*. Oh my god what a stupid movie. There were all sorts of problems with re-writes, even while in production, because they were way over budget. But even so . . .
*. It’s based on the book by Max Brooks (Mel’s son), but doesn’t take much from that source except the title. So why did they reportedly pay a “high six-figure” sum for the rights if they weren’t even going to use it?
*. In fact, the book was basically unfilmable, being an episodic “oral history of the zombie war” that would have never worked on screen. Brooks was just mining all of the usual zombie apocalypse conventions, so the producers of this movie really didn’t need him at all.
*. Even the locations are underutilized, only carrying a symbolic or political significance (discussed below).
*. And why is Gerry (Brad Pitt) flying all over the world anyway? Why not just phone Jerusalem? Or let the people in Cardiff know what his great idea is?
*. Zombies are now so much a part of pop culture that these big-budget, CGI-heavy epics constitute their own genre: ZombieShit (a label that nicely complements MarvelCrap). Most of the conventions are still respected, like the delirious shopping expedition (though this looks a bit more like Black Friday at Wal-Mart than the usual raid for consumer goodies). Then some newer tropes, like opening with a montage of news reports (from 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake) are also included. There’s not much that’s original.
*. The politics here are downright ugly, if not hateful. Apparently the best place to be in case of a zombie outbreak is somewhere that is already a war zone or armed camp, like North Korea or Israel/Palestine. They’re the ones who know how to keep the rabble out (this is a theme of the book as well, where the benefits of apartheid are made explicit).
*. Why so extreme? Because the zombies/infected/lower classes are revolting. This is most blatantly put forward in the Jerusalem section. In case you were in any danger of missing the political message, a location stamp tells us this is “Jerusalem, Israel.” The city’s status is actually disputed, but not in Hollywood. Outside the walls of Jerusalem, meanwhile, are the infected hordes of Arabs, a lethal bacillus that has to be separated from the besieged Israeli community.
*. Like I said, the politics are ugly. Really ugly.
*. And the political message doesn’t end there. We start off with Gerry and his family stuck, in all places, in Newark, New Jersey. Specifically the housing projects. That’s not a good place for a pair of white, upper-class yuppies to be with their kids. There are Arabs, I mean coloured people, running around!
*. Hell, it’s getting so you can’t even fly any more! Note that the rebellion comes from the back of the plane, economy class, with the dirty hordes fighting their way into the business section. Damn their dirty hides!
*. There’s a lot of just plain stupid stuff in this movie, in part because the script re-writes led to incoherence but also . . . just because. Chief among the howlers is how that army of zombies just sneaks up the wall of Fortress Jerusalem in broad daylight without anyone noticing. There are helicopters watching them, right? And people on the wall? But no! They’re backs are turned!
*. And are human pyramids of that size even physically possible? They certainly suggest a high degree of group organization and athleticism that the zombies don’t seem to have.
*. Why are the zombies so sensitive to sound? How long can they remain “dormant” without eating anything? And apparently they aren’t cannibals so I’m not sure how they’re sustaining themselves.
*. Speaking of their dormant state, shouldn’t they be sitting down or sleeping? I don’t think of dormant creatures as standing up straight and twitching all over.
*. Wait. Pitt has been sent on this super-important mission and his only way of reporting back is to … call his wife and have her pass the phone off to his superior?
*. How does Wales survive the plague so well? It’s not an island, and the WHO building isn’t a fortress. It’s even partially overrun. Was anybody thinking about these things? Like how Gerry and Segel both survive that plane crash? Oh yeah, they had their seatbelts on.
*. What a waste of Mireille Enos. She literally has nothing to do but worry about her man. A clichéd cutaway as a suffering Madonna.
*. The whole “family man” angle is overdone. Gerry doesn’t want to go on this mission (which, remarkably, he is the only man in the world capable of leading) because he wants to stick with his family on the aircraft carrier? But what danger are they in there? And doesn’t he think that helping the scientific team find a cure is kind of, you know, important?
*. Pitt tells us that in his line of work in danger zones it’s the “people who move who survive.” “Life is motion,” he tries to explain in Spanish. But is this true? In general, I’m not so sure.
*. What’s that you say? You have to stay really, really quiet so as not to alert the zombies? Don’t forget to turn off your cellphone then! Oh no! Too late!
*. Really, how stupid would you have to be not to know that? Forget about being ex-special forces (or whatever Brad Pitt’s background is), all you have to have seen is a few movies like this.
*. The zombie genre in the twenty-first century has been a victim of its own success, going the way of parody (Shaun of the Dead, Fido, Juan of the Dead), low-budget extreme gore, or big-budget Hollywood treatments (this film, I Am Legend, 28 Weeks Later). What we haven’t been seeing is anything new or vital.
*. No I didn’t like this one at all. I couldn’t wait for it to end, especially when it stumbled into its final act (a structural flaw it shares with 28 Days Later, which was another hatchet job of a screenplay). It’s stupid, clichéd, and didn’t even have a lot of gore in it. I can’t think of anything new they did with the genre. Instead of being creative they just threw a ton of money on a 28 Days Later rip-off (a movie that wasn’t worth ripping off in the first place).
*. Nevertheless it did huge box office, becoming the highest grossing zombie movie of all time. Plans for a sequel were soon announced.