Trailer Tracking: ‘World War Z,’ ‘Warm Bodies,’ ‘The Last Stand’
CHICAGO – Blame the recent popularity of “The Walking Dead,” but zombies have never been more mainstream consumer-friendly and, as such, Hollywood is taking advantage of the trend. And one of the many great things about zombie movies is that they’re scalable. You can make a convincing, chilling zombie flick with a shoestring budget or you can spend $100 million and turn it into a bona fide Will Smith franchise. Zombies, more than anything else, are adaptable.
So, for this installment of “Trailer Tracking”, we’re going to be looking at new movie trailers that embody three very different and very unique zombie scenarios. First, we’ll look at the big-budget approach, a full-fledged global zombie conflict, brought to you by Brad Pitt and the fine folks behind “World War Z.” Next, we’ll check out the trailer for an atypical zombie yarn, an honest-to-god zombie romantic comedy (or zom-com), called “Warm Bodies” with Nicholas Hoult, Rob Corddry, and John Malkovich. And, finally, we’ll look at a Hollywood zombie story – namely, can casting Arnold Schwarenegger as a Western sheriff resurrect his undead solo action career? (“Expendables 2” was a group effort – Ahnuld has a long way to go before he proves that he can open an action movie again.)
Check out our takes on these three new movie trailers and then let us know how you feel about these recent forays into zombie lore in our comments section below. Enjoy.
“World War Z”
Best Parts of the Trailer: Always nice to see “The Killing”’s Mireille Enos; Finally, someone living through the beginnings of a zombie outbreak rather than waking up 28 days after the fact; The rooftop rescue; I’ll admit – that zombie swarm anthill looks pretty cool
Worst Parts of the Trailer: Realizing that the structure of the “World War Z” novel may have been completely abandoned; It feels less like “Dawn of the Dead” and more like Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds”; Still not sure how I feel about running zombies (or CGI zombies for that matter)
OUR TAKE: Let me make a confession right off the bat: I am a bad candidate to judge the trailer for “World War Z”, the new global zombie outbreak adventure starring Brad Pitt. Why? Because I’m a person who unabashedly loves the book that the movie was based on – the fantastic “oral history of the zombie war” written by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) - so I’m bringing a whole truckload of baggage and preconceived notions to the table whenever I watch this trailer. But, with that out there, let me, as an admitted “World War Z” fan, walk you through my perception of both the positives and the negatives of this trailer.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. You will hear two primary complaints from “WWZ” fans about this trailer. The first involves Brad Pitt’s character and the film’s apparent narrative structure. The “World War Z” novel is about a researcher for the United Nations travelling the world, following the end of a global zombie war, and collecting stories from a variety of individuals with unique perspectives on how humanity ended up surviving the crisis. There’s no central protagonist, just an interviewer who uncovers the secret history of the zombie war, particularly the extreme (and morally ambiguous) lengths that countries went to in order to combat the zombie plague. This is why a lot of “WWZ” fans have bristled at Pitt’s character in this trailer. He appears to be some kind of government operative who has special skills that the global resistance forces need to help stop the zombies. This character doesn’t exist in the books, which, in my opinion, isn’t a problem. The book needed more of a central protagonist to transform into a linear narrative 2-hour movie, BUT I can see why people are hoping that Pitt’s character isn’t an action hero, delivered from on high to save us from Zack (that’s “WWZ” slang for “zombies”). I actually don’t think that’ll happen.
However, I also hope that Pitt’s character – rather than interviewing important players in the zombie war after the fact (like in the book) – doesn’t turn into the zombie war equivalent of Forrest Gump. You know, the guy that just happens to show up and witness the most important moments in the war, even though he doesn’t really contribute much to the proceedings. The challenge will be making Pitt’s character active and engaging without turning him into the machine-gun-totting messiah of the zombie apocalypse.
The OTHER big complaint you’ll hear from “WWZ” fans is about the zombies themselves, specifically the fact that the zombies are running. And I get the complaint. In the Max Brooks novel, it is made very, very clear that the zombies behave like classic George A. Romero zombies. They plod, they shamble, they drag, but they certainly do not run. The zombies, apparently, will be behaving quite differently in the movie version of “WWZ.” Case in point, the unquestionable “money shots” of the trailer are one shot where a horde of running zombies flow like a flood over an upturned bus and one where an insane swarm of zombies climb over each other like angry red ants to overtake a barricade. As a fan of the “WWZ” book, I am conflicted about these images. On one hand, it is a pretty big rejection of one of the central tenets of the book. On the other hand, it looks really cool, and there’s a part of me that’s happy that director Marc Forster is, at least, looking to deliver new visual experiences to the zombie genre, a film/TV genre that, frankly, has been done to death lately. At the moment, my main concern ISN’T that the zombies are running. I can deal with that. My big concern is that, if the “WWZ” movie is going to have fun with these impossible zombie swarms, that means a lot of CGI work and, in the past, CGI zombies have looked really, really lame. The best example is Will Smith’s underwhelming-in-every-way “I Am Legend”, in which the central zombie characters looked more elastic and cartoonish than ANYTHING in “Hotel Transylvania.” So, if the “WWZ” zombies are going to run, so be it. Run your little dead hearts out, fellas. But, if the zombies are going to look as fake as the hordes of Agent Smiths from “The Matrix” sequels, why even bother?
I mentioned some good along with the bad in there, but, at the very least, I am also pretty glad to see the trailer open with that scene with Brad Pitt’s family. “WWZ” the novel is very much about the human impact of such a global cataclysm, so, for the film to work, we need to see those small moments of humanity just as much as we need to see the Empire State Building overrun with five million angry zombies. My concern is, with the structure of the story changed so significantly from book to film, whether or not the filmmakers have found a way to turn the story into something that can work as a two-hour movie without abandoning the core elements that the “WWZ” fan base loves so much. This trailer… hasn’t sold me on the adaptation yet, but it has also reminded me that resenting the movie for not mirroring the book exactly is a pretty silly exercise in futility. Different can be good. It’ll just be up to Marc Forster and Brad Pitt to prove that “can be” makes all the difference.
TRAILER OUTLOOK: Ambitious and interesting, but definitely perched on that thin line between “awesome” and “awful.”