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Let’s Talk About: World War Z’s Ending

It just came out, and in no way is it worthy of being the supreme focus of my attention right now, but damn if I can’t get the third act turnaround of World War Z out of my head. It seemed like a completely different movie, and while some people think the drastic changes made to the script were for the better, I am not among them.

Let me be clear, since there seems to be some confusion. The final sequence where Gerry, Segan, and that nameless W.H.O. Doctor played by that guy from Prince Caspian sneak through an infected laboratory teeming with undead is super tense, well shot, and produces a handful of sweet moments. And that scene where Pitt stares down the zombie on the other side of the door is aces. But, the reason they are there in the first place is beyond stupid! Now, I know that all zombie movies where it’s quickly established that it’s viral have plot twists like this. 28 Days Later… had the infected starving to death since they weren’t dead to begin with and Resident Evil is all over the place with different types of strains and possible cures and whatever. But, for those two, the third act macguffin that renders all zombies inert made sense because it was, at the very least, adequately set up throughout the rest of the movie. In World War Z, it’s not the case. In classic, Damon Lindelof style, the virus ignores those who are terminally ill. Why? It just does. Why? Because! And don’t give me that whole, they need a healthy host to ensure its spread. When the virus kills the host in 12 seconds and turns said host into walking husk, than terminal illness shouldn’t matter. In fact, those who are terminally ill would be perfect targets for the virus, since their immune systems are shot to begin with.

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But that’s not important. The mythology of the world is the mythology of the world. But another dumb thing, as I see it, is that the movie spends a good hour and a half setting up, and following through with a pervading sense of hopelessness and apocalyptic hysteria. This thing is moving too fast for anyone to stop, and no amount of governmentally administered meningitis is gonna fix that. Further more, the ending that we have doesn’t really present a whole lot of room for an adequate sequel. Pitt’s character muses in the final moments that, “Our war is just beginning!”. Well, it’s gonna be a damn short war considering your opponents can’t see you and won’t attack you anymore. A sequel dealing with the aftermath of the war, a la the actual book this movie is supposedly based on, would be cool, but there’s no way Paramount is going to green light that.

How should the movie really have ended? Allow me to direct your attention to an article posted at Comic Book Movie, where the full breakdown of the original third act, before Lindelof came on board, would have played out. For all the details, go there. For a quick synopsis, keep reading.

Basically, Gerry leaves Jerusalem with Segan like he did, but rather than go to Cardiff, he goes to Moscow. Immediately after departing the plane, (which lands safely. No mid-air massacre here.) Gerry is conscripted into the Russian army to help fight the zombies. His satellite phone is taken as well. Fast forward a few months into winter and Gerry has become an expert in zombie killing and soon discovers that zombies freeze in the bitter cold. Realizing that this will give the humans the upper hand, he implores the Russian leaders to extinguish all fires and lead the zombies into the open so that they can freeze. It works, and Gerry takes this opportunity to escape, having reacquired his phone. He calls Karin, who is actually in a safe zone in the Everglades. You know, one of those camps where people have to trade something in order to survive. In Karin’s case, the thing she is trading is herself, and she has traded it to, of all people, the soldier who rescued them from the rooftop in Newark. This prompts Gerry to fly into a rage and the film ends with him landing on the coast of America ready to fight for his wife and daughters.

Now that’s an ending. Ambiguous, ballsy, and one that perfectly sets up a sequel with much higher stakes. It also begins to deal with a lot of the political and philosophical themes that Max Brooks brought up in his book. The lengths that governments and people will go to to survive the end of the world is not really touched on in the movie we have, but it is everywhere in this original final act, from the practically fascist tactics of Russia to the super dark implications of what Karin does.

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But really, it’s just not as happy and hopeful an ending. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happy endings. Optimism is great. But name one zombie movie (except 28 Days Later…) worth its salt that ending on a particularly happy or hopeful note. Every Resident Evil movie ends with shit way worse off than it was, Dawn of the Dead ends with the survivors finding that the supposedly uninfected island was teeming with zmobies, Land of the Dead ends with the survivors fleeing the horde of now intelligent zombies, and 28 Weeks Later… ends with the infection crossing the English Channel and spreading through Europe. Did we belittle these films because they had the stones to end on a dark, ambiguous, even sad note? No. On the contrary, we celebrated them? And if any zombie movie were going to end on a dark note, it would be World War Z! The world ends! The zombie plague destroys us. The film shows us that explicitly! It takes us to our darkest point well before Pitt even gets on that plane. Why can’t it have the balls to actually explore it.

