Zombies are scary because they lack any sort of rationality — killing and eating human brains serves them no real biological purpose — but the best zombie films are actually about the people. Whether it's racists (Night of the Living Dead), materialistic over-consumers (Dawn of the Dead) or the rise of a military dictatorship (28 Days Later) the true classic zombie flicks use the shambling undead as a means for recognizing the real problems in ourselves.
World War Z opens this Friday and stars Brad Pitt as an ex-UN hero/family man trying to stop a worldwide zombie infestation/plague pretty much all by himself. The source material, a book by Max Brooks, was part geopolitical satire about human greed and disaster-capitalist opportunism. This movie adaptation? Not so much.
Four screenwriters later, Pitt (who produced) and director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball) ended up with a PG-13, globe-trotting thriller/action/war film rather than a proper horror — more Outbreak/Contagion than Dead Alive.
The punch of the source material kinda goes out the window and World War Z is Brad Pitt rushing through an awesome save-the-family intro sequence and some pretty gnarly action set pieces before an ending that won't please everyone. Although the Zombie content is heavy CGI there are way, way more undead in this flick than any other movie ever made. All in all it's a decent summer popcorn flick and Pitt does his best with an underdeveloped character (something that plagues everyone in the script), but for true zombie movie fans World War Z lacks bite.
Also opening this week is Monsters University, the latest kick at the can from animation giant Pixar. This one is a prequel to the 2001 classic Monster's Inc. and features that film's heroes — Sully (the furry one) and Mike (the Eyeball) — as monsters surviving the hardships of college life. Banking on the solid chemistry provided by John Goodman and Billy Crystal, this one is basically a Fruity Pebbles take on Revenge of the Nerds, only without the nudity (which was kind of the best part wasn't it?).
Pixar has dominated the animation game since they got into it with 1995's Toy Story and have always touted the value of storytelling over everything else. Some of their flicks (Up, Wall-E, Ratatouille) are true high-water marks for the art form but lately the other studios have begun to catch up as Pixar has stumbled (although Cars 2 was so batshit weird that it kind of ruled.)
Monsters University looks very slick, Pixar films always do, but it lacks the urgency of a great movie. We all know the odd couple/work together/underdog story will turn out just fine because we've already seen the next chapter. Adults might be underwhelmed but kids won't give a crap — they'll watch the same movie 500 times so a new film with recognizable characters is pure bliss.
Lastly, the Whistler Arts Council's Monthly Movie Series wraps up for the summer with The Island President — a doc about President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives Islands. Nasheed brought democracy to his island nation after 30 years of dictatorship, now he just has to keep it above water, literally. The Maldives are barely above sea level and even a slight rise in ocean levels will wash his nation right off the planet. As Nasheed fights to get the rest of the world to give a shit about global warming, the film delivers a tense and informative look at real geopolitics.
It seems like zombies might be the least of our worries; as always, we are our own biggest threat.