Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"World War Z" - Zombie Movies in the Time of Coronavirus.

 SPOILERS ahead.

I’ve been using movies and writing about movies as a distraction during this pandemic, but my wife and I did decide to watch World War Z because of it. Most people went with Contagion or Outbreak for their pandemic-related stress watch, but we’re zombie people. As it turns out, World War Z is the perfect movie for this situation, as the zombie outbreak is viewed from a disease control point of view rather than just survival. That is what I liked about it the first time I saw it, and that is what I appreciated most about it during my pandemic rewatch. I love zombie movies, but I do find the acceptance of the outbreak to be a bit annoying at times. Even Romero’s films that did deal with studying the zombies (Day) or how they evolved (Land) were not concerned with how it started or how, or if, it could be cured. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Romero’s films are still my favorite, but it is refreshing to see a movie take the unsettlingly realistic approach that World War Z takes, even if it does deviate from its source material in major ways. For me and my wife personally, this rewatch also made us think about a much more terrifying aspect of a zombie outbreak: dealing with the situation with children.

Everything Changes When You Have Kids, Even How You React to Zombie Movies.

Becoming a parent has changed me in many ways, especially how I watch movies. For the most part, it just makes me cry during movies much more often. Watching a zombie movie is different, though. Of course the idea of trying to protect my children during a zombie apocalypse adds to the terror of the genre, but with World War Z it occurred to me that the true nightmare of it all would be forgetting to pack a blankie.

In World War Z, Brad Pitt and his family are stuck in traffic when the outbreak hits. On top of the general chaos of the situation, they can’t find their youngest daughter’s blankie, and they don’t have albuterol for their older daughter’s asthma. Now this is the kind of terrible shit I can identify with. 

Anyone with a child, but especially people with two or more, can identify with what an ordeal it is to simply leave the house. As parents of a baby and a toddler, there’s a fifty/fifty chance we will forget something when we leave home. The hope is that it’s something minor like an extra toy or a burp cloth and not something detrimental like formula or a beloved blanket. When Pitt’s daughter screamed for her blanket, my wife and I exchanged knowing glances: this would totally happen to us in this situation. I could picture my daughter screaming for a blanket as society crumbled around her with perfect clarity. What’s scarier is the fact that I know I would be much more concerned with finding her blanket than I would be with the collapse of civilization around me. Parenting really does a number on a person when it comes to concern for getting a child to shut up being more important than your overall compassion for your fellow man. 

Jokes aside, keeping your children not only alive but also calm would be a monumental task in such a situation. How could I possibly keep my three-year-old daughter calm in this scenario? Even once we got out of the city and things were half-assed calm, we would still have to deal with the barrage of inevitable and unanswerable questions. “Why that man bite that lady? Daddy why you run over that woman? Are monsters gonna eat us? Where their mommies and daddies? Where’s Nana and Pop Pop?” Not to mention dealing the typical declarations of, “I scared” and “I hungry.” 

Tough questions would be one thing, medicine would be another. Thankfully, my children don’t require any daily meds, but it is pretty common for them to need a prescription or an over the counter medicine. Usually, we have plenty on hand, so that doesn’t concern me too much. But one element of World War Z creeped us out: albuterol. Pitt and family have to stop at a store that is being looted to look for albuterol for their asthmatic daughter. When we watched this movie, the pandemic panic had just begun, so empty store shelves were certainly on our mind. But what was truly eerie is that I had to go out and get a prescription for albuterol that same day.

At the mention of albuterol I had a premonition. If a zombie outbreak ever occurred, it wouldn’t be the zombies that got me. I would probably get gunned down by a looter at CVS. With my dying breath, I would try to tell the looter, “I just wanted albuterol. You can have all the fun and addictive stuff. Why the fuck isn’t this stuff over the counter, anyway? (Death rattle.)”

The Best and the Worst Time to Watch This Movie.

Most of us are trying to watch things to distract us from the current situation, which explains the popularity of shows like Love Is Blind and Tiger King at the moment. But there’s also a desire to watch movies and shows that mirror the current situation. I can’t speak to anyone else’s reason for watching such material, but for me it’s twofold. First, I want to see how accurate the film is at predicting the world’s reaction. Second, I want to be able to say, “Hey, at least it’s not as bad as this...yet.” 

