Friday, 9 November 2012

What the hell happened to World War Z!

I must confess the very first thing I thought after watching the trailer was.....where's my bloody Zombie Zatoichi! I'll come back to that in a moment. First - to the trailer itself.

Admittedly it starts off on an ominous note, with Brad Pitt and his young family swept up in an epidemic that quickly consumes Philadelphia (which is in actual fact a disguised Glasgow I believe). The decision has also been taken to depict these zombies as a monolithic sea of the undead, infecting and devouring all in their path. These zombies do not just run, they consume cities.

For the most part this appears to be a decision taken to thrill audiences with a new horror spectacle and it might well prove to be popular.

However, as an adaptation of the novel it is problematic. The title itself is intended to rhyme with 'World War Three' and Brooks has described how he was inspired by The Good War, which featured interviews and recollections of those involved in the Second World War. As such World War Z presented a series of short vignettes set during different periods of a global pandemic. Some characters are revisited by the interviewer, allowing the reader to track their survival. In essence that is what the book is about, survival in the face of global collapse. The notion of the zombie allows Brooks to turn the world upside down, even introduce stories from a host of different genres within the one book. I mentioned Zatoichi above - one plot set in Japan has a blind man become an adept zombie slayer. I love it, as it is such a cheeky reference, but also quite an interesting idea in itself.

This trailer implies that the movie will follow the efforts of Brad Pitt's character to initially get his family to safety and then undergo his own mission, whatever that might be. This is hugely disappointing as it lacks the larger scope of the novel and the quiet tragedy of survivors around the world enduring over a number of years. What has happened here is a failure of resolve. The fascinating notion of an oral history of a zombie epidemic reduced to an action thriller for ADD-debilitated audience members. This could have been a mixture of faked zombie footage with a host of talking heads. Reds, but with zombies.

Ah well. We still have Henry Rollins' narration. I will treat that as the proper adaptation.


  1. While I admit that it would be a challenge to adapt "World War Z" into an actual in a way that would have the same impact as the book, I really expected better than this.

  2. Cheers Calen. I agree that I can understand the concern about adapting the material of the book to a linear narrative cinema audiences would understand. Unfortunately the approach that has been taken is a little too dependent on Robert McKee.

    Yes no doubt it helps to have a protagonist viewers can relate to, but by replacing the individual perspectives of the characters from the book with producer/star Brad Pitt we lose the span of Brooks' novel. We lose the theme of survivors all around the world trying to confront the problems of the zombie epidemic each in their own way and how they felt about seeing their loved ones die - which was one of the main appeals of the book for me.

    Yes Pitt will do a bit of globetrotting, but changing the perspective of the story from passive yet still traumatised testimonials of survivors to an active adventure discards the tragedy of the book.

  3. If this is the movie they wanted to make, then they shouldn't have used World War Z as the title. It's obvious now that it's merely a cash grab. They are trying to cash in on the popularity of the book with a generic disaster movie. The book deserves better.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Harpy Lady. It does feel as if the very thing that made the book so appealing - the emotionally draining reports on the experiences of survivors - has been removed, which begs the question why adapt the project at all if one is not going to treat of the book's key strengths?

  5. What I personally loved the most about the book was the global scope of it and the cause and effect and chain reactions.

    I loved that the population of North Korea was just gone, having taken refuge underground.

    I loved the renegade submarine. I loved the variety of it all.

    And I'm so disappointed in not recognizing any of that in that horrible looking trailer.

  6. Hullo Daniel. Yes I did get a flash of recognition in the trailer when we briefly saw a military flotilla, but I suspect that storyline will be truncated to a 'my family is in danger' action sequence which starts with the reveal that the zombies can float through the sea.


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