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Review: World War Z by Jamie

The best Zombie fiction is, at heart, about humanity. The zombies themselves are a containment system, a way to keep people trapped together and come into conflict with each other. Of course if a storyteller is really good, the zombies can represent much more than a barrier. They are a force that look ostensibly human but they cannot be fought in ways that you would fight people. They cannot be reasoned with and they know no fear. They will keep coming, wave after wave. Some of them may even have once been people you know. People you loved. The psychological horror of having to smash in a loved ones head before they start munching on your intestines is quite intense. Zombies are death, zombies are disease. Zombies are the hopelessness that humanity feels at the hands of both these things, the unstoppable force that will claim us all.

No person got this balance between the humanity of the zombie narrative and the psychological horror of fighting what is essentially death itself better than Max Brooks in his 2006 novel ‘World War Z’. By writing the book as a series of interviews performed around twenty years after the initial outbreak and ten years after the end of World War Z, Brooks was able to explore the politics of a global zombie apocalypse as well as the smaller, more human stories. From Israel’s closed borders to starving survivors turning on each other in the frozen North, he managed to give us glimpses of what would occur on each level of human society. He also gave us an insight into the impact of fighting a horde of zombies and how ineffective modern military tactics would be against them such as in the disastrous battle of Yonkers.

It was a book that lifted zombie fiction as a whole so, of course, they decided to turn it into a movie which, after many problems during it’s development was finally released yesterday. Holy fuck, is it awful. I must say that congratulations are in order. It takes some massive balls to strip both humanity and zombies from World War Z and these filmmakers clearly have them. Huge swinging brass balls.

Ok, first to the zombies. These aren’t zombies. The creatures in this film are velociraptors in zombie form. They run, the scream, they jump. They also don’t eat people so I guess maybe they are vegetarian velociraptors. They still bite though. They bite and run off and the people who are bitten turn instantly. Instantly. So you have a creature that can run without getting tired, leap like a grasshopper and only thinks about biting other people so that they can turn them into creatures like themselves, essentially giving them an unlimited and insanely fast reproduction rate. Do you know whtat that is called? It’s not a zombie or an epidemic, that is an extinction. Pure and simple. After the initial outbreak in all major US cities, we see the family stop to raid a supermarket which has been stormed by a good hundred or so others. No. Just no. There is literally no way that, given the type of enemy humanity is facing, any unarmed person should be able to step outside, let alone large groups of noisy, panicky people. It’s just so fucking stupid.

This insanely fast breed of whatever the hell these are also manages to eliminate one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Without the traditional slow-moving zombies, we don’t get a build up to World War Z. We don’t get to see the political ramifications as countries either take the threat seriously, ignore it or try to calm their population with placebos. Israel still walls itself off but the explanation as to why and how they did it so quickly is pretty fucking stupid. The only other time that we get a glimpse of any kind of political strategy that any country has for dealing with the outbreak is being told that North Korea organised a program where it pulled the teeth of it’s entire population because no bite means no infection. Other than that, there is no political strategy, no military strategy. Nothing going on globally except for Brad Pitt trying to find a cure, going all around the world to do it and finding everyone largely receptive to his visits. You’d think that people would be more suspicious of anyone travelling anywhere given the state of the world but seeing as people turn instantly I guess there’d be no need to worry that someone might have been bitten and snuck on to a plane. Thank fuck they completely closed off that possible avenue of dramatic tension. We wouldn’t want things to become interesting in any way, would we?

So that’s the zombies, what about the humanity? Well Brad Pitt really cares about his family. It’s a good thing that after the first half hour they are literally never in any danger again. Then Brad Pitt is off travelling around the world, meeting folks. Some of them get killed but we never get to know them well enough for anyone to care. There is a female character he befriends, Segen an Israeli soldier but she is as characterless as the CGI hordes chasing them. We don’t ever get a moment where someone has to feel conflicted about killing a zombie who, moments ago, was a loving member of their family. We never even really get to see anyone conflicted by the fact that the monsters hunting them were ever humans at all. Like I said, there is no military strategy here. There’s no moment where they realise that the creatures can’t be fought like you would fight people. There is just soldiers firing into waves of velocizombies as they hurtle towards them. There is nothing deep here. There’s barely even anything shallow.

In essence, World War Z is a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. It’s ‘2012’ except that the tidal waves are made out of people instead of water. It’s a CGI-fest with dull action scenes plastered between dull scenes of exposition. It is dull. Still I can understand why they decided to make this so different from the book. I mean, framing the film around something like interviews in order to tell a story about undead creatures through flashbacks would be impossible and certainly nothing in Brad Pitt’s past would suggest otherwise…

Still, this was completely the wrong way to go about adapting this book. Not that they did adapt the book, they just bought the rights to the title and slapped it on this. The only way that World War Z could ever really be brought to life is with something akin to a miniseries and hopefully one day we’ll see it. Until then, avoid this piece of shit like the plague. Zero pints out of five. Laterz.

