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World War Z Reviews + China Censorship & Brazil Protests Disrupt Premiere

World War Z 2013 Brad PittWorld War Z with Brad Pitt as a zombie-fighter. Unenthusiastic reviews.

‘World War Z’ reviews

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Several World War Z reviews are in, and for the most part they have been hardly enthusiastic. Directed by Marc Forster and starring Brad Pitt (who also wears a producer’s hat in the film), World War Z has been a troubled production from the get-go: there were financing woes, the budget reportedly escalated from $125 million to $200 million, there were numerous rewrites and quite a bit of reshooting, in addition to a red-alert delay in the film’s release date.

Anyhow, here are a few English-language World War Z review snippets. Of note, perhaps it’s only a coincidence, but the American publications have tended to be considerably more welcoming to World War Z than the British / Irish ones:

“What a disaster. This end-of-the-world epic – Brad Pitt’s ‘baby,’ which he’s been working on since 2007 – is mostly bland and extremely bloated. It’s Z for zombie, in case you’re wondering. But a more apt title would be World War Zzzzz… Rumour has it that the film’s backers, panicked by spiralling costs, leaned on Pitt to turn out a more family-friendly product. All we do know for sure: his undeniably spectacular offering has little in common with the blackly comic source novel by Max Brooks.” Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard.

“Forster (Quantum Of Solace) does fast and furious perfectly, but his widescreen approach doesn’t work so well when Lane’s [Brad Pitt’s character] investigation leads him down the dingy corridors of horror movies past and present. Conspicuously bloodless, the PG-13 rating rears its family friendly head whenever the camera gets too close for comfort, and a dumbed down finale looks suspiciously like a scene from every zombie flick that’s ever been made. But it’s not just the intestines that are missing – with Lane’s family crisis set against such a monumental backdrop, WWZ is sorely lacking in heart (and with it, any genuine sense of danger).” Paul Bradshaw, Total Film.

“Marc Forster’s film junks the satire [found in Max Brooks’ World War Z novel] and multiple perspectives, and instead recasts the story as an uncomplicated globe-trotting thriller. On one side we have Lane [Brad Pitt] and a roster of temporary sidekicks, and on the other, an inexhaustible supply of the living dead. What we get is a collection of moderately violent action set-pieces untroubled by humour or broader coherence.” Robbie Collin,

“[World War Z] is most impressive in its big set-pieces. The initial panic on the streets of Philadelphia is thrillingly done, as is the fall of Jerusalem to the zombie horde. There’s also an effective airborne sequence. But it is horrifyingly feeble when it comes to characterisation. Brad Pitt’s hero lacks personality. All we know is that he loves his family, but no one has given him or his relations any exceptional qualities.” Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail.

“There is certainly a tension running through [World War Z] between latent serious ambition and lowest-common-denominator-pleasing requirements, with the latter ruling the day most of the time without entirely erasing evidence of the former. Notwithstanding the expectation that the brave leading man and his adored family will somehow come out of it all unscathed, there are a few narrative surprises along the way and an absence of dumb, clunking dialogue that often infects such fare.” Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter.

“Less effective, unfortunately, is the third act of the film. World War Z‘s production problems have been well-publicized, … but it’s only during the film’s denouement that you can possibly see those fracture lines. It’s tough to discuss the ending, obviously, without spoiling it, but essentially Pitt’s Gerry … makes a really dumb choice that will decide not just his fate, or his family’s, but the world’s. And the results of that choice are even more dumb. Along the way, much of the logic and “real world” feel of the film go out the window as well.” Scott Collura at IGN.

“Anyone who has watched Forster’s Bond effort Quantum of Solace likely remembers how busily directed and edited it was, and disappointingly, exactly the same is true here. Likely attributed to the director re-hiring Quantum co-editor Matt Chesse, World War Z is a frantic, messily constructed him, so keen to convince you that it’s exciting and kinetic that it fails to provide even basic coverage of many of the action beats.” Shaun Munro in WhatCulture!

“… director Marc Forster and producer-star Brad Pitt’s much-maligned World War Z emerges as a surprisingly smart, gripping and imaginative addition to the zombie-movie canon, owing as much to scientific disaster movies like The China Syndrome and Contagion as it does to undead ur-texts like the collected works of George Romero. … this sleekly crafted, often nail-biting tale of global zombiepocalypse clicks on both visceral and emotional levels, resulting in an unusually serious-minded summer entertainment …” World War Z enthusiast Scott Foundas in Variety.

“The result [in World War Z] is slick, tense and hangs together fine, far from the disaster many predicted during its tortured birthing. But it’s also just a little bit bland and generic. In particular, horror fans jonesing for grand-scale carnage are unlikely to come away entirely satisfied.” Nick de Semlyen in Empire.

World War Z posterWorld War Z poster.

‘World War Z’ book vs. movie

Written by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), the World War Z book, a mix of apocalyptic horror and sociopolitical satire, shows what happens to Planet Earth following a zombie pandemic, possibly to have begun in China. Set in various parts of the world, World War Z tracks humans’ attempts to prevent (or at least control) imminent Zombageddon.

