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World War Z: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

World War Z (2013) movie poster World War Z

Theatrical Release: June 21, 2013 / Running Time: 116 Minutes (Theatrical), 123 Minutes (Extended) / Rating: PG-13 (Theatrical), Unrated (Extended)

Director: Marc Forster / Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan (screen story & screenplay); Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof (screenplay); J. Michael Straczynski (screen story); Max Brooks (novel)

Cast: Brad Pitt (Gerry Lane), Mireille Enos (Karin Lane), Daniella Kertesz (Segen), James Badge Dale (Captain Speke), Ludi Boeken (Jurgen Warmbrunn), Matthew Fox (Parajumper), Fana Mokoena (Thierry Umutoni), David Morse (Ex-CIA Agent), Elyes Gabel (Andrew Fassbach), Peter Capaldi (WHO Doctor), Pierfrancesco Favino (WHO Doctor), Ruth Negga (WHO Doctor), Moritz Bleibtreu (WHO Doctor), Sterling Jerins (Constance Lane), Abigail Hargrove (Rachel Lane), Fabrizio Zacharee Guido (Tomas), David Andrews (Naval Commander), John Gordon Sinclair (Navy SEAL Commander), Gregory Fitoussi (C130 Pilot)

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Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars of our time. He's made a wide assortment of films and most of them have been quite successful. In his more than twenty years as leading man, though, he hasn't been much of a genre guy and he's never headlined a traditional summer blockbuster.
He's had a few hits open in the summer, but not the type that lend to a family outing full of popcorn. Until now, I guess.

Though World War Z isn't your typical summer popcorn flick, it played the role of one quite successfully this summer, becoming Pitt's first movie to cross the $200 million mark domestically and gross a half-billion worldwide. It made its money with material typically reserved for horror and it did so without sullying the artistic reputation of Pitt, an actor with his pick of Hollywood's litter.

World War Z's all-around success was something of a miracle based on its production history. Intended to open Christmas 2012, the film was delayed and, amidst publicized studio concerns, subjected to drastic rewrites and reshoots. Despite the popularity of zombies on cable television, this was no commercial certainty. For it to open at the height of the competitive summer movie season and across from surefire hit, the Pixar prequel Monsters University, was daring and it paid off. To date, WWZ is 2013's top-grossing original film (i.e. non-sequel/prequel/reboot).

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) finds something amiss on his family's morning commute. Awaiting rescue atop a Newark apartment building, Karin (Mireille Enos) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) worry about their husband and father, respectively.

It is very loosely adapted from a novel by Max Brooks, the son of comedy legend Mel Brooks and the late Academy Award-winning actress Anne Bancroft. Despite that lineage, how well zombies have lent to postmodern irony, and the fact it follows his tongue-in-cheek survival manual, Brooks' book is as serious as its subtitle ("An Oral History of the Zombie War") suggests. It's not exactly an obvious source for a PG-13 tentpole, nor is such a thing what you'd expect from arthouse-seasoned director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball, but more recently Quantum of Solace) and producers like Pitt and the decorated Graham King (Argo, Hugo, The Departed). Still, that pedigree meant more than the late-June debut and this is more on the order of I Am Legend than Independence Day.

Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a former United Nations worker whose harrowing experiences have passed, allowing him to enjoy retirement pleasures like making daily pancakes for his wife Karin ("The Killing"'s Mireille Enos) and their two young daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins). But during one morning's commute, the Philadelphia family finds themselves in the middle of chaos. Not given the film's title, the Lanes aren't clear what the problem is, but they do seek safety and utilize Gerry's survival skills. The UN soon sends a helicopter to retrieve the foursome on the rooftop of a Newark apartment building. Military officials are taking the sudden, sweeping global pandemic seriously as they look for vulnerabilities in this rapid outbreak thought to be either viral or bacterial.

The UN agrees to keep the Lanes safe on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Bermuda on the condition that Gerry gets back in the thick of the action, as he joins other armed soldiers from various branches to defend and speculate in South Korea. From there, it's off to Israel, where officials have thought to build a high, surprisingly effective wall to keep the bloodthirsty undead at bay. The Director of Mossad (Ludi Boeken) explains why Israel prepared for the threat, having ignored major warning signs on past calamities. Gerry teams up with "Segen" (Daniella Kertesz), an androgynous young Israeli soldier whose life he saves on a whim. She returns the favor and brings him to a secure WHO facility where he thinks he might have the scientific answer to the world's pressing problem.

Gerry (Brad Pitt) and young Israeli soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) become survival companions.

More "film" than "movie", World War Z will surprise some viewers and disappoint those looking for conventional structure and conflict. Its plot and plentiful exposition might not stand up to great scrutiny,
but Forster keeps things engaging, suspenseful, atmospheric and, like the zombies themselves (a product of fiction evolution), very fast-moving. On my first viewing, I was quite surprised by the abrupt ending, which follows not an effects-loaded action climax but tiptoeing and a display of courage and mental fortitude. On my second, I was more appreciative of how refreshingly unconventional the conclusion is. I'd prefer something slightly anticlimactic to a film that gets big and loud near its end out of obligation (like the otherwise superior Elysium).

I'm grateful that Forster and the three credited screenwriters (Joe Carnahan's brother and "Lost" alumni Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof) do something different than expected for a film of this scale. That they managed to avoid such action institutions as battle scenes, fast cars, and weaponry without committing commercial suicide is no minor achievement. Nonetheless, my post-screening anticipation of near-universally negative (or tangential) IMDb message board threads and a user rating that creeps to the low 6s within a year seems to slowly but surely coming true. Actually, perhaps the film will settle in the mid-6s instead, which isn't too bad.

