World War Z isn't the awful, worthless disaster its trailers and reputation suggests. Something rots deep within the film, but the experience of watching it is not all that unpleasant, so long as you can put away a few possible deal breakers.
For one, this is not an adaptation of Max Brooks' World War Z. That novel took a zombie plague and examined it from every possible angle - some cliche, some brand new, most evoking some different emotion. It patched together a massive event through a series of micro-level perspectives.
In every way possible, other than the fact that zombies are involved, this is the opposite of that. World War Z is selectively macro, which means it's only concerned with the most zoomed out version of all this zombie action, but even this we only see in snapshots. As a film about what a zombie epidemic does to the world, it grossly disappoints. Millions of people die, but there is only one character in the whole film.
Which leads to condition number two. World War Z is an awful entry into the zombie genre. It's not just because the film's PG-13 rating demands tons of bloodless action. In fact, the film kind of sidesteps this problem by making them more of a whirling swarm than a mob of individual menaces. This probably could have been executed better, but it's a new enough visual concept to get a pass. Nevertheless, at its very best, this is zombie-lite. We don't get really good looks at them until the film's otherwise good third act, and their chicken like contorting made my preview audience giggle wildly. That's probably not a good sign for your zombie movie. The social commentary or allegories that normally come along with this sort of story are nowhere to be found, unless perhaps you like "Other countries are smarter than America."
And lastly, Matthew Fox only has a few lines and is photographed so casually that you're not really even sure it's him. Automatic loss of a letter grade, there.
So what is World War Z? It's a movie where Brad Pitt flies from one zombie disaster to the next in search of patient zero, which he never finds. None of the information he gathers actually helps him. He ends up saving the day with stuff he could have noticed from home. Nevertheless, his travels are important enough that nearly every person he comes across ends up sacrificing their life for his mission. His ability to stay alive increasingly becomes little more than a matter of screenwriting.
Supposedly, Pitt's character, Gerry, used to be this big badass, but he has since retired from badassery to spend more time with his family of elves. When the shit hits the fan, Mr. Government calls him up because he's apparently "the best of the best of what's left" at vague stuff. His mission is to join a military group whose job is to accompany a genius across the world to search for answers. I'm not sure what Pitt's role for this set up was supposed to be. There are already a handful of badasses and a smart guy, and I guess Gerry is supposed to mediate between them by being a little bit of both. It doesn't matter because the genius accidentally shoots himself in the head and all the badasses sacrifice themselves anyway.
World War Z has an almost punishing ability to tease tantalizing set ups only to abandon them the moment they begin to show promise. There's a part where a crazed David Morse explains how everyone in North Korea (I think?) is A-OK because the whole population pulled out their own teeth. What an interesting idea! Then we go to Israel where for reasons too stupid to go into, they were able to erect a massive wall before the zombies showed up. What an interesting idea! Unfortunately, the moment Brad Pitt shows up, the zombies sense that they're finally in the movie and start destroying everything. Welp, off to Wales!
And yet, World War Z never bores. We're off to the races almost as soon as the film begins and rarely slow down from there. The film even gains focus and becomes better as it goes along. Its quiet third act is easily the most minuscule and yet most exciting sequence in the whole film. World War Z forges ahead regardless of the senselessness left in its wake, which sounds bad but is probably the only chance it had of working at all.
Unfortunately, poor direction and editing squander much of World War Z's potential success as a Hollywood sized B-movie. This is an ugly film. Its color palette is drab, and the film is sometimes difficult to even see, which is murder when combined with quick editing and a shaky shooting style which makes it impossible to understand as well.
This isn't the massive zombie film you want (though its final moments do give you a viciously brief tease of how incredible that might be), but it's not a complete waste of time either. Brad Pitt supposedly put the film together as the start of a franchise. There's enough good here to justify more, but not enough to justify itself.