The sequel for the original ending would be really cool. Seeing Pitt trekking across an America still trying to fight back, only this time he will have to fight humans as well? Yeah, that would be… wait, never mind. They just did that story. It’s called The Last of Us!

Really, the handling of the third act is my only real gripe with World War Z. The film is still super intense, really inventive with how it portrays a zombie pandemic, and does, admittedly, stay true to the spirit of Brooks book even if it doesn’t really have anything in common with it. But it could have been great! Whether or not the original ending would have made it so or would have sunk the film even more remains to be seen. Guess we can only surmise on what might have been!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 10

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

This is the last post. Did you guess what was coming? You get cookies!

Cloud Atlas!

Oh boy!

I knew I was in for something pretty nuts when first I sat down in the theater. About half way through, I knew what I was seeing was probably one of the best movies of the year. By the end, I knew it was one of the best movies I had ever seen! What the Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer did with David Mitchell’s novel, itself a brilliantly original piece of work, is nothing short of astounding. Six separate stories, all told concurrently, with the same cast playing different roles in each. Oh, and each actor plays different races, ages, and even genders. Sound ambitious? That’s because it is!

The remarkable thing is that there is a veritable smorgasbord of genres and elements being thrown at the canvas here. You would think that there would be a veritable war taking place on the screen as these various styles all compete with each other. What’s remarkable is that there is no conflict at all. In fact, there is harmony, with one style informing another. Doors closing in one story coexist with doors opening in another. Death in one story heralds life in another. Comedy mixes effortlessly with drama mixes effortlessly with action mixes effortlessly with romance. And so it goes.

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The cast all do stupendous jobs juggling their six roles. Sometimes they are front and center in one story. Other times they are nothing more than a cameo in others. The visuals are striking and inventive; the depiction of a far future Korea look sick and the images of 1970s San Francisco conjure up the best of films from that era.

Really, though. Even if Cloud Atlas weren’t the masterpiece that it is, it would probably have still made this list, because the scope and ambition of what it is trying to accomplish is just too damn gobsmacking! Put it to you this way! In London, me and my flatmates watched a lot of movies in our downtime at home. When we started watching Cloud Atlas, they were hooked pretty quickly! By the time we were done, they were all like, and I quote, “This movie is fucking great!” Movies like this come around ever so rarely! Thank god I was alive for this one!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 9

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

It goes without saying that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is my favorite working actor. Lately though, I’m starting to cool on him. It’s just been awhile since he really wowed me like in Mysterious Skin or (500) Days of Summer. I’m wondering if he’s just coasting on his stardom now, or if he’s just biding his time.

This is what I felt like before I saw Looper. And then I saw it. And… wait, you need me to spell this out for you?

Looper is an ingenious, twisting, witty, super violent slice of science fiction from the mind of Rian Johnson, who is the guy who basically put JoGo on the map to begin with. A labyrinthian time travel yarn to rival 12 MonkeysPrimer, and… why not, Back to the Future, Looper deals with heady themes about identity, fate, and whathaveyou, all wrapped in a bonecrunching action movie.

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JoGo is surprisingly against type here. Sure he’s charming, handsome, and rocks a badass gun. But he’s also arrogant, sexist, and a total friggin’ jerk! It’s a great change of pace for him, and hopefully he continues to explore that side of him. Bruce Willis is just as hardened a badass as we expect a gun toting character played by Bruce Willis to be. But he’s also a tortured soul on a mission that tests him and drives him to despicable acts. Emily Blunt is a great warming presence as the women who quickly realizes that she has more to do with the chaos than she thought. And Jeff Daniels is just awesome!

The action is bloody and brutal, the dialogue stings, and it looks just sick for a micro budget like this. It is a wholly original, bold vision from guys who could have very easily done something soulless but guaranteed to be a hit. They didn’t. Thank God!

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 8

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard!