Those who felt a faithful adaptation of the book (which this is not) clearly warranted an R rating should be pleased by the portrayal of the zombies, which though bloodless is anything but safe and family-friendly. Kids will likely be shaken, if not scarred, by these unsettling foes, a fundamental experience in any cinematic upbringing.

Those wanting something more graphic get it on Blu-ray, where the film is presented in an extended, unrated cut. In a design I'm not crazy about, each of the four formats of Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack only gets one cut or the other. The standard Blu-ray only gets the extended, unrated cut, while the Blu-ray 3D and DVD have to settle for the theatrical cut alone.

The extended cut runs 7 minutes and 10 seconds longer, though nothing stands out as being fundamentally or structurally different from the theatrical edit. The extended edit adds more carnage, most noticeably more views of a blood-spurting stump and of crazy zombie mayhem. Aside from perhaps the gushy stump, no moment of it seemed too intense for PG-13, but the sum of it all was also probably too excessive for that commonplace rating.

Shortly after crossing the $200 M mark due to an uncharacteristic one-week double feature with Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount wasn't going to settle for $199 M!), World War Z arrives in stores, just under three months since beginning its formidable run in most parts of the globe. Standard for a new Paramount 3D production, the film is available as a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, and the three-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy reviewed here.

Watch a clip from Paramount's World War Z survival challenge:

World War Z: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Blu-ray Film only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 10, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $54.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($39.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video: Theatrical, Unrated

VIDEO and AUDIO

A film with a $190 million production budget should not disappoint in high definition and World War Z does not. The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 picture looks great and the aggressive 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix makes an even bigger impression with its enveloping sound design. The rare bits of foreign dialogue are translated by default player-generated subtitles. Some lines can be a tad difficult to make out in the climax when speakers try to stay quiet in the face of zombie noises and/or score. Still, this is a satisfying presentation of a technically solid film.

"Outbreak" shows how Glasgow, Scotland convincingly stands in for Philadelphia. Director Marc Forster shares his thoughts in his German accent.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras are all relegated to the set's middle disc, the standard Blu-ray. They consist of six HD making-of featurettes that add up to over 50 minutes of content.

As you can guess, "Origins" (8:21) explains the project's beginnings,
with cast and crew describing the movie as if you haven't already seen it by now.

"Looking to Science" (7:28) discusses the production's reliance on observations of nature to heighten the film's fantastic reality, modeling zombie horde movement after ant populations, for instance.

The final four inclusions can be viewed as one documentary "Production" (36:18) or as standalone featurettes focusing on the creation of key set pieces. As in the other two pieces, Pitt bizarrely goes uninterviewed here.

"Outbreak" (8:31) covers the unsettling opening, shot in Glasgow standing in for Philadelphia, giving notice to military advisors and such. "The Journey Begins" (8:39) discusses the military headquarters and different international groups' responses to the attack. "Behind the Wall" (9:41) shows us the demands of costuming hundreds of extras and other challenges filming big scenes in Malta, standing in for Israel. "Camouflage" (9:25) reveals that the film's resolution checks out scientifically and talks about some considerations that went into it.

CGI is the basis for the film's iconic Israel wall zombie climb. Well-behaved between takes, this zombie (Michael Jenn) is ready for his close-up.

And that's it. No deleted scenes, no commentary, no trailers. Between this and this week's Star Trek Into Darkness, Paramount seems to be scaling back their bonus feature efforts.
Of course for an illustration of just how far back they can scale, see the DVD. Identical to the one sold on its own, it doesn't contain a single extra, apart from promotional previews.

The Blu-ray streams trailers, or attempts to, anyway. For me, it broke up after nearly finishing one. The DVD's hard-coded trailers advertise The Wolf of Wall Street, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Star Trek Into Darkness. The menu's Previews listing precedes those with trailers for Pain & Gain, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

On each disc, the ordinary, scored menu montage focuses on location and crowd shots. As always for Paramount, the Blu-rays support bookmarking, but do not resume playback, an authoring flaw I hope the studio soon corrects.

The lone insert within the standard-sized keepcase supplies the unique code and directions you'll need for accessing the combo pack's final components: a downloadable digital copy and UltraViolet stream. The case is topped by an embossed (but non-lenticular) slipcover featuring the same artwork below.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) tries saving the world from a partially secured Wales WHO facility in the climax of "World War Z."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

World War Z is better on a second viewing than a first, but it still inspires more like than love with its realistic, unconventional vision of a zombie apocalypse. Before zombies were everywhere, a decent effort like this may have really struck a chord, but today, it feels like a few ideas (or characters) short of fully satisfying and reaching Brad Pitt's usual high standards.

Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack sports great picture and sound, but its unremarkable extras leave something to be desired. It's also unfortunate that the studio didn't just make use of branching to include both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film on at least the DVD and Blu-ray discs. Gladly, the extended cut doesn't dramatically change or worsen the film, but no $200 million-grossing edit should be unavailable on standard Blu-ray. While I still like the movie enough to recommend that you see it, this release isn't quite the no-brainer purchase it should be.

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Blu-ray 3D Combo / Blu-ray Combo / DVD / Instant Video: Theatrical • Unrated

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Related Reviews:
New: Star Trek Into Darkness • Now You See Me • Chasing Ice • War Witch • Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Thrillers
Brad Pitt: Moneyball • The Tree of Life • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button • Killing Them Softly • Ocean's Thirteen • Megamind
Zombies: The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season • Warm Bodies • Zombieland
Mireille Enos: The Killing: The Complete First Season • Gangster Squad | Directed by Marc Forster: Finding Neverland
Contagion • The Road • District 9 • Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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Reviewed September 13, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Paramount Pictures, Plan B Entertainment, 2Dux², Skydance Productions, Hemisphere Media Capital, GK Films, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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