World War Z – Review

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World War ZHello g33ks, m33ks and anyone with the stomach to push through the Redeker plan. If you are a longtime g33kWatch fan you know the affection we have for Max Brooks’ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. We did a book club podcast dedicated to it and I also read two versions of the films’ script and talked about them as well. The book has garnered a large number of fans and even influenced a few TV specials for shows like The Deadliest Warrior and Sons of Guns. The first version of the script was an excellent adaptation of the novel, written by J. Michael Straczynski. When it first leaked on the internet it had the kind of buzz that you’d expect for a Best Picture winner. It was a taut political thriller and managed to take one of the stories from the novel and incorporate it in a way that made it possible for the film to have a main character that interacted in the story more so than the narrator of the novel. It involved little changes to things along the way but each and every change seemed to work spiritually with the novel.

Max Brooks, who had no creative control over the production, lauded the draft and felt that it was incredible work. After the leak, there was a second draft created that upped the action, moved major events from a small city to Philadelphia and some changes that moved the film more towards a summer blockbuster than Academy Awards fodder. This script was not nearly the tightly wound political thriller the first one was, but it was still grounded in the novel. Unfortunately for Straczynski, after his second draft was turned in, a new writer, Matthew Carnahan (State of Play, Lions for Lambs), was hired to re-write the screenplay in order to make it more in line with director Marc Forster’s (Quantum Of Solace, Monster’s Ball) vision for the film. This would be a world-hopping action film with tons of blazing guns explosions and crashes. It also featured a totally new story with wholesale changes to the timeline of the novel, the zombies themselves and the motivation for our main character. The film began production in 2011 with an eye to be released in December 2012, it would eventually be given a final release date of June 21, 2013.

World War ZWhen the film begins Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is making breakfast for his family. His wife Karin (Mireille Enos), and daughters quickly eat and then run off to finish packing for a family vacation. Gerry has recently quit his job and is now focused on spending time at home. On their way out of Philadelphia, they are caught in a traffic jam which turns into mass chaos as a horde of superfast, superstrong zombies ravage the city. Gerry is contacted by the Under-Secretary of the UN, his former boss, who promises to get him and his family out if they can survive long enough to get to an extraction point at sunrise.  While helping his family escape Gerry takes note of the amount of time it takes for someone to turn, how the creatures attack and that although the zombies do bite they do not consume their victims.. Once he makes contact with the new military/government Gerry is sent on a mission to search for ‘Patient Zero’.

World War ZOnce Gerry’s mission begins the film essentially holds no connection to the source material. Things that remain: sound calls the zombies, some countries resort to the use of nuclear weapons and one country in particular seems to be winning. To break down in detail some of the major differences would spoil the film which works on some basic levels. It still has zombies (even if they are superfast), it is full to the brim with action, and of course it still has Brad Pitt. The best sequences are when the film slows down and manages to build tension and when they do it right it can be thrilling. Where it falls down is that since it’s a summer blockbuster it’s full of action movie tropes and that means a lot of those thrilling tense sequences are only meant to lead you to an over the top set piece. It just felt like once you reached the end of the film they dipped into that well a few too many times. So by the time you reach Act 3 you’ve caught on to the formula and it can take you out of the flick. I’m also not a huge fan of the zombie swarm effect. It looks good in certain scenes but then it becomes overdone. I’m glad they didn’t force 3D on the audience because the effect would have been dizzying and uncomfortable in a film that features a lot of shaky cam.

World War ZI did everything I could to judge the film on its own and as a popcorn flick its decent enough. I saw the film with an extremely ‘hot’ audience. They couldn’t help themselves … Brad Pitt himself introduced the film for us. Not that I’m immune to such things but at this point I can separate the film from the film going experience. The film is definitely watchable and Brad Pitt is still Brad Pitt. That said, World War Z is probably best seen in a crowd of excited people that will jump at the scares and react to the sheer insanity of the action. Its definitely not Max Brooks’ novel or J. Michael Straczynski’s screenplay but that doesn’t discount entirely what Carnahan and Forster accomplish which will be for many a fun time at the movies. It should also be noted that Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) re-wrote the film’s ending and you can see what he brought to the table helped the overall effort. If you go in expecting World War Z to be a faithful adaptation you will be immensely disappointed. If you read the scripts from J.M.S. you’ll be immensely disappointed. If you don’t like fast zombies you’ll be immensely disappointed. If you like things to blow up, a few thrills and enjoy the summer blockbuster experience … you’ll have fun. Brad said when introducing the film that it was the most intense movie of the summer …  I wouldn’t be surprised at any audience member that felt that way after this screening, but I would be surprised if that statement holds up against viewings of Man of Steel or Pacific Rim.

– Mr. Khon

Mr. Khon

Our own version of The Illusive Man, Mr. Khon's identity is kept secret until he sells a screenplay. Once that happens, he's taking us all to the big time.


  1. It has been a sad approach to this film for me. I wanted so badly for it to be a gaiden of the book contents, a section or idea extended upon like how you can view The Walking Dead from comic to TV to video game.

    But as mentioned changes came, I still want to see it, but I wonder if I can disconnect when I have read the book multiple times since buying it years ago. It had all the potential (and material) to be something more than a summer fling.

    Oh well, I guess I can leave my brain at the door.

  2. What truly offends the fans of the books is the fact that, since zombies were already such a heavily established genre, they didn’t NEED an excuse to make another zombie movie. If it doesn’t have anything to do with the source material, why should they source it? They could have made this movie and called it… anything.

    But since they used the title “World War Z” now there is no way to remake the movie in a way that is more in-line with the book. They sacrificed the source material for a filthy cash-grab. This was our one chance and it was ruined. We will never get a faithful film adaptation of the book and if we do, it’ll have to be a hollywood “reboot” which will likely be another attempt at a cash-grab.

    I blame hollywood producers for bringing in those POS screenwriters. Producers don’t know a damn thing about about making movies. All they know is how to make things that sell. They know what derivative elements sell and they force those elements into every movie. “Quick, bring in whatsisface. He knows how to write a movie with explosions and stuff.” Another formula action thriller. Add water and reheat.

    • I completely understand why you feel the way you do about all of this. I agree with the sentiment that if you’re going to make this movie instead of the film adaptation of the book you would do better to create your own title and not even utilize the name.

      That said the producer of the film is Brad Pitt and the assessment that he knows nothing about creating a film is unfair. I wasn’t happy with the choice of director but the initial screenwriter was the exact right choice. J Michael Straczynski wrote a screenplay that dealt with everything the book dealt with. It was about the failures of each government along the way and the battle of yonkers was the main highlight of the film.Everything was included in that story including an excellent twist on the Redeker story and he had an extremely interesting take on the man who sold everyone Phalanx. In fact to make the narrator into a character that could be the focal point of the movie… his story was merged with the family that drove north in the RV.

      Knowing what I know about the business when it came time to spend serious money on this thing the ideas started rolling that it should be a series. If its a series well the war is over and we know how to best handle the threat. So someone said hey lets go back to when the war started. Lets have everything fall apart and see one man who won’t stop try to save the world. To me I would have done the novel and then gone backwards in time to the war in another film. That said when this became the film’s direction it wasn’t possible to maintain the original script. Matthew Carnahan can write but if he’s told this is the film’s direction he can’t go and do whatever he wants he has to write what he’s hired to write.

      I think if someone like BBC/HBO took a crack at this story they’d be the perfect ones to make this a weeklong tv mini-series event that would be phenomenal. Hopefully Plan B options it out to them at some point. Its not a bad film… its just not the adaptation of the book fans of the novel have been hoping for.

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