PopcornIn 2007, Emma Thompson — bless her heart — thought she’d found a cure for cancer.

(Or, at least, the character she was playing in I Am Legend did.)

It didn’t work. Instead, it turned most of the world’s population into rabid zombies — the kind that only come out at night and are out for blood. Will Smith did everything he could to survive.

World-War-Z-PosterBrad Pitt’s dealing with a similar problem in his new movie, World War Z. He plays United Nations employee Gerry Lane, who is brought out of retirement to help save the world from a fast-moving zombie pandemic. (Because apparently, there’s no one else in the world on active duty who can do this. Not even members of the World Health Organization.)

What’s causing the pandemic? Nobody knows. So while his family stays safe on a military ship in the middle of the ocean, Gerry flies off to Korea, then to Israel, then to Wales, to figure out the source, and possibly find a way to deal with it. Oh, and avoid being eaten.

It’s easier said than done, of course. The pandemic is spreading at a super-viral pace. And as fast as it’s spreading is as fast as these creatures can move when provoked.

To that end, there’s an awesome sequence involving a section of Jerusalem that’s protected by massive walls to keep out the zombies. But even that’s not enough, and the creatures all begin to function in a hive mentality, swarming and piling on top of each other so they can scale the walls and devour more of the living. It’s very cool.

And there’s another scene on a plane high above the mountains (natch) where zombies attack. Both will certainly get your blood pumping — if the suspense hasn’t already been ruined for you by the film’s trailer, that is.

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Unfortunately, that’s about all the excitement there is to see in this movie, which gets bogged down in ridiculousness. Such as: Why did The Killing’s Mireille Enos sign on for such a thankless role? Why is no one serving as a lookout at the top of that wall in Jerusalem? Why does Gerry take on a sidekick — a female Israeli soldier — and give her nothing to do? Why, late in the film, does Gerry have to relax after an escape by cracking open (of all things) a Pepsi vending machine? Why does the ending feel so anti-climactic? Why does the film have to be in 3D? And why is a movie about zombies called World War Z so dull? These are just some of the questions the film raises that I can’t answer.

World War Z is loosely based on the best-selling book by Max Brooks and directed by Marc Forster (who directed the similarly underwhelming Bond flick Quantum of Solace). The novel is an oral history, a series of anecdotes told by the survivors about what happened during the zombie infestation. Forster’s taken that conceit, added a big-time star, and made the whole thing a rather formulaic narrative. And not for the better: World War Z is a murky looking movie with not enough urgency or thrills to please horror fans — or people who like good movies. In a way, it’s like a more somber version of Steven Soderberg’s Contagion.

There’s a good war movie to be made about zombies, and maybe an inevitable sequel will be it (the ending certainly sets us up for one). But for now, World War Z is a film that barely leaves an impression. Unlike the zombies, it’s dead and gone.

This review originally appeared on Martin’s Musings.

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