.

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