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The Running Dead in “World War Z”

World War Z
: 2013
Genre: Action, Horror
Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

I get so burned out on anything zombies.  Ever since Snyder’s Down of the Dead remake the world of media has been awash with too many zombies.  Too many movies, books and television shows that are all pretty much the same.  However there were some refreshing breaths of air, including Max Brooks’ novel World War Z.  I was wary when I first heard they were making a movie, then completely disillusioned as I heard more and more news of the film’s troubled production and then just downright angry when I finally saw the trailer.  This book I loved so much was given a film adaptation that appeared to have taken nothing from its source material.  For the sake of fair criticism, however, I approached it with an open mind and, surprisingly, I didn’t hate it.  Of course there were several things that did contribute to the somewhat appreciation I had for this film.

The Rating

World-War-Z-screenshot-12When World War Z came out it carried a PG-13 rating because as artistically liberating as an R-rating is, PG-13 gets butts in seats.   I hate movies doing this, though I understand why, which is why I opted out of seeing this film in theaters.  Instead I watched the “Unrated Cut” on DVD (Well Blu-Ray actually, it was the first movie I got on Blu-Ray).  World War Z is quite brutal at times and there are plenty of gruesome moments.  This leads me to believe that the theatrical cut was either butchered to the point of being unwatchable or was the most irresponsible PG-13 I’ve ever encountered.  Checking with it appears that there is just under 7 minutes added to the uncut version.  However that 7 minutes consists of:

  • 79 extended scenes
  • 29 scenes with alternate footage
  • 6 additional scenes
  • 3 extended scenes in the Theatrical Version
  • 2 extended scenes with alternate footage
  • 2 recuts

You can review those changes through the link above but some of those added things, no matter how small, make World War Z a much more complete film than I imagine what people saw in theaters.

Production Hell

World-War-Z-003As I mentioned before, World War Z was a notoriously troubled production.   Shooting began on the film before the script was completed, producers weren’t happy with Marc Forester’s initial cut so 40 minutes were re-shot and then there were constant rumors of on-set fights and personnel changes.  According to Forester a lot of that fuss was overblown in the press and I am inclined to believe him.  World War Z doesn’t quite look like a movie that changed hands constantly through production.  I was expecting this film to be the absolute train wreck people were telling me it was.  However, there was a linear narrative, the special effects were extraordinarily done, and nobody seemed to be putting in a lackluster performance.

I can certainly understand why some of the production issues that World War Z underwent would come about as it’s the same sort of thing that happens with any major Hollywood undertaking.  The adaptation of Max Brooks’ novel was a highly anticipated project and everyone wanted their own take on it – but everyone also wanted to make money and the two worlds of art and commerce do not often compromise in the friendliest of ways.  There’s also the then-current (and thankfully falling out of fashion now) zombie craze sweeping audiences.  Beyond being an adaptation of the bestselling book, producers felt that this movie needed to play into the current trends in the sub-genre in order to, hopefully, become a critical and financial success.  There is the old adage of “too many cooks spoil the broth,” which is true but in the case of World War Z that meal could have been a lot worse than how it turned out.

The “Adaptation”

World-War-Z-2At first glance it would seem that the only thing World War Z  took from its source material was the title.  That is understandable because Brooks’ book is not a traditional, linear narrative with one central protagonist.   The novel is not really a novel at all but rather a series of several short stories that all take place in the same zombie-infested universe during the same time frame.   I was in no possible way expecting anything close to faithful to the source material but I did have my hopes that there would be a couple key scenes or memorable moments re-enacted.  Well those hopes were dashed away as there is nothing from the book in this film.  Well not completely “nothing.”  A lot of the spirit of the novel, if not the events, remain in tact.

20130924_worldwarz_planeattackThe novel World War Z certainly lives up to its name as it’s scope covers the entire globe.  In the film we have Brad Pitt as a semi-retired UN operative who is travelling the world over to find some sort of cure for the current zombie epidemic.  He’s globe trotting from New York to Korea, Israel and Cardiff.  While not the same events as in the novel it has the same effect of showing how this plague affects different parts of the world.  The film certainly carries the scope of how serious this zombie infestation is and how different people have chosen to defend themselves against it.   The film retains a lot of the creative variety the novel had even if it’s not the exact same things.

world-WAr-Z-vfx-breakdownFor instance there is the entire sequence of events in Jerusalem.  Israel was aware of the oncoming zombie horde and enclosed their entire county behind a gigantic concrete wall.  However that doesn’t stop these zombies from just building towers of zombies to climb over the walls and invade.  It’s rapid pace and one of the more exciting parts of the film.  It’s unbelievable and ridiculous, sure – but still pretty creative and fun.  Heck the zombies even build their zombie towers to take down a helicopter – it’s the kind of over-the-top stuff I enjoy.

Admittedly we do have “fast zombies” which are impossible and really go against a lot of how Max Brooks defined zombies in The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  Yes, they make a more exciting and fast paced film but its a terrible leap of logic to make.  Luckily though, its the only serious leap the film asks you to make.

So in the end, World War Z was really not as bad as everyone told me it was going to be.  It’s no classic and, like every PG13 fad that Hollywood churns out, people will have forgotten about it in a few years time.  Still, it’s a wee bit better than a lot of the over budget and over hyped crap that 2013 gave us.  I’d much rather watch World War Z before watching The Lone Ranger.



About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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