If You’re Missing Your Weekly Dose of Joel and Ellie, Netflix Has the Antidote
Brad Pitt and his dubious hairstyling decisions save the world.
It feels like we’ve been living with The Last of Us all year, which technically makes sense considering it premiered only two weeks into 2023. But now it’s over, Joel saved Ellie, and the two are (presumedly) living happily ever after, or at least until the series returns for Season 2.
While Joel and Ellie may be as happy as two people can be after the zombie apocalypse, their audience has had a taste for good old-fashioned zombie stories, and now it’s all they can think about. Thankfully, a 2013 movie that premiered one week after the Last of Us game scratches the same Infected itch.
World War Z, like The Last of Us, is an adaptation. It’s based on the 2006 book by competent nepo baby Max Brooks, which stitches together a tapestry of vignettes to form an oral history of the zombie apocalypse.
But while The Last of Us was a meticulously faithful adaptation, World War Z is very much not. It does, however, have its own appeal. The film follows Gerry Kane (Brad Pitt), a United Nations investigator tasked with tracking down the origins of a zombie virus that’s taking over the entire world. As he jets from location to location and battle to battle, he discovers a secret that makes him the best hope for a cure.
When the movie came out, Brooks told USA Today that the massive diversions from his book heightened the viewing experience rather than ruining it.
"I was expecting to hate it and I wanted to hate it because it was so different from my book, and yet the fact that it was so different from my book made it easier to watch because I didn't watch my characters and my story get mangled. So I was just watching somebody else's zombie movie, which was fun and intense."
Fun and intense are definitely the correct words here. The action has the thrills you’d hope to find in a star-led action blockbuster from the 2010s, standing alongside John Wick and Edge of Tomorrow. While The Last of Us focused more on its human drama, World War Z spared no expense with its zombie spectacle. There is so many undead that they climb on top of each other to create an unliving ladder and ascend a wall.
But the most interesting part of the movie is the twist that allows Kane to figure out how to make a vaccine. Much like how Ellie was immune because she was inoculated when she received Infected blood through her umbilical cord, Kane notices the zombies never touch anyone who’s ill.
In a terrifying final sequence, Kane navigates a World Health Organization lab in Wales to infect himself with a deadly pathogen and render himself “invisible” to the zombies. It’s not a cure, but it can be extrapolated into a vaccine that halts the infestation in its tracks, and it’s the kind of clever twist that’s rarely seen in zombie media.
World War Z is no holds barred, action-forward, and full of machismo. It may be missing emotional vulnerability, but that’s the stuff of HBO dramas, not blockbusters. Sometimes it’s okay for zombie movies to just be one guy battling the undead and saving the world, especially if that guy is Brad Pitt.
World War Z is streaming on Netflix.