World War Z Comes To The Big Screen - But Will It Live Up To The Book?

 

The short answer is “probably not”.


The long answer is, the producers and writers of the World War Z film seem to have taken what was an original conception of the zombie trope and turned it into a fairly run-of-the-mill “man saves world from apocalypse” story.

 

(Warning – there may be spoilers ahead!)


In the book, the zombies were slow, but they were still scary because they were relentless and they numbered in the millions. They just kept coming, mindlessly, endlessly, without sleeping, and recruiting to their ranks along the way. As with all zombies, you need to shoot them in the head or otherwise destroy the brain to kill them properly – which, when talking about guns and aiming, is notoriously difficult. There is an excellent scene in the book of one of the decisive battles between US Military (which by that point is made up mostly of volunteer survivors, including a very badass nun), where the wall of dead zombies just builds up and up until it's about twenty feet high and they have to use bulldozers to get through it.

 

The book did a very good job of explaining why and how a world overrun by zombies could happen – how most countries would ignore the problem for too long (because hey, what would you do if someone told you the dead were coming back to life?), how pharmaceutical companies would try to cash in on it with placebos, how the military would use the wrong methods to try to stop them, how people were woefully underprepared because their governments didn't want a full-scale panic, and so on.

 

From then on, we hear stories of what actually happened when people first met the zombies. It's vivid, it's deeply personal, it's varied, and most of all it is believable. Most of this comes from the format: many interviews with many survivors from all over the world (though I do have an issue with the non-representation of any African country other than South Africa), each with their own different voice and experience, each with their own insight into what went wrong. One of my favourite passages is from the perspective of a man who was left in space, trying to keep vital satellites in orbit, and watching what are described as herds of zombies roaming like the buffalo used to.

 

Instead of all these intensely focused, disturbingly accurate passages, what we appear to have in this film is...well, Brad Pitt running around trying to save the world whilst his family cries in a corner.

Obviously I am only going off the trailer (on a sidenote, that annoying “BWAAAAAAM” type noise that has been in tons of action movie trailers since Inception has GOT to go) and we all know how much they can be misleading. Yet it honestly looks like they've taken out everything that made the book great and terrifying and replaced it with Zombies That Run.

 

The separation of the main character from his family, while obviously meant to be sad and affecting, to me seems like a poor attempt at replacing some of the incredibly intense human elements of the book with close-ups of upset children.

 

I could be wrong; we could follow Brad Pitt all over the world, but still see how dozens of countries are coping, with moving POV scenes from the people in those countries, and a slow, realistic recovery of global society.

 

We'll find out in 2013, but I don't have my hopes up.

 

Helen Gould