I have survived another Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Harry Knowles' annual birthday party movie marathon. It's the ultimate event for the truly obsessive film geek, and a favorite weekend of mine. Meredith wrote up her experience as a newbie, so I'll direct you to that. I'll say that I quite enjoyed Harry's turn towards vintage programming this year, with only a handful of premieres breaking up a run of largely Golden Age Hollywood films.
The line-up included a few studio presenation reels and trailer premieres; most were very short or not that interesting or will be online in three days. The one that seemed really worth sharing with you was the first eight minutes of World War Z, the big adaptation of Max Brooks' zombie novel starring Brad Pitt. The film has been troubled, with big reshoots and the entire ending of the movie being rewritten, but does that mean there's no hope?
A note: the footage shown was in progress. It had a temp score, wasn't fully color timed and had unfinished FX. That last bit will lead me to my biggest question later.
The footage begins with Brad Pitt, his wife and two daughters stuck in traffic in Philly. As the family plays time-wasting guessing games, the radio ominously talks about rabies infections that are spreading globally. There's the sound of sirens, and a motorcycle cop races between the gridlocked cars, knocking Pitt's rearview mirror off. As Pitt gets out of his car to retrieve the debris, there's a commotion ahead, and suddenly an explosion a few blocks distant (it's unclear to me if the explosion was related to jet sounds, as the sound mix was unfinished). People begin to panic, and another bike cop comes by, yelling at Pitt to get into his car. Just as he does... a semi nails the bike cop and keeps going, knocking cars out of its way.
Pitt decides to follow in the wake left by the truck, and he speeds down the street as chaos erupts. Jets and helicopters fly overhead, masses of people run screaming in the streets. Pitt gets distracted by his kids and gets into a big smashup in an intersection. As the family stumbles, okay, from the wreckage, we see what's happening. Rampaging, super fast, hissing 'zombies' are running after people. One jumps on the hood of a car and smashes its head against the windshield until it shatters, and drags out the driver and begins biting him.
The 'zombies' are full on rage zombies as seen in 28 Days Later. They even have those very yellow eyes, and all that spastic movement. It's obvious that 28 Days is the source material for this film, possibly even more than Brooks' novel.
Anyway, it's worth noting again that this footage had unfinished FX, as it's possible that the final film will feature CGI blood spatter. The footage I saw was bone dry, and it looked like the 'zombie' was giving her victim a hickey more than anything else.
The one clever moment in the footage came next; one of Pitt's daughters has a talking doll that counts. It begins counting as we watch the victim of the 'zombie' begin the process of 're-animating.' It takes 12 seconds to go from bitten to utter spastic with yellow pupils.
Everything else was dead generic, though. It could have been any 'panic in the streets' movie, and the bloodlessness (which, again, could be related to the unfinished FX, although I suspect it's because they're shooting for a ridiculous PG-13) made it all the more uninteresting. The footage felt like the opening cinematic of some kind of a cheap zombie game full of crummy Quicktime Events. Nothing I saw told me why I wanted to bother seeing 90 to 100 more minutes of the same thing.
At the same time it wasn't bad. I guess it's technically 'fine.' Maybe something better could happen right after the final shot (a really stock pullback showing the city in chaos and fires burning all over the place), and maybe the movie could get more interesting. It almost has to, right? At the very least it goes overseas at some point, which is not hinted at all in the footage. In fact there's nothing in the footage that explained to me why Pitt would be the hero of the movie. I'm not sure if he has special skills or is just a Regular Guy In The Wrong Place Doing The Right Thing.
It felt like a wash to me. Fast Danny Boyle zombies were fully confirmed, but nothing in the footage was as awful as the zombie swarm in the first trailer. My expectations are now low enough that it's possible I'll like the film.