Directed by Marc Forster
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
Max Brooks’ novel World War Z stands as one of the finest pieces of zombie-themed literature in existence. The popularity of the book spread like wildfire, and a big screen version based upon the huge bestseller was a given. Unfortunately, except for the occasional nod, the movie doesn’t have very much in common with Brooks’ original vision… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. In fact, despite all of its troubles on its way to completion, and lord knows they’ve been documented countless times all over the web, the flick is actually pretty damned good.
The main difference between the novel and the film is that whereas the book read like a history of the great zombie outbreak from various standpoints, the movie focuses mainly on the story of one character named Gerry Lane (Pitt), a former United Nations employee who now spends his time devoting his life to his adoring wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters. Without going into detail, it’s not long before the proverbial shit hits the fan, and all of a sudden Gerry is called back to duty as a means to help solve the quick acting zombie epidemic that’s now sweeping the entire planet. For a more in-depth look at the film itself, click here as our theatrical review pretty much nails the film’s strengths and weaknesses.
What we are here to focus on right now is the Blu-ray as well as what’s on everyone’s minds… the word UNRATED. There’s no doubt about it; one of World War Z‘s biggest flaws, especially for fans of the horror genre, was its lack of gore. The PG-13 rating certainly didn’t do the flick any favors. Sure, it opened theatrically to a wider audience, but wouldn’t said audience also be the same ones who watch “The Walking Dead” on AMC? That show’s as violent as even the goriest of zombie movies. Who knows? We can only speculate. Anyway, the theatrical version of World War Z clocked in at 1 hour and 55 minutes. The unrated cut runs just over 2 hours and 2 minutes. So the question beckons… does this extended version deliver the goods, or do we just get more exposition with a hint of grue scattered about?
Surprisingly enough, the exposition is held at bay, and just about all the extra minutes are devoted to making the film’s more intense set pieces that much more intense. Especially the siege in Israel and the airplane moments. There’s some really nutty stuff there. While still far from an epic bloodbath, there are fewer cutaways from the onscreen violence. Several added headshots, the obliteration of half of a zombie’s head via machine gun, and a good old fashioned face-stomp encompass the highlights of the unrated version and definitely spice things up. While watching the extended cut, you can clearly see that the filmmakers were flirting with the notion of a hard R rating while in production but chose instead to play it a bit more safe. There’s no question though… unrated is easily the superior way to watch World War Z.
In terms of the home video packages available, there are three – a theatrical cut DVD, an unrated Blu-ray/DVD combo that includes the theatrical cut on the enclosed DVD, and an unrated 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD combo. Unfortunately, the 3D Blu-ray is of the PG-13-rated version so the only way you’re gonna be getting the extra tidbits outlined above is on the standard Blu. In terms of picture and sound quality, the Blu-ray performs like a champ, delivering deep blacks, vibrant colors, life-like skin tones, and razor-sharp detail. We’re talking textbook HD here, kids. Add in the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is wonderfully mixed, and you’ve got yourself a winner from a technical standpoint. The only area in which this package stumbles a bit is the supplemental department.
Included here are two quick featurettes clocking in at about eight minutes each and a look at the film’s production which is broken down into four parts that total about thirty-six minutes of your standard behind-the-scenes stuff. Check below for details on each. Now don’t get me wrong; this isn’t exactly a bad haul, but man, is the presentation dry. I mean arid. Aside from a few shining and brief spots, the material presented here lacks any sort of personality and comes off as a banal experience at best. Nowhere is the first cut of the film ever addressed, and there are no deleted scenes from the original third act that was re-shot. If you’re curious as to how World War Z originally ended, click here. It’s like this never existed or something. Pity, too. It would have been pretty neat to at least see bits and pieces of it.
All in all, World War Z is a rock-solid purchase for zombie fans to sink their teeth into. Sure, the Jenga-zombies we saw in all of the trailers looked kind of goofy when taken out of context, but within the movie itself the spectacle of it all is pretty damned hard not to appreciate. Will we see a new version down the road once the sequel hits? A collector’s edition with every bell and whistle imaginable including the excised original second third act? Probably, but for right now this is as good as it gets, and there’s little to complain about. Take the time. Check it out. You may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Blu-ray Special Features
– “Outbreak” — Go on set with Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster for a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s breathtaking first attack in Philadelphia.
– “The Journey Begins” — Delve deeper into Gerry’s fight for survival during the dramatic escape in South Korea.
– “Behind the Wall” — Explore the epic scene in Jerusalem and discover the incredible logistics of creating the elaborate stunts and crowd sequences.
– “Camouflage” — Experience the final confrontation between Gerry and the zombies and discover the phenomenal scope of the film’s production.
DVD Special Features
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5