Will It Or Won’t It? Paramount’s Gamble On World War Z


Will it or won’t it – a simple question. Think of it as David Letterman’s “Will It Float” segment on The Late Show, except instead of watching a cheese log bob up and down in a pool full of water, I’m voicing my opinions on the upcoming feature film adaptation of Max Brooks’ best-selling zombie documentary novel, World War Z. It’s entered reshoots and rewrites, we’ve seen the questionable trailer footage, we’ve heard Brooks’ comments, we’ve followed the saga of producing a big-budget mainstream zombie movie – but is all the commotion actually going to be worth it?

Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Max Brooks’ literary winner World War Z, recalling the events of a full-scale war between zombies and humans through a collection of personal accounts spanning various groups of survivors. From campers traversing frigid tundras free of zombies to spoiled rich folk seeking sanctuary in a heavily guarded mansion, we follow Max Brooks as he assumes the role of an agent working for the United Nations Postwar Commission, collecting information and first hand accounts detailing the cataclysmic events which almost annihilated humanity. Brooks also injects thematic social criticisms which shine a light on government ineptitude and unpreparedness, survivalism, and personal uncertainty, using the zombie genre to address real-world issues. World War Z is far more than just a brain-dead zombie horror story – and that’s what I’m afraid Marc Forster’s film will miss.

As a fan of the book, the thought of a cinematic adaptation sounded like a phenomenal idea. World War Z is chock full of ripe material, eloquently written stories, and big events like the Battle at Yonkers and the assault on the rich mansion that would make for phenomenal screen material. Brooks’ novel is far denser than any popcorn flick about zombies eating people, almost serving as a warning to humanity’s sluggish preparation for the unknown, as simply reacting to threats doesn’t always yield positive results. If done properly, World War Z could be a bleak, dark, apocalyptic film which changes the way we view zombie films, broadening the scope from a group of survivors versus a town full of zombies to a global epidemic which is outlined by the Great Panic. The threats hinting at complete human extinction are dealt with maturely by Brooks, who isn’t afraid to show man’s failure over and over again – a humbling, truthful, and horrifying ego check reminding us we aren’t invincible.

Enter director Marc Forster, star actor/producer Brad Pitt, writer J. Michael Straczynski, re-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, re-re-writers Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, several weeks of reshoots, numerous backstage problems (including reports that Brad Pitt and Marc Forster were not on speaking terms by the end of shooting), and Max Brooks’ personal views on his un-involvement – all leading to the final product which seems to be getting positive reviews mixed with obvious hesitation.

So what the hell went wrong? How did the production budget balloon to about $200 million dollars? Why did 12 minutes of footage get deleted and why were 30-40 more minutes of footage re-shot after the entire film had been completed and a director’s cut had been screened? Simple – what Forster first presented was utter shit.

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