By Darren Johnson
Campus News and Nu2U.info
Since Roger Ebert’s death, I’d have to say, the most reliable entertainment rating system I’ve encountered may be the Netflix star system. Netflix viewers, who seem to be rather discerning, rate the movies and TV series on the service. It works like this: If an entry has nearly five stars, you certainly will like it. If it has over four stars, it’s worth watching and likely very good. If it only had three stars, it’s likely mediocre. Less than that, it’s garbage. Now, some movies do get a bad rap. If it is a documentary that takes a strong viewpoint, people who disagree with that will give it one star, bringing down the average. Comedians also seem to get rough treatment on the service. It is very rare to find an hour standup comedy act that gets four stars.
Still, overall, the Netflix service is very good at gathering useful ratings on its products. But I was a bit surprised to see “World War Z” at only three stars as it hit the service this week. It was a huge budget movie ($190M) and made a ton of money ($540M) in traditional theaters. It even stars Brad Pitt.
I saw it in theaters in 2013 and enjoyed it well enough. Two-thirds of critics at that time liked it, too. So, what happened? Perhaps, by Netflix standards, it just isn’t as provocative. We can watch several seasons of “The Walking Dead,” which has a similar zombie theme, on the service. Comparing several seasons of “Walking Dead” to the two-hour “World War Z” may seem unfair – we don’t really learn enough about the Brad Pitt character to care – but “Z,” nonetheless, is cool. It’s different than “The Walking Dead” (which will be running in marathon on AMC for the July 4 weekend) in that it covers the actual zombie outbreak. “Walking Dead” is more slice-of-life, so to speak, about living in a zombie world. The actual outbreak was kind of glossed over.
“Z” shows the outbreak as it hits Philadelphia. Pitt, with his family, somehow finds a 1970s-style RV in the middle of the city, with keys in the ignition, and venture out, making a pit stop in Newark. (Why Newark? You could find some little safe town right off of the Garden State Parkway!) Maybe the screenwriter didn’t really understand the geography, but placing an unattended “Breaking Bad” RV in the City of Brotherly Love during rush hour seems a bit forced. (Oh, yeah, it also was stocked with a rifle — LUCKY!) This is just one example of a scene that seems too heavy-handed; another may be where Israelis and Palestinians are singing “Kumbaya” as zombies climb over each other to scale a wall and kill them all.
Pitt gets recruited by the military to solve the issue, sent with a bunch of Marines to Korea, Israel and other countries via propeller plane. While not a scientist, he makes a bunch of observations and figures out how to end the zombie crisis.
Compared to “The Walking Dead,” albeit unfairly as “Z” only has two hours to play with, it’s rather simplified. But give “Z” a shot – the zombies are faster and more ferocious than typically portrayed, and it may get you in the mood for the “Dead” marathon that is coming up.