As for the accuracy of World War Z, it feels very realistic, mainly because both the zombie outbreak of the film and the coronavirus of our unfortunate reality strike relatively quickly. On top of that, both viruses are new enough that doctors still need to study them to find a cure or treatment. Much like Brad Pitt, we’re learning about this thing as it happens.

World War Z takes its title literally when it comes to learning about the virus. Pitt travels the globe trying to track down the source and learn how other countries are handling the outbreak. Just like the real virus, the origins are Asian, but aside from that hard facts about it are hard to come by. Stories and rumors are aplenty while hard facts take much longer to prove. In the film, it’s revealed that North Korea is surviving it because the teeth of the entire population were removed, giving them no way to transmit the virus. Whether or not this is true is never proven, but it’s similar to conspiracy theories people have about information from countries like North Korea regarding the coronavirus, with many people claiming that, at best, they aren’t reporting true numbers in their country and, at worst, they’re just killing everyone with symptoms. 

Pitt ends up in Israel for a bit because they seem to have been more prepared than most. This is similar to us looking to other countries with smaller outbreaks and asking, “What are they doing that we’re not?” And Israel’s quick building of a massive wall immediately reminded me of the image of countless machines in China hastily building virus hospitals in a matter of days. 

It’s revealed that walls and any other physical barriers won’t stop the virus; only medicine and science can do that. In that case, World War Z is uplifting as they figure out a way to combat the virus pretty quickly. Unfortunately for us, developing a safe treatment for a new virus can take over a year even when all hands are on deck, and it’s given top priority. In that way, World War Z made me feel worse about our situation because no quick fix is going to be revealed. 

But what made me feel the worst about everything was that grocery store near the beginning. People lost their fucking minds, but there were zombies! We hear that we need to stay inside as much as possible and that some basketball games are canceled, and we buy up everything like it’s the zombie apocalypse, and their weakness is reveled to be toilet paper. Sure, our stores aren’t as bad as the one in World War Z, but there is plenty of footage out there of people fighting over resources in stores and of people buying way more than they could possibly ever need while leaving nothing for others.

What’s most terrifying is that I understand what people are doing. We didn’t buy a garage full of toilet paper or a freezer full of meat or a cart full of eggs (why?!), but we did want to stock up on formula for our baby. We didn’t go nuts, but we got enough for a few months. I didn’t fight anyone for any of it, and I didn’t take the whole supply from a store. But I started to wonder what I was capable of if there was a shortage. Would I buy ten containers while others who needed it too looked on? Would I physically fight someone for a container? I hate to admit it, but in the right scenario, I think I would (though I’d probably get my ass kicked in the fight scenario). My mentality is that my kid is going to eat before yours. That said, we’ve remained calm and only bought what we might need for a few months. It would take extreme circumstances for me to take something that someone else also needed. Unfortunately for humanity, a lot of people get to that point preemptively. And it only takes one moron buying ten jumbo boxes of diapers to make sane people think, “Oh shit, I wasn’t going to buy that much, but I better now because it’s all going to be gone soon.” And the psycho domino effect ensues.

Overall, I felt better about our current situation after watching World War Z, but it did make me ruminate on the selfish survival instincts humans have and how having children amplifies those instincts. The film mostly made me thankful because if the proposition of staying home as a preventative measure prompted the behavior we’ve seen so far, how would all these crazy people react if something truly fucked up like a zombie apocalypse happened? I hope, for my children’s sake, we never find out.

Why Do I Own This?

I own a lot of zombie movies, so that’s the main reason why. If this movie came out today, I probably would not buy it. I would only buy it if they did a “Snyder Cut” situation where they go back and finish the original Russia ending and release that, but that will never happen.

Random Thoughts

"Mother Nature is a serial killer."

North Korea gets it! No teeth, no bite.

I like the main theme used for the film. It just feels like zombie music to me for some reason.

Could it be that Brad Pitt is just bad luck? Because everywhere he goes turns to shit.

Israel falls because of music. It's a reverse Mars Attacks! situation.


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