Saturday, October 5, 2013

World War Z -- time to become undead, time to come alive

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for World War Z

Director: Marc Forster, 2013 (PG-13)

World War Z had terrific promise. It featured Brad Pitt in most every scene, a story based on a best-selling book, and a zombie-apocalypse theme that seemed likely to resonate with “The Walking Dead” viewers. Sadly, it fails to live up to the potential and becomes a somewhat lackluster action-adventure.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a family man. Former UN investigator, he has exchanged his travel visas for pancake flippers and now spends his days cooking and caring for his family: wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and two sweet little girls. He says he doesn’t miss the life of travel and danger but it will drag him back. . . . else this film would be a certain dud.

On a routine car ride in downtown Philly, one of the movie’s best scenes introduces the film. A traffic jam suddenly becomes chaotic when zombies swarm over cars and trucks. It is here that Gerry witnesses a zombie transformation, setting himself up as expert investigator when the UN eventually take him back. Before this happens, he and his family must escape the city carnage, and survive a night of terror in an apartment.

Once we move beyond the introduction, we discover this is a world-wide epidemic and no one knows why. Reenlisted, Gerry is sent on a global voyage seeking patient zero and the cause of the breakout hoping to discover a cure.

We see much of the world: Korea, Israel, Wales, but the scenery is not beautiful. After all, it is plagued by zombies and severe destruction. Gore abounds, but so do plot holes. And by the time the movie goes from fast action to deep suspense in the third act, the climax has been telegraphed. It is so obvious that most of the suspense dissipates.

The book focused on interviews with multiple characters to share different aspects of the zombie wars. Rather than writing this for the screen, Forster’s film focuses on one man, leaving even his family behind for the most part, and sadly loses much of the narrative drama. What results is a typical zombie flick, but with Brad Pitt. He performs well, looking like a middle-aged dad with long-hair, but even he cannot retain interest with this screenplay. Apparently it was so disappointing that the entire third act was completely revised and reshot after screening for the studio. That is always a bad sign.

There is not much of redemptive value here. But one scene caused me to reflect on life and death. In the opening chaos in the streets of Philadelphia, Gerry sees a man bitten and go from being alive to being undead. It took a mere 10 seconds – Gerry counted them. How long does it take us to go in the reverse direction?

The Bible points out that we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), even while we walk around thinking we are full of life. We are the walking dead, despite not chomping on other’s flesh. But if we make a confession of faith (Rom. 10:9), in a single moment we can go from death to life. In an instant we can become born again (Jn. 3:1-10). Once this occurs, there may be no outward sign of change but there is an inward reality. Life infuses us. The Holy Spirit becomes our inner companion (Acts. 2:4). And we begin the process of life transformation whereby slowly God makes us more and more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29-30).

It may take 10 seconds to become undead (in this zombie movie) but it takes only a twinkling of an eye to attain life, and become really alive. The film may be fictional trivia, not worth much of a viewing, but Jesus’ life is literal truth and worth all you can imagine.

Copyright ©2013, Martin Baggs

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