It sadly comes with no surprise that all reports surrounding Marc Forster’s upcoming big-budget zombie blockbuster World War Z are pointing towards an action tentpole kind of summer flick with little substance, plenty of explosions, and an absolute disregard for Max Brooks’ genius source material. While the woes that have plagued Forster’s film have been publicly displayed for all to witness (reshoots, rewrites, flat out ignorance), I’ve already tackled that in a little article I wrote last week detailing the events that led to a ballooning budget and a mighty hole Paramount now has to dig out of, so I’ll spare you the whole “will World War Z flop” routine this time around.
If you’re interested in that kind of prediction, go ahead and click the above link, because now I want to discuss Paramount’s decision to dumb Max Brooks’ material down to a PG-13 thrill ride with a superhero-like lead in Brad Pitt. If you’re just going to yell at me and say “don’t judge a film until you’ve seen it,” don’t worry, I completely agree with you and will still give a fair assessment come the release date. That doesn’t mean I can’t break out my crystal ball and pull a Miss Cleo before hand though! If I’m wrong, eh, no biggie, but if I’m right, then you can be sure the phrase “I told you so” will be plastered all over my writing.
So let’s jump right into this – what do we know? Well, here are the facts. World War Z is PG-13, has very little to do with Brooks’ original geopolitical thematics, underwent reshoots because the ending was too “harsh,” trailers show mainly CGI zombies, Brad Pitt will inevitably save the world, and anyone expecting a tell-all mockumentary about a great apocalyptic zombie war will be severely let down by Forster’s movie. World War Z was optioned for name only, literally just taking the general idea of a global zombie epidemic. Brooks’ material has been gutted and replaced with nothing but popcorn, dollar signs, wavy hair, and some I Am Legend looking baddies who form tsunami waves of zombies.
But OK, out of fairness, I won’t launching into my ramblings about how Brooks got the shaft by not being brought in on scripting or consulting duties initially, because everyone just has to accept once and for all that the World War Z movie is going to be its own entity. Just lick your wounds now book fans, there’s no point in prolonging the pain. No, my initial problems with Forster’s World War Z will be completely unrelated to the fact that Max Brooks’ novel doesn’t deal with fast moving zombies, doesn’t have some action hero type lead, doesn’t shove aside important issues about societal unpreparedness for large action sequences, doesn’t strive to be accepted by all demographics – sorry, ranting, right, not focusing on the differences between our upcoming movie and the book. Forster’s movie will be nothing but a blockbuster, let’s be fair.Next
The most glaring opposition for horror fans will be the PG-13 rating – a stigma when talking about quality horror movies. Us horror fans want our genre films gore heavy, disgusting, frightening, over-the-top, and balls to the wall. We don’t want to hear a horror movie is playing nice in order to draw in big audiences. With that said though, I’ve found a few PG-13 horror movies worth a damn like Mama, Drag Me To Hell, The Ring, Gremlins, and Insidious, but do you see which genre isn’t represented by those movies? Zombies. You can’t just crank up the speed on your zombies and replace the horror that comes from a ginormous herd of the undead tearing through a town, ripping flesh from bone with their decayed teeth. Zombies are terrifying because they look grotesque, can only be stopped by a bullet to the head, and can transform you just by a simple bite, all while being generally useless. Those who underestimate zombies typically die first in cinema.
Forster’s World War Z looks to be employing the “infected” variation of zombies, which is more like a rabies virus that turns people into sick beings instead of reanimated corpses. Think 28 Days Later or something along those lines. But then think back to Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later – those films were still f#cking brutal. Both films used these fast zombies to only heighten the gore and carnage, making their zombie villains something to seriously fear. World War Z on the other hand is already making me scratch my head, partly because the PG-13 rating means gore will be pretty non-existent in the way us horror fans are used to, and partly because there’s a scene in the trailer which shows a fast moving zombie blur running right by a cowering innocent person. Um, zombies don’t do that. They don’t pass up a free snack like that. I’ll be honest, I’m already nervous about the explanation that will be thrown our way.
