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Vulture’s Thoughts Watching World War Z, From A to Z

After multiple rewrites and production delays, World War Z finally hit theaters this weekend. Although some scenes were cut from the finished product (like a big climax taking place in the Red Square), the movie still retains so much cool, silly stuff that audiences ate it up like so many Brad Pitt pancakes. To continue the feeding frenzy, we wanted to share our thoughts about everything that stood out to us on first blush and present them in that most logical of ways: alphabetically. Here’s our A to Z guide to World War Z.

[Note: S is for Spoiler Alert! Spoilers abound below, so don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie and prefer not to know what happens.]

A is for asthma.
Nothing ups the ante on action-movie urgency quite like an inhaler-less asthmatic kid. WWZ even goes one step farther: The family’s frantic hunt for an inhaler requires them to stop in Newark.

B is for barking dog.
The sole passenger of the ill-fated Belarus Airlines flight to sniff out the zombie stowaway? The dog. Because he’s a movie dog. Movie dogs always get the jump on stupid movie humans with their uncanny ability to smell evil things like ghosts, imposters and now zombies. If only movie dogs could survive being sucked out of planes at 10,000 feet.

C is for chattering teeth.
That scientist zombie’s teeth are chattering not only because chattering teeth is totally a zombie thing to do but also, we suspect, because he didn’t have anything on underneath that lab coat.

D is for diseases.
So they’re building replicas of Moe’s Tavern and the Star Wars cantina — big whoop. We’d be far more interested in a World War Z theme park based entirely on the room of disease. “Come on down to the amazing Room of Disease where dreams come true … for the whole family! Inject little Suzie with smallpox! Give little Timmy what Santa couldn’t — his very own case of meningitis! And don’t forget Mom and Dad! Can you say Bolivian hemorrhagic fever?” Man, that room of disease was awesome.

E is for Enos, Mireille.
Unlike on The Killing, Enos was super on her shit in World War Z. She had so many flares! She could kick! And then … nothing. After Pitt gets sent on his world-saving mission, Enos’s only job is to sit by the phone. Were those scenes all knocked out in a day? Director: “OK, this time you’re falling asleep and you try to make a call but he doesn’t answer … and cut! Great! OK, now you’re asleep and the phone wakes you up and you’re nervous but excited because it’s totally Brad but now there’s static … and cut! Great!”

F is for Fox, Matthew.
Matthew Fox has one line in the movie. That line is: “Ma’am, Terry would like a word with you.” Look, Matt, we know Lost isn’t on the air anymore, but you don’t have to take a role just because Damon Lindelof describes the character as “a Matthew Fox-type.”

G is for gums.
David Morse plays the classic “crazy guy who’s actually a soothsayer” role. How do we know the dude is crazy? How about when he opens his mouth to reveal toothless gums? You know what’s scarier than a zombie biting you? A zombie gumming you for an hour.

H is for head-butting.
A lot of folks are talking about how the zombies of World War Z run (and, boy, do they run — so much running!). But even more than running, these zombies freaking love to head-butt. They are so excited to bite humans that they literally bang their undead heads into windows and windshields until they reach their fleshy targets. Genius!

I is for Israel.
At first, when Gummy McEx-C.I.A. starts in on the topic of Israel, you figure he’s about to say some real anti-Semitic shit through those toothless gums. But then he starts giving it up for Israelis! Israelis are actually smart! The rosy portrait of Jews only lasts so long, however, as we see when Brad Pitt goes to Israel, where, even though besieged by hordes of zombies, those crazy Jews can’t keep quiet. Loud Jews left and right! Loud Jews praying! Loud Jews yelling! And of course loud Jews singing their loud Jew songs until the cows come home. Only in this case, the cows are zombies and home is brainnnnnsssss.

J is for Jaime-Lannistered Israeli soldier.
Cutting off a zombie-bit appendage isn’t new, but the alacrity with which Brad Pitt chops off the female soldier’s infected hand is noteworthy. Even more noteworthy: How having one hand only makes the short-haired female Israeli soldier (played by Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz) more badass. Bonus points to the filmmakers for not throwing in gratuitous sexual tension. Instead, they have Pitt treat her as a solider and an equal, like when he tells her to “gut up” when he changes her bandage.

K is for Kurt Cobain hair.
Why, in 2013, does Brad Pitt have this haircut? More importantly, why does a former United Nations special operative have it? Is it a way to make up for all he missed when stationed in Bosnia? Also, casting directors, if Brad Pitt is going to have long hair, maybe don’t cast a wife whose hair color is nearly identical. It will make the kissing scenes very disconcerting.

L is for lunchroom bullies.
“You think the food looks and tastes weird, little kid? Good, I hope it’s poisoned and your little kid immune system makes it so you die before I do. I hate your dumb little faces.” Seriously, why were the soldiers so mean to Brad Pitt’s kids?

