Despite using phrases like “the Jesuit order—you know, the one that includes the pope” and “Catholics—1/6 of the world’s population” I was unable to convince Plan B Entertainment that I was cool enough to get an advance DVD of "World War Z." I was thusly forced to head out into a Canadian night alone while on a family vacation to see the movie. No one else wanted to go.
The Canadian theater was only about a quarter full. There were two pairs of men seated near me, who came in together and left a seat between them for maximum leg-stretching and not-being-on-a-date space. I saw two individuals leave during the movie and not come back, in a show of Canadian frontier individualism.
A lot has been written about zombies-as-metaphors—who are the real zombies? The undead or us, who have our snouts pointed towards little black mirrors into which we type inane messages to imaginary friends in all situations? Are we the real shuffling carcasses? Or are other human beings the greatest threat, given that they are both lethal and brainy?
This movie doesn’t really get into any of that, which is OK since that territory has, like I said, been covered. “World War Z” is more of an incomprehensible-event disaster movie along the lines of “The Birds” or “The Fog” or “The Killer Bees.” The point is that the zombie virus or bacteria is loose and it’s spreading fast. Zombification happens rapidly and the zombies themselves are both speedy and nimble and form great, obliterating waves of undead. Humanity is falling. Who does the United States deploy to figure out what to do about this situation? Brad Pitt, a “former UN investigator.”
“World War Z” is the kind of movie that requires me to make little jokes in my head so as not to fall asleep. Brad Pitt’s hair was my main fixation. It was in a highlighted man-bob hooked behind his ears. “Brad Pitt’s hair swears by Febreze,” I thought. “Brad Pitt’s hair won’t order the French fries but will eat most of yours.” Then I moved onto Brad’s other issues. “Brad must have tossed in a mini-stubble trimmer into his pack when he went out in the field. I don’t think that’s regulation.” “UN Magazine says: Going out to investigate a world heath crisis? Try a kicky scarf!”
“Why is Brad’s mouth open during this entire scene where he’s supposed to be getting important information from an expert?” I wondered. “Perhaps he’s a whale and the facts are plankton?”
Another coping mechanism I use during no-exit movies is try to focus on the performances of other cast members who shine far too briefly. “Oh no! Mireille Enos is being sidelined to the furrow-and-fret box even though everyone knows she could solve this ‘mystery’ in about ten seconds flat! Or maybe take two whole TV seasons to do it, but I’d still rather be watching that.” “Hey! There’s James Badge Dale, star of the enjoyed-by-me one-season AMC show "Rubicon"! Too bad he doesn’t take over!” “That female soldier (Daniella Kertesz) is great—is it just me or is she inwardly rolling her eyes at Brad?”
“Why is this the least effective World Health Organization branch that ever existed in any time or space? This movie is bringing everything down to its level! I do hope that doctor (Ruth Negga) gets more work, though.”
My last resort in Movie Jail is to let my gaze wander to a green exit sign and breathe in and out, feeling my chest rise and fall, rise and fall.
Truly, the scariest part of the evening was a soft-drink commercial before the movie, which spliced together supposedly heartwarming bits of robo-camera footage. Is the sight of some guy tossing a bag of potato chips to a homeless person outside a convenience store not anything but sad for everyone involved? That two-minute presentation made me want to head into the Canadian forest and not look back, humming a Gordon Lightfoot tune all the while.
On the way to British Columbia, I saw something in an airline catalog that made my whole family laugh. “Who would even want that?” said my daughter, who went on to draw a cartoon of a zombie in bed snuggling with a stuffed cat. The caption read “Zombies need stuffies too.” As World War Z drew to a close, I knew exactly who would want the Zombie of Montclaire Moors. Brad Pitt’s hair, that’s who.