World War Zesus

I realize this is not the most timely post, seeing as the movie came out more than a year ago, but “World War Z” just hit Netflix, I just watched it, and my god do I need to complain about someone else’s god.

Hint: not this one

I’ve talked about the big JC in cinema before, but somehow the guy keeps showing up in movies as a convenient metaphor.   Go figure, right?  Now, by most accounts Jesus is a pretty cool dude — and I guess Brad Pitt’s a pretty cool dude, too — but I am still a bit confused why Brad Pitt had to be Jesus in this particular movie. And since a quick google search for “World War Z + Jesus” doesn’t turn up too many relevant hints, I figured I’d unpack this one myself. (Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about the New Testament. But that’s never stopped me before.)

Spoilers after the jump — including New Testament spoilers.  I think?  Kind of shooting from the hip here.

Exhibit 1: Bradd Pitt’s character is named Gerry (because the soft G sound makes it subtle!).  Plus, he has a beard and a doofy haircut.  There is exactly one reason to give Pitt a doofy haircut.

And that reason is metaphors

Similarities continue in the plot, at least eventually. Pitt is an ex-UN employee with a sort-of shady backstory maybe (it’s not really explained enough for me to even decide if it truly is shady), which is sort of like being a carpenter or whatever.  Doesn’t Jesus’ backstory involve something about being a CIA operative?

Anyway, like Jesus, Pitt is running from zombies on the East Coast and ends up on an aircraft carrier.  Then — get this — he heads to Jerusalem, where some shit, as the Gospel of Luke says, doth hitteth the fan.  Pitt is betrayed by his best buddy in Israel, left to die at an airport which is about to devolve into the flesh-eating equivalent of a Hometown Buffet lunch rush.  From there, it’s a quick and uneventful Air Belarus flight to this shot, where we find Pitt hanging above the ground, bleeding from numerous small wounds on his brow and temples:

At least he didn't do the Superman pose.

At least he didn’t do the Superman pose

And — and — as if we couldn’t figure out who this guy is supposed to be by this point, the filmmakers take the subtle step of SPEARING HIM IN THE SIDE WITH A CHUNK OF, I DUNNO, SOMEONE’S ARMREST.

The Boeing 777 Shard of Destiny

The Boeing 777 Shard of Destiny

Pitt then stumbles into a W.H.O. research facility and goes into some kind of zombie-stewardess-tried-to-eat-me coma for three days.  Yes, three days.  Not two.  Not four.  Three.  During which his friends and family think he’s dead.

Pitt awakens from this ordeal, of course, with the idea that ultimately saves all of humanity, even semi-sacrificing himself in the process.  Sound familiar?

I suppose the big reveal at the end of the movie — that the zombies aren’t interested in the terminally ill, so all mankind has to do is inject themselves with a suitably fatal yet conveniently curable contagion cocktail — is trying to be some play on the whole Jesus-heals-the-sick shtick, but at the end of everything I’m still not really sure why someone went to all this length to throw Christ metaphors into what should be an explosion and shovel-to-the-head laden romp through the apocalypse.  And on top of that, if anyone in this movie is going to be a stand-in for Jesus it’s the goddamn zombies.  Christ was dead for like three days, and then was suddenly not dead any more.  That is some “Dawn of the Dead” level shit.

What I suppose I’m trying to get at here (and with Supes in the post I linked to up top) is not that there’s no place for a discussion of religious themes in art.  I’m all for that.  But I have very rarely seen it done in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m being smashed over the head with a cross-shaped hammer, and “World War Z” seemed particularly egregious.

Is it too much to ask for subtlety in my face-eating zombie thrillers?

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One comment

  1. I didn’t see the movie. – Just another form of “crucifixion”.
    Interesting review, Seth

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