Drive came out of nowhere and floored me! Here was a director I had only heard about fleetingly and the guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loved for some reason. And it was an artsy fartsy take on a pretty standard crime story. It didn’t look all that. And then everyone who saw said it was basically sex, and I’m almost dangerously impressionable, so of course I went and saw it. And what I saw was not artsy fartsy. it was not a pretty standard crime story. That guy from that dumb Nicolas Sparks movie that everyone loves was really friggin’ awesome!

Drive is a so good because it doesn’t ever try to over complicate it’s deceptively simple story which provides more than enough avenues for Nicolas Winding Refn to allow his characters to breathe and exist. Ryan Gosling’s Driver seems to be the bleach blonde male version of Lisbeth Salander, but he is anything but a cyborg. He’s a super cool, seemingly detached wheelman, who is capable of mind boggling brutality when those he cares for are threatened. And let’s be real, when it’s Carey Mulligan who’s threatened, and a seriously intimidating Albert Brooks who’s doing the threatening, who would stomp on a dude’s head until it’s just a puddle of mush.

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Oh yeah, the violence in this movie is almost obscene in how graphic it is. It comes in spurts and never lasts long, but it stays with you long after the movie is over. I haven’t looked a straight razor the same way since I saw this film. Blood. Oh, sweet jesus, the blood!

But it’s director Refn’s act of mashing up all kinds of different genres and aesthetics that makes the Drive the memorable piece of work that it is! It’s very old fashioned, evoking the crime thrillers of a bygone era like Bullit and Dirty Harry. It’s also exceedingly modern, with all its sheen and pizzaz. It’s very european, with its techno-pop soundtrack and eclectic color palette. And yet it’s also very american, with its cast of lowlifes and fleet of muscle cars. It’s a mutant of a movie, but it’s a wicked brew of all kinds of awesome that, through some otherworldly alchemy, becomes something unforgettable.

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The Black Hole Presents: Best of the 2010s (So Far): Part 7

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We are a little over 25% done with this decade! That’s a lot of movies! Oh lordy is that a lot of movies! If you were like me, narrowing down all the movies you saw into one list took more than a fair share of brain power when it came time to write up thine lists at the end of 2009. The following series will, at least for me, and maybe for you, help to alleviate that for when 2019 bows out. It’s good to do something like this! Every week, I’ll erase some of the red from that image up there, revealing the next in my list of the ten best films I’ve seen since 2010 began. These are not reviews! I’ve written those already. These are quick analyzations of why I think these films deserve to be on this list over the countless others that could have been on it! I fully expect you to denounce half the stuff I put up here! That’s what I want! Come with me! 

Also, cookies if you can guess what’s coming next. If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be too hard! 

There are probably better movies than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on this list. Certainly, there are movies more worthy of being on this list than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. But, there is not a single film on this list, or so far this decade, that meant more to me than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. 

As an ending, it hits all the notes that a finale must hit. It’s rousing, epic, intimate, touching, funny, and looks great. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint all turn in their best work of the series, bolstered by brilliant supporting work from the likes of Ralph Finnes, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Matthew Lewis. Alan Rickman brought the house DOWN as he dealt beautifully with Snape’s big moment.

But in terms of what I felt, where my mind was, and all that, the impact of Harry Potter 7.2 cannot be adequately expressed. Harry Potter, as a story, and as a person, were probably one of, if not the, biggest pop culture element of my childhood had bowed out of the picture with this final installment. And I know I’m not alone in the world when I say that. It was a devastating, yet uplifting moment, seeing the Hogwarts express pulling away for the last time. It was a bitter but sweet final page in a huge chapter of my life. I mean, when was the last time you waited by the door for a new book from Amazon to arrive and then locked yourself in your room and didn’t leave until it was finished. When was the last time that a movie came out that caused you and all your friends to drop everything, dress up, and wait in line for midnight screenings, after which they took to facebook bemoaning the death of their childhood. Being the kid who grew up with Harry Potter, let me tell you that being wrapped up in all the mania was really cool.

So, yeah. That’s why Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is on this list. Forget that it is impeccably made, superbly acted, and exciting beyond belief. It marked an important part in my life, and I will always hold it in the highest regard because of that.