I say "surprising" because, compared to (for instance) the werewolf, vampire and Jekyll/Hyde genres, these films fail to tap into truly basic human fears and conflicts. They are easily the least sexual of these myths, unless you have issues around necrophilia; even
Brooks's bestseller distinguished itself from shelves of zombie books by a very clever narrative device: It followed the structure of Studs Terkel's nonfiction "oral histories" (like "Hard Times," "The Good War" and "Working"). It gained verisimilitude by disguising itself as history or reportage.
It also made the book seemingly unfilmable, more so than other recently "unfilmable" books like
It's understandable why the project (which started shooting almost two years ago) was delayed by rewriting and reshooting. Rather than trying to develop a way to convert the structure into filmic terms — like the Wachowskis and
In the film's chronology, it appears that small zombie outbreaks have been occurring for a while — unbeknownst to the public — and have reached critical mass. For much of the world, normality is crushed within hours or days; the zombie incubation period is variable, but often as short as a few moments. If each zombie were to bite two people each hour, it would take roughly 30 hours for the human race to vanish.
Pitt is excellent, as is Fana Mokoena as his former U.N. coworker. Because we are almost always with Gerry, none of the other actors get much face time:
There are some impressive visual effects: the way the zombies attack an Israeli compound makes no sense whatever, but it sure looks cool. Still, too many of the scare moments are just by-the-book recreations of overly familiar devices — sudden loud noises and lots of false alarms leading up to a real one. That doesn't ruin the fun, but it makes it a lot less memorable.
One generally tries not to review the budget, but it's sometimes hard to avoid. "World War Z" reportedly cost about $200 million — 1,600 times the budget of "Night of the Living Dead." Even adjusting for inflation, that's a lot less bang for the buck.