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28 June 2013

World War Z (Review): "The Age of Zombies"

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“Zombies don't act like a predator; they act like a virus, and that is the core of my terror. A predator is intelligent by nature, and knows not to overhunt its feeding ground. A virus will just continue to spread, infect and consume, no matter what happens. It's the mindlessness behind it.”(1)

Max Brooks, author of “World War Z

The age of vampires has ended, in the celluloid world that is. Thankfully, Edward Cullen and his kind are now forced into retirement.  Now, the bloodsucking vampires have to give way to the brain-eating zombies, and quite appropriate to our present age of mass consumption.  The symbolism of these two icons of horror is too good to be ignored. Vampires are relics of the old world, the “undead monarchy” that refuses to stay in the coffin despite the predominance of modern democracies.  If vampires represent the oppressive or benevolent aristocracy, zombies are the horrific (or sometimes farcical) representation of the modern consumers.  The principles of consumerism and zombies have similar fundamental binary rules: eat or be eaten, hoard or be hoarded, stay to die or move to survive, kill or be killed.   

This is our age.  Pandering to banality and stupidity is not anymore a hindrance to commercial success; in fact, they may be the ingredients to commercial triumph and world prominence.  Ghastly aliens from outer space are now relegated to the sidelines. In truth, aliens like the Kryptonian Kar-El, the god Thor, and Spock of Star Trek have become more attractive and humane than earthlings. Zombies, which are actually human beings, are now the grotesque ghouls.  In our age, we are now the despicable and unstoppable monsters.  

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Any zombie fan will attest that the modern concept of zombie started with George Romero’s 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead.” Many critics have extrapolated that Romero’s 1968 classic was a critique of the prevalent issues of the 1960s: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the ineffectiveness of government, family and the breakdown of civil defense.   Although the myth of the zombie goes back to ancient voodoo practice, Romero gave us the basic template of the modern zombie.

With the commercial success of director Marc Forster’s “World War Z,” the age of the zombies has now been officially declared.  The fact that the film was able to lure a megastar like Brad Pitt proves that zombie films will soon come in droves. Fans of the original novel may be disappointed with the film. The film is stylistically different from the novel perhaps intended to accommodate a more straightforward storyline and possible sequels.  “World War Z” still paid homage to the legacy of George Romero but “World War Z” has taken zombie plague into a global scale.    The film is ripe with symbolism, such as the walls around the city of Jerusalem, the protagonist’s Gerry Lane’s (Brad Pitt) nuclear family, South and North Korea, the United Nation as the de facto world government.  However, I will let the viewers do their own deconstruction.  Have fun!

I think it is only fitting that pop culture’s representation of the insatiable mindless consumer is now a box office commodity.  Interestingly, 2013’s “Warm Bodies” proved that zombies could be romantic as well, and with the film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” currently in the works, it is not surprising anymore if Ang Lee directs “Macbeth and Zombies.” An Oscar Award-winning zombie film may be inevitable.   

For now, keep consuming faster than everyone else does because if you do not, you will be the dinner.   On the other hand, zombies do not exclusively represent the mindless consumer.  Zombies can be any mindless extremist spreading hate and intolerance.  As Max Brooks, author of “World War Z, puts it, “Any kind of mindless extremism scares me, and we're living in some pretty extreme times.”

Bottom-line, if you must choose, read the book. 

_______________________________
 NOTES
(1) Lance Eaton (October 2, 2006). "Zombies Spreading like a Virus: PW Talks with Max Brooks". Interview. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2009.

REFERENCES
 “World War Z,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_war_z, accessed 06/28/2013
“The Night of the Living Dead,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead, accessed 06/28/2013


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