However, in the movie – it’s a megabudget Hollywood production, after all – instead of various stories set around the globe, we have one (male) all-American hero (in the person of a long-haired Brad Pitt) who once again comes to the rescue of the Whole Wide World. Needless to say, the political overtones found in the World War Z book have been dropped, as WWZ is a Summer Movie and most moviegoers don’t have the brains to process the intricacies of the political realm. Instead, there’s one living Hero and tons of living-dead Villains.

World War Z distributor Paramount, in fact, isn’t taking any chances anywhere. A bit of dialogue explaining that the zombie pandemic may have originated in China has been excised. And surely, the movie will not get into sino-sensitive topics found in Max Brooks’ book, e.g., a Chinese military uprising against China’s (so-called) Communist government and Tibet’s independence.

Now, watch Brad Pitt do his heroic best to save the world and a useless, barking cop get quickly silenced in the first World War Z trailer below:

World War Z rejected by China censors? What will Paramount cut next?

World War Z, the Brad Pitt movie about the (latest) upcoming zombie apocalypse, has received several early positive reviews in the United States, but has been less well liked – i.e., rejected – by the Chinese censorship board according to TheWrap, citing an unnamed source. If true, that’s bad news for the Marc Forster-directed Paramount release that not only cost a reported $200 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses – but also one that had already suffered a bit of self-imposed censorship for fear of hurting the delicate sensibilities of Chinese censors.

Now, first of all, a clarification: TheWrap cites “an executive familiar with upcoming releases in China” as the source of World War Z‘s Chinese censorship ordeal. However, another unidentified Paramount executive claims “the studio had not yet heard back from China’s censorship office, and was unaware of any rejection.” Who’s telling the truth about World War Z? Well, don’t bother asking any censor, Chinese or otherwise.

Anyhow, Paramount can resubmit a new cut of World War Z, once they figure out why (or if?) the film was rejected in the first place. The process is reminiscent of the old Hollywood studio system, when movies needed the seal of approval from the censors of the Production Code Administration.

Of note, TheWrap had previously reported that Paramount had opted to excise from World War Z a line of dialogue implying that China was the source of the movie’s zombie epidemic – much like, in real life, that country was the source of SARS and international food-poisoning incidents.

Now, it’s unclear if some other country has become World War Z‘s zombie epidemic epicenter. If so, don’t be too surprised if it’s North Korea, where the market for American movies is nil – and which proves that devotion to the communist ideal isn’t a Chinese censorship problem, nationalism is. I mean, get real. China is now much more of a no-holds-barred capitalist nation than even the United States.

Anti-zombie prejudice in China?

According to TheWrap’s sources, another possible hurdle facing the Chinese release of World War Z is its theme. Though not composed of religious freaks, the Chinese censors are supposed to frown on zombies, vampires, werewolves, fairies, and other magical or fantastical creatures. That might explain why the Twilight movies, which have made Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner household names worldwide, have not been shown in China.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

But then again, if magic is a big no-no, how to explain the Chinese release (and success) of David Yates / Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2? Was Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort excised from the release prints in that country?

Anti-Brad Pitt prejudice in China?

TheWrap adds that Brad Pitt, the star of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Seven Years in Tibet, could be another obstacle for the World War Z release. However, Seven Years in Tibet came out in 1997; most people, including censors, can’t remember what happened a week ago. And let’s not forget that Mr & Mrs. Smith – perhaps the Chinese censors are big Angelina Jolie fans? – and Troy were both released in China. In other words, World War Z should be safe at least in that regard.

Foreign films in China: Fast-expanding movie market

So, why all this interest in China? Well, until the mid-’90s, the Chinese market was all but closed to foreign movies. Initially, the government began allowing 10 movies per year. That number went up to 20, and according to reports currently stands at 34 – 14 of which 3D/IMAX releases.

In the last two decades, China’s economy has grown exponentially, and that country is now the second biggest economic powerhouse in the world, after only the United States. Additionally, China is also the world’s second largest movie market, after the U.S. By 2020, the U.S. should be no. 2.

True, China takes a much larger cut than other countries – barring side (or under-the-table?) deals, up to 80 percent of the box office gross of foreign (read: Hollywood) films. But, once again, China is also the world’s second biggest film market, soon to become second to none.

Whether or not World War Z gets added to the roster, among the Hollywood blockbusters opening in China in 2013 are Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams; Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, with Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi; M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, with Will Smith and Jaden Smith; Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious 6, with Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, and Vin Diesel; and Roland Emmerich’s White House Down, with Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Although the context is quite different, here’s hoping that Chinese censors will find their match in some 21st-century Otto Preminger. Preminger put the first hard nail in the coffin of the Production Code Administration, with the release of the unrated The Moon Is Blue in 1953. A major box office hit, the light comedy starring William Holden, David Niven, and Best Actress Oscar nominee Maggie McNamara featured words such as “virgin” – not relating to the Virgin Mary.

