In Depth

Brad Pitt's zombie epic World War Z is 'brain dead'

Massive budget and new third act can't save star's big screen corpse caper from 'elaborate uselessness'

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BRAD PITT'S reputation as an actor and producer - not to mention a budget believed to be $400 million - is riding on the success of the epic zombie movie World War Z.

But if early reviews are any indication, the film is as lifeless as a corpse, animated, flesh-eating or otherwise.

The movie, which had its UK premiere in London's Leicester Square last night, is described as "brain dead", by the Daily Mail's Chris Tookey. The zombies themselves aren't the problem – they provide some of the most thrilling moments as they rampage en masse through the streets of Philadelphia and Jerusalem. But Pitt and his non-zombie co-stars struggle to make an impact.

Describing World War Z's characterisation as "horrifyingly feeble", Tookey says Gerry Lane, the flaxen-haired former UN worker played by Pitt, simply "lacks personality". We know he loves his family, but beyond that there's little insight into the man holding back the hordes of "walking, chomping corpses".

For the Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin, the 116-minute film just doesn't hang together. Perhaps that's because its producers, who include Pitt, "junked the satire and multiple perspectives" of the novel by Max Brooks which inspired it. Matters were further complicated by the addition of an entirely new third act, which was written and filmed after test audiences turned their noses up at the original.

The film's director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) does his best to piece together a story from a collection of "incompatible parts", says Collin. "But the final product has an elaborate uselessness about it, like a broken teapot glued back together with the missing pieces replaced by parts of a vacuum cleaner."

TotalFilm's Paul Bradshaw says the zombies look more like an "angry football crowd" than flesh-eating killers, but the film's epic scale partly compensates for its lack of nuance. It falls down, however, by achieving a family-friendly PG-13 rating at the expense of visceral zombie carnage.

"Conspicuously bloodless, the PG-13 rating rears its … 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," writes Bradshaw.

World War Z opens in the UK on 21 June.

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