World War Z? More like World War GO FUCK YOURSELF!

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Review: Iron Man 3 by Jamie

In 2008, Marvel began an experiment in cinema. Could a cinematic series work in the same way as a comic book continuity? Could you have a hero regularly appearing in his own series but also bring that hero together with others for a team flick? It was a grand experiment that culminated in ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and I think we can all agree that it was pretty sweet. Marvel and Disney had somehow managed to pull it off and create a consistent cinematic universe where everything just worked. Now the question is, where do things go from here? How would ‘Phase 2’ as it’s called work in a post-Avengers world?

Well, our first taste of Phase 2 came in the form of Iron Man 3, a continuation of the story of the hero that started it all, Tony Stark. So can Marvel continue to ride high on the wave of success that The Avengers brought or has that wave crashed on the rocky shore of failure? Well, I’m rather pleased to say that I fucking loved this movie.

The biggest problem that any of these movies faces is returning to the single character format after the ensemble movie. This is a little easier to do in comics because a) The team books aren’t always necessarily taking place within the same time frame or even continuity that the single character books are and b) Fuck it, if you want to put a character or team from another book in then you can just write and draw them in. Iron Man 3 manages to craft a believable story that both acknowledges the events of The Avengers whilst still very much being a story about Tony. True, there are some moments where you find yourself thinking “Well, if this is going on why has no one called in at least Captain America or something?” but for the most part it works.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises that I can talk about here without being spoilers are that the film takes place at Christmas (which I believe can be attributed to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black who wrote and directed this film) which is a nice little touch, though it annoyed me a little because it made me break my arbitrary rule about only watching Christmas films at Christmas, and that this film is funny. I mean really funny and it’s tone is consistent the whole way through. With most action films that try their hand at comedy they suddenly become deadly serious in the third act in a tonal shift that can be quite jarring. Iron Man 3 keeps it’s humorous, playful mood all the way through and it works. It works really well for both the character and the story. Perhaps an even bigger surprise is just where the humour is derived from. Iron Man 3 is not a parody but it is certainly a film that plays with expectations. It knows what you expect from certain situations in action movies and superhero movies and it flips them on their head and I for one thought it was brilliant. There’s one moment in particular that’s going to really piss of a select group of this movie’s audience but I loved it. LOVED IT.

What else can I say that wouldn’t be spoilery? Well, it’s great to see a little less reliance on CGI than we’ve had in the past. Things actually blow all the shit up in this movie and there’s a sequence involving people falling out of a plane that was at least partially shot using a team of skydivers. Sure CGI has come a long way since even the first Iron Man but it’s still more impressive to see things done for real every now and then.

As for the acting, well, the main cast you know. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark at this point and he’s just as good as he’s ever been. Gwyneth Paltrow get’s play a larger part here which frankly I like. Sure, she may not be everyone’s favourite person but within this series of movies I think she’s great especially working with the handicap of playing a character called Pepper Potts. Freed from the directing duties, Jon Favreau also has a slightly expanded role which is a nice touch and plays on the friendship between Tony and Happy Hogan. Hell, now that I think about it even JARVIS (Paul Bettany) has more to do here. It makes sense really. This film is very much about Tony Stark and what better way to do that than with more interaction with the people he cares about. In fact, the only person who might have less screen time that in Iron Man 2 is Don Cheadle as Rhodey. He still has an integral role to play and he’s very good but I guess the biggest interaction and confrontation we really need between Tony and Rhodey was in Iron Man 2.

As for the new people, Guy Pearce is great as Killian Aldritch, founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics who has had a rather unpleasant experience with Tony Stark in the past. There‘s the worry early on that he’s just going to be a retread of Sam Rockwell’s character from 2 but as the film progresses it’s clear that he isn’t. Rebecca Hall is decent enough as Dr. Maya Hensen, a botanist who helped to create a virus with regenerative qualities who once had a fling with a young Mr Stark. The main problem I have, I guess, is not so much the actress but some aspects of the character just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course the person that everyone is wondering about is Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. Well, he’s great. Fucking brilliant. He’s part Osama Bin Laden, part history teacher with maybe just a dash of Fred Phelps thrown in but he’s also so much more. So, so much more.

So Phase 2, and 2013’s Summer Blockbuster Season, kicks of not with a whimper but with a bang. An awesome bang. So yeah, go and see Iron Man 3. I mean, you were probably going to anyway. Oh, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but stick around for after the credits. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Iron Man 3

If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the after credit sequence letting you know that there’s a full on, spoilerific video discussion coming some time in the near future once everyone’s had a chance to see it. Stay tuned.




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