We’ve Zeen it all Before.

This movie is big. Very big. In fact it is global and created on the grandest of scopes. Far has the zombie genre traveled from the trapped-in-a-mall days of Romero’s masterful Dawn of the Dead.

In World War Z, the modern world collapses in an instant, under the decaying thumb of the zombie apocalypse. It’s up to Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) to save the world, or at least humanity, for what seems certain decimation. It’s a darn good thing that Lane is a former United Nation’s employee who remains well-connected, an amazingly prepared to handle the situation. Lane secures his family’s safety and is able to then freely travel the world (literally) in search of a cure for the zombie plague.  Yes, the zombie plague, and the answer lies in curing the viral infection.

The movie is based on Max Brooks’ best selling novel and WWZ is all Hollywood. This is how Hollywood handles today’s zombie. Director Marc Forster (or the writers) opt for the 28 Days Later style of zombie. They’re fast. They’re dangerous. They’re deadly. And, uh-oh, they are contagious. The numbers of the undead hordes increase rapidly, exponentially and to a degree only fully realized in today’s post-Lord of the Rings battlefield CGI.

Zombie fanatics will enjoy the intensity of WWZ‘s ghouls, but will probably be disappointed by the lack of violence. In fact, the violence in WWZ pales in comparison even to AMC’s The Walking Dead, but, hey, they had to maintain that PG-13 rating in hopes of widening the audience.

On that note, fans of The Walking Dead, will probably be disappointed here. The Walking Dead is more Romero, with slow-moving mindless zombies, and with conflicts that are more about the people and their humanity, serving as social commentary. In WWZ, there are some attempts to bring in the human element and the social commentary, but ultimately WWZ is afraid to take any real chances. After all, it’s not just humanity that’s at stake, it’s a few hundred million dollars.

For all its gloss, WWZ is at its weakest with its self-awareness for budget. At more than $400 million, WWZ has to recoup it’s money or it will be considered an unmitigated flop — of zombie apocalypse proportions. It is so broad in scope that it had plenty of opportunity to breathe uniqueness into the genre, but never fully commits to what the hardcore zombie fans long for. In fact, if one were compare WWZ to something, it’s closer to Contagion than The Walking Dead.

[Read more about the expectations of WWZ here]

Classic entries to the zombie genre — from Romero’s Dead flicks, to Fulci’s Zombi, to (yes) Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and even The Walking Dead — differ in this primary way: they are one hundred percent unforgiving and that is what their audiences expect. They are unforgiving in the approach violence and message, both of which are lacking in WWZ.

Even though it is a relatively good and enjoyable movie, full of spectacle and action, it is still a zombie movie, and with nothing new to offer to the genre or the storytelling, it’s hard to imagine this nearing half a billion dollars.

A weak opening could bring an end to Hollywood’s efforts to mainstream the undead for many years to come.

Grade: B

by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine