World War Z was directed by Marc Forster and shook off a troubled production to prove a critical and commercial success with $540 million in box office sales around the globe.
The screenplay was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, as screen story by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic.
From the opening moments of “World War Z,” there’s a certain nervous energy that translates into a genuine excitement that carries through the rest of the movie. It begins during the first suspense set-piece when Gerry and his family are trying to escape an infected Philadelphia.
The tension never ceases but instead builds exponentially from one moment to the next. The film moves from scene to scene, from one location to another, ultimately across the world, the tension is continually building as sequences domino to ever higher – until we end up in Isreal.
The Israel Sequence
When Gerry flies to Israel to investigate how they’ve dealt with the problem (according to a toothless CIA operative, they’ve “handled” the zombies well over there), we’re treated to the movie’s suspense centerpiece: a giant swarm of zombies, attracted by the noise created by singing citizens as well as loudspeaker system, scale a huge wall that had been erected to keep the monsters out.
It is probably the most visually powerful scene in the film. Zombies form a pyramid as they climb on top of each other in rapid succession in an attempt to scale a wall. The zombies look like an angry swarm of ants as they act instinctively as insects or perhaps more like birds – this scene really shows the type of threat that they represent.
The fevered pitch of this sequence is so high that the movie can never possibly hope to match it, which is probably why the third act of the movie moves away from action into horror territory.
Cinesite is a very well established visual effects company, they based their digital creations on concurrent work being done by The Moving Picture Company (MPC) for the Israel sequences (see the below video).
The digital zombies were modeled via scans and reference photography with over 3,000 different wardrobe outfits that could be mixed and matched were created for the zombies. For the pyramids, in particular, MPC would block out movements with geometry first to get a rough feel for the animation based on previs and the mocap that had been shot.
“We had mocap of guys climbing on a ramp and falling,”
“Then when we built the pyramids, the clips would be put on them based on the angle needed, and then we used a lot of animated vignettes. There was also a lot of keyframe animation.”
– MPC visual effects supervisor Jessica Norman
In addition to the ‘zombie tsunamis’ in Jerusalem, MPC delivered environment extensions, a helicopter crash, and several shots of the airport and taxiing aircraft.