An added 7 minutes can't save the world...
MovieA quartet of consecutive screenwriters; last-minute rewrites and a script that wasn’t even completed when filming ended, let alone when it commenced; reshoots a year later, with a new ending; and $200 million thrown into the pot, even before you consider the extensive promotional costs – World War Z was a nightmare production. So concerned were the Studios that it was going to go down the John Carter route and flop (which, to be fair, even John Carter didn’t, since it made back its money overseas), plans to do a sequel were scrapped during the production – hence the reshoots – but half a billion in Box Office returns goes a long way towards changing things. By all accounts, World War Z should have also been a terrible film, notwithstanding the unexpected commercial success, and yet it really is quite entertaining, particularly in this more viscerally engaging (i.e. bloody) Extended Cut.
PictureHitting UK Blu-ray with what appears to be the same strong 1080p High Definition 2.4:1 widescreen aspect ratio video presentation that the US got not long ago, World War Z is hard to describe as demo quality, but that’s often more a reflection of the material than a reflection of its representation here. Detail is impressive throughout, allowing for excellent facial reproduction, welcome skin and clothing textures, intricate background reproduction and consistent clarity, with no signs of any softness or, conversely, any edge enhancement.
The colour scheme varies a fair amount from set-piece to set-piece (perhaps even scene to scene), with the re-shot final act in particular dipping into a very different, far more clinical environment of cold blues. For the most part, the rest of the movie is steeped in golden and dusty browns, avoiding primaries at all cost, even though we do get a few sporadic intrusions to light up the palette like a red-flare-lit siege sequence which showcases perhaps some of the worst visual problems in the feature (check out the rippling across the white faces). It’s this odd defect that stands out the most, repeated again in the airline sequence, and evident also briefly during the final act.
Excess DNR application is never an issue, and the film has a suitable level of noise applied in-line with the gritty apocalyptic-style material.
It’s not enough to dismiss this presentation, but it is more than enough to knock it down below demo scoring level, making me question whether this is indeed the exact same presentation that reviewers Stateside are raving about. Still, black levels are strong with no signs of any crush and without anything too frustrating to report back, this holds its own was a strong if flawed video presentation with far more good than bad.
SoundOn the aural front, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix again matches up to the US counterpart, and is, frankly, perfect. It’s demo and reference quality throughout, promoting the movie’s oftentimes boisterous material with tremendous gusto, and pinpoint precision. Dialogue comes through clearly and coherently, dominating the frontal array wherever necessary, even over and above the more noisy set-pieces. Effects are myriad, from helicopter blades whipping through the air and hovering or flying seemingly above the roof of your very house, to gunshots and explosions that resonate with exception dynamic use and superior directionality.Hordes of undead will thunder towards you and feel like they’re veritably going to pour out of your screen and spill into your living room! The score provides welcome accompaniment at every stage, matching up to the sweeping proceedings, and further bringing the LFE channel into play. Sound design is exceptional, and this track is noteworthy not just for its more bombastic sequences but also for its atmospheric precision. It doesn’t get much better than this.
ExtrasA 4-part Documentary and a couple of additional Featurettes basically comprise everything that this release has to offer, which is a little strange considering the wealth of background material – and alternate footage – that clearly must be available. What we really needed was the original ending that was shot, rather than just an Extended Cut, but I guess they’re saving that – and any Audio Commentaries – for a double-dip later down the line.
WWZ: Production is a 4-part Documentary that clocks in at well over half an hour in length and is split into Outbreak, The Journey Begins, Behind the Wall and Camouflage, looking, respectively, at the opening sequence, the first act, the Israel-based second act, and then the airliner sequence and conclusion, with each part breaking down key visual effects sequences and sporting revealing behind-the-scenes footage. With plenty of interview snippets from the cast and crew, but also a few too many clips from the finished product, this is a decent but unexceptional offering.
Origins brings us a further 8-minute look into how the film came into existence, from its book origins to the changes required to make it into a feature film, concluding with the cast and crew chosen.
Looking to Scienceis a final 7-minute look at the real-life threats of viral outbreaks and pandemics, and how science was used to ground the events in the movie.
The VerdictIf you can fight, fight. Our war’s just begun.
At the end of the day, World War Z shouldn’t have come out of its production wars looking this good, but it has. Many have labelled it a Big Budget version of Soderbergh’s similar-global-outbreak-themed Contagion, and perhaps that’s not far off, but I still see I Am Legend prequel comparisons as being more relevant, again on a larger scale and taking the action across continents. Forster is in his element during the action setpieces, and, had they maintained momentum, this could have probably been an even more noteworthy effort purely from a grand-scale-zombie-action point-of-view, but, even with its more restrained ending, the film is still very effective. And for those who were worried about the limitations of the more ratings-friendly Theatrical Version, this Extended Action Cut rectifies a large portion of that, adding 7 minutes of pure extra action beats and violence and enhancing what is an undeniably entertaining zombie tsunami action-thriller.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get a decent enough video presentation and an excellent audio accompaniment, as well as the same limited package of Featurette-based extras as the US counterpart. Indeed the only loss is really the Theatrical Cut, although I don’t see why anybody would choose that over the Extended Action Cut, as the changes made were only beneficial, putting the teeth back into the original, tamer version. If you enjoyed it at the cinema, you should definitely pick up this release, and if you were put off seeing it for whatever reason then it’s well worth at least a rental.
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