World War Z (2013) by Marc Forster

World War Z is an interesting film that I re-watched simply because I was craving a good blockbuster story that also packed some substance and I remember it being as such. The film still delivers on that front. The story follows a former UN investigator (Brad Pitt) as he is tasked with locating patient zero of the zombie outbreak, from there the film escalates into a hunt for a possible cure.

Watching this film made me wonder about Hollywood and the USA and how they are really the only industry and people that are able to output films set on the world stage. Bollywood, the second biggest industry is only now beginning to make really big budget films and even then they never cover topics that occur on a global scale. They, we, go local. So why is it then that the USA can produce films about the alien invasion, or zombie outbreaks, or even the apocalypse in a manner where it is global and yet about Americans.

I imagine a lot of papers have been written analyzing this trend. During this Covid-19 outbreak, someone tweeted that they imagine there is already a studio who is racing to write and produce a film about how Americans came together to save the world from the virus. I imagine that is true. So why then? I think it has something to do with the manner in which the american mythos operates. There is a sense in the west, but more so in the US, of the power of the individual. This is further enhanced by the soft power US holds over the world after the fall of the USSR. In the eyes of the USA and to some extend the world, they are the strongest and therefore the natural targets and saviors of the world.

The same ideology seems to be lacking in the east which is far more concerned with first creating a strong mythos of its own. Japan is probably furthest into this process, through anime and manga. Their focus on animated stories has allowed them to tell many narratives of varying genres and scales from an early age. This is unlike India where the focus has been on live-action and thus been limited through technology and costs. So Bollywood is only now learning to explore different genres and bigger scales. I imagine if I consumed enough media from other countries, I would note a similar trend of stories that happen within the local setting and slowly try to set their local heroes up for the world stage.

The second hiccup in this process is that if the audience isn’t used to seeing local heroes on a global scale, they are likely to break their own suspension of disbelief. For example, No one questions whether Brad Pitt is going to be up to the task of discovering the zombie cure. However, if put an Indian hero, in and Indian film, about the world coming to an end, people will question it. We don’t have the resources, the soft or hard power to match USA in this regard, so where do we get off having a world-saving hero. Of course logic should be something you can abandon in stories such as this, but its hard to do so when the film itself lacks the funding and scale of whole cities being razed and aircraft carriers firing nukes.

Coming back to World War Z. The film follows a former UN investigator (Brad Pitt) as he is tasked with locating patient zero of the zombie outbreak, from there the film escalates into a hunt for a possible cute. Its a fast paced, well crafted, edge of your seat thriller that bring in enough character depth to keep you emotionally invested while it hurtles through tense chase scenes or crawls through even tenser stealth scenes. The film fails to make any grand observations which I am told the book it is based on aims to do. However, aside from one scene where Brad Pitt’s character refuses to answer a specific and relevant question simply because he doesn’t have the time, the plot is airtight. The scene in question stands out because it seems like a glaring plot hole that the writers could not work around and one that might have ended the film a lot sooner. I suppose that is why they chose to not work around it, because at the end of the day, we do not want to see the eagles fly Frodo to Mount Doom, and we don’t want Brad Pitt handing over the plot to the supporting cast.

Anyway, if you feel like a good zombie thriller and don’t mind all the ways in which it reflects on your present day situation (what with the panic buying and the doomsday chants) then its worth a watch.

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