World War Z Blu-ray ReviewSeptember 13, 2013
World War Z is a movie that surprised me. I didn’t catch it in theaters, but I had heard about the troubled production it had gone through, including numerous re-writes and re-shoots. Luckily, as it turns out, all of that extra work resulted in a thoroughly entertaining final product, and all the post-production patchwork is thankfully unnoticeable. Judging from the trailers, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is just another formulaic horror/ action zombie film, but World War Z manages to carve out its own identity in a crowded genre. It manages to feel remarkably fresh with its breakneck pace, worldwide scale and epic set-pieces. Producer/ star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster have managed to successfully fuse together the end-times desperation of AMC’s The Walking Dead with the fast-paced action of something like The Bourne Identity. Now Paramount has released the film on Blu-ray in an improved, unrated extended cut, with a number of special features rounding out the package.
In the film, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former UN employee who has quit his job to spend some quality time with his family. There are slight hints building in the background of the rote daily routine that something is not quite right. The television in the background at breakfast tells of a rabies outbreak that is spreading, and as the family is stuck in traffic helicopters fly in the distance. Before long all hell breaks loose, as vehicles begin slamming into each other and infected run rampant throughout the city, infecting everything in their wake. From here the film hardly slows down at all throughout its roughly two hour runtime, during which Gerry is forced into working for the UN once again to help combat the zombie threat and discover the origins of the outbreak, in exchange for the safety of his family aboard a military aircraft carrier.
World War Z features a pulse-pounding lossless DTS-HD 7.1 sound mix, in which everything from booming gunshots and explosions to the high-pitched shriek of the “Zekes” is clear and powerful. The reference-quality 1080p image is sharp and looks quite good, though the film is shot with a very subdued color palette for the most part. Much of the film feels cold and dark with heavy blues, except for a set piece in Jarusalem that takes place midday where the warm colors are allowed to pop. The fleshtones and black levels look great, and there are no noticeable signs of video compression techniques.
World War Z features the unrated, uncensored cut of the film and its special features on the Blu-ray portion of the disk, and the standard-definition theatrical cut on an enclosed DVD. I didn’t realize that the Blu-ray automatically plays the unrated version, and when comparing the two versions later I came to the conclusion that this film is far more effective in its uncensored, extended form; the PG-13 theatrical cut seems a bit neutered and watered down in comparison. In the theatrical cut, some of the more intense zombie encounters are cut entirely, as well as essentially all of the gore. For example, in the unrated cut, a woman’s arm is cut off mid-way into the film, and fountains of blood erupt from her arm as she screams in agony for 15-20 seconds. In the theatrical cut, no blood is shown at all, and the scene is drastically shortened. Other brutal sequences, such as scenes where zombies are graphically executed are cropped and edited to greatly tone down the violence.
Origins: The director and producers talk about the task of bringing such a large-scale book to the big screen, and all of the difficulties that came from trying to create a filmable script. The director talks about his choices for the cast and what they brought to the film.
Looking To Science: Talks with various authors and those with scientific knowledge about the research that went into film, the science behind it, and how parasites work together to spread viruses in nature.
WWZ: Production: A four-part documentary on the production of the film, beginning with Outbreak. This looks at the filming of the spectacular opening scene in Philadelphia, which as it turns out was actually filmed in Glasgow – where they managed to shut down an entire town square for 18 days. The Journey Begins focuses on some of the visual effects shots and green screen implementations, including the helicopter rooftop rescue and the scenes that take place on the battleship. Behind The Wall focuses on the sequence in Israel, and the three weeks spent shooting in Malta as a stand-in for Jarusalem. It also touches on the staggering amount of extras used (over 1400) and the visual effects utilized for the zombies swarming against the giant wall. Camouflage goes into the film’s airliner set-piece, as well as the final act of the film.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by World War Z. Its solid Blu-ray presentation, and its (vastly superior) unrated cut and in-depth special features make this worth a second look to those who enjoyed the film in theaters. While it would have been nice to see some insight into the footage that was cut from the final film, and the original vision as a whole, what’s here definitely adds to the value of the package. This Blu-ray is easily recommendable for those looking for a polished, suspenseful blockbuster experience at home.