M is for Mountain Dew.
“Be very, very, very quie—  [kick … rolling can sound …] Oopsies.” This may be the worst product placement ever. Especially considering that when Pitt eventually saves the day, he drinks a generic no-label purple soda. Did the inventor of Mountain Dew (i.e., Mr. Mortimer “Mountain” Dew) beat the movie’s many, many screenwriters up in high school?

N is for nerd.
Your Harvard degree won’t save you now, generic, accented nerd character. Maybe when reading all those nerd books, you should’ve taken a class in Not Slipping While You Have A Gun During a Zombie Apocalypse. Kudos for making the most of your ten minutes of screen time by giving the classic “a serial killer wants to get caught” speech, but applying it to Mother Nature.

O is for opening credits.
All the shifting fragments of images in and out of focus with random news clips foretelling the looming apocalypse (Wendy Williams!) was really great. No jokes. Good job.

P is for pancakes.
Pitt quits working for the U.N. and all he does now is make pancakes for his little kids, who are super interested in what “martial law” is and freaking love pancakes. Seriously, pancakes are to these little girls what head-butts are to zombies.

Q is for quiet.
“Zombies are attracted to noise, huh? OK, then let me ride this squeaky cycle through the rain in the dark and pretend like that’s a good idea, and then later, how about if we all step on the loudest shards of broken glass of all time?”

R is for relatable pain.
It isn’t easy to empathize with zombies. Most people in the audience probably don’t have much interest in eating human flesh or head-butting car windshields. But a character coming to after a plane crash and realizing he has been impaled by a jagged piece of metal? Expect an ocean of awwwwwww to flood the screen. We’ve all flown before and being pierced by shrapnel doesn’t seem all that different than sitting in coach.

S is for shield.
Specifically, magazine shields. Early in the film, with Pitt’s character have had, like, fifteen minutes of total zombie exposure, he made like he’d be preparing for this apocalypse his whole life and started taping glossy magazines to his body to act as a shield. It makes you think, though, that if the Israeli Vogue hadn’t gone out of print, maybe the Jews could have fought off the zombie swarm and been able to sing — loudly (very, very, very stupidly loudly) — all night long.

T is for The Thick of It.
Brad Pitt wakes up in Cardiff and spots the usually insanely foul-mouthed The Thick Of It star Peter Capaldi. Part of you thought he was going start shouting, “Howdja getting that fucking plane part jammed into your fucking gut?” But no, the guy just quietly sips his tea. Look, we kind of dug that the PG-13 rating meant no zombie gore, but preventing Capaldi from cursing? That’s a whole other story. You got to let the caged bird say, “Come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off.”

U is for the United Nations.
Summer action movies are usually a little jingoistic. World War Z spits in the face of conservatives who want to eradicate the U.N. You talk a big game now, John Bolton, but when a zombie is trying to bite off your moustache, you’ll be happy to be protected by a U.N. operative who works with a multi-national task force to get the job done.

V is for voice-over.
As with War of the Worlds, we get craziness and disarray and confusion for two hours, and then a brief sequence of narrative, delivered via voice-over, that says everything is cool beans now. This happens in World World Z just seconds after Pitt injects himself with meningitis and almost makes out with a cold zombie, when his reunion with his family (and newly adopted Spanish-speaking son?) quickly peters out and he narrates a montage of we-beat-the-zombies images by saying, essentially, “yada yada yada.”

W is for waiting twelve seconds.
After a zombie hocks a zombie-blood loogie into Pitt’s mouth, our hero rushes to the ledge of that apartment building, so he can jump if he happens to turn into one of them. How messed up would it be that the moment your zombie turn is complete, after all that crumping-esque spasming, you go splat on the New Jersey pavement. Like, “Woohoo, it’s zombie time! [splat]”

X is for X marks the spot.
As in, X marks the spot where Brad Pitt throws that grenade on the plane. What? You think that’s a stretch? You’re a stretch! Who cares about finding an actual X fact to put here for stupid letter X — dude threw a grenade! On a plane!

Y is for yuck-free.
No, WWZ’s zombies aren’t the best-looking undead people in the world, and that one zombie even got blood all up in Pitt’s mouth. But aesthetically the whole thing was pretty chill. Even when Pitt crowbarred that one zombie, it was done out of frame and, afterward, the crowbar just had a coating of black gunk on it, as if it were used to kill a bucket of tar.

Z is for zombie knowledge.
In most zombie movies, the characters are dumber than said zombies. Like, “Wait — people are dying and then coming back to life. What is that?” And we’re like, “The concept of zombies has been a thing for, like, a hundred years now. Turn on AMC once in a while!” But thankfully that’s not an issue in this movie. Instead, it’s like, “Zombies? OK, finally. Let’s build that zombie-proof fence we’ve been planning to deploy in the event of just such an apocalypse. Mazel tov.”

Thoughts Watching World War Z From A to Z