World War Z release date

World War Z opens in North America on June 21. Besides Brad Pitt, the cast includes Mireille Enos, Eric West, Matthew Fox, Michiel Huisman, James Badge Dale, David Andrews, Trevor White, and David Morse.

World War Z is based on a novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft). According to the most recent movie-credits data, the screenplay was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, with rewrites by Drew Goddard after fellow Lost writer Damon Lindelof found himself unable to finish his own rewrites for the film’s third act.

Brazil protests lead Brad Pitt to cancel World War Z promo trip in Rio

June 21 update: Brad Pitt has canceled plans to come to Brazil to promote World War Z, which opens in that country on June 28, 2013. Pitt was expected to arrive later tonight, June 21, with daughters Shiloh and Zahara, according to the Rio de Janeiro daily O Globo. The reason for Pitt’s cancellation are the “Brazil Protests,” a wave of demonstrations that last night brought approximately one million Brazilians to the streets, protesting against police brutality, government and corporate corruption, dismal public services, and billions of public money being spent on state-of-the-art facilities for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games while the country’s health and education infrastructure is crumbling.

World War Z distributor Paramount Pictures has made no pronouncements regarding Brad Pitt’s decision, adding only that director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) will also no longer be attending the Brazilian premiere. Yet, Paramount has confirmed that the now star-less and director-less World War Z premiere will forge ahead next Monday, June 23, at Rio’s Cinépolis Lagoon movie theater.

Update: Following a handful of comments on Twitter, let me add that in no way does this article imply that Brad Pitt was afraid of the Brazilian protests, though he surely wanted his daughters safe. Pitt, after all, is the guy who, along with companion Angelina Jolie, traveled to earthquake-ravaged Pakistan to spend Thanksgiving 2005 with the locals. That takes not only guts, but real compassion. Chances are his canceling the Brazilian World War Z promo trip was due to the fact that a glitzy Hollywood premiere would seem insensitive in a country where people are taking to the streets to demand government accountability. In fact, I’d be very surprised if Brad Pitt isn’t 100 percent on the side of the Brazilian demonstrators.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise
Brazil Protests 2013Brazil protests. At a FIFA’s Confederations Cup soccer game, a woman in the Northeastern city of Fortaleza holds a sign that says: ‘We want hospitals up to the FIFA standard’

Following the biggest mass protests in Brazil in decades, president Dilma Rousseff has called for an emergency cabinet meeting and will go on television to speak to the nation this evening. The Brazil protests come on the heels of anti-government Turkish protests, which began about two weeks ago.

Say what you will about those demonstrations, but when you consider that Muslim Turkish citizens have taken to the streets to fight against an increasingly theocratic state and that soccer-crazy Brazilians are furiously protesting against money spent on a soccer tournament, that makes one almost believe there’s hope for humankind. Almost. And here’s wondering which country/ies will follow suit.

World War Z cast

Besides Brad Pitt, World War Z‘s international cast features Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Elyes Gabel, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Capaldi, Ruth Negga, Moritz Bleibtreu, Michiel Huisman, Abigail Hargrove, and Fabrizio Zacharee Guido. Based on a novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft), World War Z was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, from a screenplay (“story”) by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski.

‘World War Z’ sequel planned?

June 24 update: Following the early success of Marc Forster and Brad Pitt’s zombie movie World War Z, Paramount Pictures “actively will turn to developing a sequel,” claims The Hollywood Reporter, citing studio vice chairman Rob Moore. However, the Reporter article features no Moore quotes explicitly stating that Paramount has actually given the go-ahead to World War Z 2 – or whatever a World War Z sequel would be called.

Co-produced by Paramount and Skydance Productions, the $220–$230 million-budgeted zombie movie (minus rebates and tax breaks, its official budget goes down to $190-$200 million) debuted this past weekend in North America and 25 international territories, collecting an estimated worldwide total of $112.21 million: $66.41 million in the U.S. and Canada (behind Monsters University‘s $82.42 million) and an estimated $45.8 million internationally (behind Man of Steel‘s $89 million and Monsters University‘s $54.5 million).

Based on the novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Best Actress Oscar winner Anne Bancroft), World War Z the movie is radically different from its source material and had a convoluted production that led to skyrocketing costs and more screenplay rewrites than the 1959 Ben-Hur. Obviously, none of that has fazed the general public, who doesn’t read books or pay attention to internal Hollywood production turmoil, anyways. (Now, had Brad Pitt been caught in flagrante delicto with a zombie, then it’d have been a different story…)

Now it remains to be seen whether the purportedly planned World War Z sequel will follow one of the many other story threads found in Max Brooks’ novel – or if it will, like the first movie, take a completely different route.


Brad Pitt World War Z zombie-fighter image: Paramount Pictures.

World War Z poster image and WWZ trailer: Paramount Pictures.

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