When exactly did zombies go mainstream? The Walking Dead clearly had a part to play, because somewhere down the line they went from B-movie cannon fodder to Friday night primetime TV. Who would have thought all those years ago as we watched Night of the Living Dead for the very first time that in 2013 we would be munching on popcorn, rooting for Hollywood's prettiest leading man as he saves the world from zombie annihilation? World War Z could have been the zombie movie to end all zombie movies, but we're living in 2013, so you've got to leave the door open for a sequel.
Pitt stars as United Nations employee Gerry Lane, a doting family man in a race against time to prevent the zombie pandemic from toppling armies, governments and cities, before going on to destroy humanity itself. Marc Forster takes the reins, following directorial duties on Quantum of Solace and Gerard Butler's intermittently enjoyable, Machine Gun Preacher. Despite the presence of ravenous dead folk, a horror movie this is most certainly not. World War Z is an effects-laden action spectacle, a fast-paced thriller that just about outruns its troubled history and reshoots.
The special effects are stunning at times, as is the terrifying opening act, which cuts right to the chase with a blistering assault on Philadelphia. Zombie purists will no doubt bemoan the 'undead on acid' approach to zombie apocalypse, but Forster's walkers are undoubtedly an unstoppable force of nature. They run, they jump, occasionally they fly, and World War Z's heart stopping opening should have been a sign of things to come. There are some great moments to savour; an aeroplane assault is breathlessly entertaining, as is the relentless 'ant attack' on Israel, which has got to be one of the most striking action sequences of the year.
A lot of what rises in between is repetitive and bland. Not least the characters, who barely even register at times - Lost's Matthew Fox is introduced and all but forgotten in an instant. The ending is enjoyable enough, if only because it feels so stripped back in comparison to the rest of the movie. The final act came as a result of last minute reshoots, and it doesn't quite gel with the rest of the picture. It's low key, dark and disturbing, which isn't necessarily a criticism, but when a movie opens as big as this, you don't expect it to end on such a doe-eyed whimper.
Still, the zombies are great and - in the right hands - World War Z 2 could be a real blast. That's if the zombie bubble hasn't burst by then. Personally, I'm really looking forward to Simon Cowell's Saturday night staple, Z-Factor. It could happen... AW