Movie review: “World War Z” gets the zombies right, not the war

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From the June 20, 2013 edition

The release of “World War Z” may mark the biggest moment in the zombie invasion of pop culture.

I mean, a big summer release based on a wildly popular novel starring a bankable Hollywood star? It’s official. Zombies are the new vampires.

But where the movie version of “World War Z” fits in the zombie canon is a bit sketchy. It gets the apocalyptic tone right and has some moments of real burst-out-of-your-skin tension, but in the end, it adds little to the canon.

The first challenge was how to adapt Max Brooks’ 2006 novel, an episodic collection of individual accounts of a decade-long zombie war. The choice to go with a traditional narrative with a traditional action hero saving the day may have fans of the book screaming for “braaaaaains!”

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a retired United Nations investigator living with his wife and two daughters. When a sudden zombie pandemic strikes the globe, Lane is recruited to seek out the origin.

Director Marc Forster (”Quantum of Solace”) thrusts us quickly into the Zombpocalypse, and the results are frequently terrifying. This incarnation of zombies is fast, twitchy and travels in overwhelming herds.

As Pitt’s Lane begins trotting the globe, we get a sense of the global breakdown of governments and the realization that society is pretty fragile. But as gears shift to a more definable mission, we get less geopolitical thriller and more summer action movie. The script may have seen too many doctors, even if some of the late draft help has a pedigree, including Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) and Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods”).

What would be most interesting is a serious drama about the impact an event like this would have on society, but it isn’t likely we’ll see the “Schindler’s List” of zombie films any time soon, and that’s a shame.

“World War Z” is still a solid zombie flick, but by no means the genre-definer it could have been. Give me “28 Days Later.”