Oi vey, OK, but what about all these reshoots and ending changes? Surely they must have a good reasoning for such? Apparently the original ending was so abrupt and nonsensical it had to be changed for the betterment of World War Z, so it must have been a real travesty, right? Maybe Pitt’s character gives Earth the finger and destroys the cure? Maybe he gets in a chopper and flies to Antarctica, again dooming the human race? I mean, you can’t get more abrupt and awful than that.Previous Next
But neither of those are correct, as The Guardian released exactly what Lindelof eliminated with his new ending (which is still kept hidden):
The new version is ironically said to be less spectacular, but with more of the sense of emotional relief supposedly required to send cinema goers contentedly out into the night. Carnahan’s version is said to have seen Pitt travelling to Russia to free legions of slaves, who he enlists to destroy the zombie threat with lobotomising sheaths that take off their heads. But it was too grim and violent for the PG-13 film Paramount insisted on and cast Pitt in a negative light as a savage, zombie-killing warrior leader. Worse still, it failed to reunite our hero with his family (and therefore felt hollow and bleak).
Yup, just as I expected – too gritty. I appreciate the fact that re-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan tried to embrace the darkly apocalyptic scenario with some brutal realism, but unfortunately his efforts were slashed by a studio just trying to make people happy. Um, it’s the f*cking zombie apocalypse, this isn’t a happy time to be alive. Countless people are dead, families have been torn ferociously apart, entire cities are destroyed, humanity hangs in the balance – but wait! Brad Pitt has to make it home to his family! Aw, isn’t that all sunshine and rainbows?
Sorry, mini rant coming on – grow a f@cking pair mainstream horror. Not only does this go against the dismal reality of Brooks’ book, but it defaces the entire horror genre. World War Z faces the eradication of mankind, which will most likely involve a bloody, hard-fought battle to rid the earth of an undead scourge ravaging every part of our planet. Yes, I’m sure Brad Pitt’s character misses his family, but more important should be his want to keep them safe. How does he keep them safe? By eliminating the zombies. Honestly, I don’t give a sh*t if he doesn’t reunite with them until three films later (if World War Z was to be franchised), because the grander story is “How will Gerry Lane save the world,” not “Will Gerry Lane return home in time for dinner?!” Sorry, rant over.
Personally, I don’t see the problem with showing Pitt as a “savage, zombie-killing warrior leader” because there is no clear definition of “Good.” There’s Pure Good, Neutral Good, and Chaotic Good. Again, this is supposed to be a horror movie, don’t you think getting savage would be a little necessary for survival? If it didn’t fit with the story for continuity reasons, fine, change away Paramount, but if the move was made solely with dollar signs and not integrity in mind? You don’t think there’s anything emotionally jarring about ending the film with Brad Pitt leading a group of freed Russian slaves into battle with these mile a minute zombies, knowing he might not return to his family?
Forster could have even cued up a shot of Pitt longingly admiring a picture of his family, giving his wife’s face a good ol’ cliched stroke with his hand while cracking a smile – only to then turn on the intensity and charge into the fury of war. “Hollow and bleak” are not the right words to describe the above scenario, more like recklessly hopeful and realistic. But hey, this is mainstream Hollywood, everything has to have a storybook ending. Blech.
I’m not saying the whole “successful mainstream horror film” can’t be done, just look at this year’s Warm Bodies for example, but for the scenario World War Z creates, the mainstream route represents unnecessary handcuffs that will undoubtedly lead to people imagining their own “what if” scenarios. Warm Bodies worked because it attempted to deliver one of the world’s first romantic zombie comedies, but even that got a little brutal at times. World War Z is a full-scale zombie war that doesn’t have any other aspects it’s trying to push, like romance or comedy, so watering down epic zombie carnage is a move horror enthusiasts around the world can only sigh at. Sure, maybe us horror fans are selfish in our want for hard genre movies that don’t pander to non-horror thinking minds, but hell, I can’t help but to wonder how World War Z is going to land.
World War Z – a PG-13 zombie epidemic film which changed an action-centric ending in favor for a “feel-good” ending. Man, I don’t want to say it, but I’m not psyched for Marc Forster’s crack at Max Brooks’ novel in the least bit. Sure, early reports have the film at an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes (16 Fresh, 4 Rotten), but I can already tell by the overall consensus of “there’s enough memorable action to cover up its empty core” mentality that there’s a better chance I won’t be in line with such thinking. I’ll absolutely go in with an open mind and hoping for best, but something about what will no doubt be a summer spectacle has me a little too uneasy for my liking. I’ll try riding the waves, but believe all too heavily this zombie film will be nothing but a wipeout for hardcore horror fans. Guess we’ll find out June 21st, won’t we?Previous