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I read these almost a year ago now, but I still remember how amazing they were! The author, Max Brooks, put amazing amounts of details into these two books, and as a reader you can tell he put a lot of work into these. They’re really nothing like the movie, they’re both so much better!
I tried. I really did. I know that movies aren’t books. I understand the need to cut things or alter characters and events to play better on screen. I even understand that books have an easier time expressing more ideas whereas movies tend towards having to pick a point and stick with it. So I prepared. I took a breath and steeled myself to watch this movie just as a movie and let all my expectations from the source material fall away. Still, ten minutes into World War Z I was ready to call it; this is a bad movie.
OKAY! So I’ll probably never be able to 100% remove my bias towards what has steadily become my very favorite book. Max Brooks’ World War Z is about as much about zombies as Lord of the Rings is about jewelry. It’s a powerful, poignant story about humanity and the amazing and terrible things we do to survive. It’s a meticulously researched and stunningly adept future history of a dozen different cultures. It’s a deep, unfiltered look into the beautiful and monstrous heart of mankind. World War Z the movie is about zombies.
AND NOT EVEN REALLY! WWZ takes its first MASSIVE step away from the book by employing the use of so called ‘rage zombies’; named for and patterned after the fast running, physically capable undead (I guess?) creations from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. These freak shows are just about as far as you can get from the traditional Romero shufflers, although Romero has made a career recently from methodically destroying the genre he created (really George? Zombies can talk and use guns now? Ugh.) But okay, fine. That’s a personal taste thing. After all, 28 days later was the tits. The thing is though, while the WWZ movie bastardized what zombies actually are they couldn’t even be bothered to do it WELL.
Nearly none of the predicaments the (LITERARILLY NON-EXISTANT) protagonist finds himself facing have to do with individual zombies; which, if you’re GOING to imbue the enemy with superhuman strength, stamina, and inability to feel pain, is really a missed opportunity. Every single attack was massive and epic in scale which made them feel impersonal and unwieldy. I understand this is a big budget, jumbo sized monster movie and that the zombie horde is at least concurrent with tradition, but these massive, high speed, tsunami like zombie attacks are just so over the top that there’s no real sense of vitality. Unlike the best of the genre, I never feel scared for a character or in danger myself. Also most of the stories in the book are ones of triumph and survival in the midst of the horde. In the movie however ALL safety is relative and temporary as every single safe zone and area is overrun in short order for ridiculous reasons; i.e. pee breaks and singing. It’s all just too much.
As you could have guessed with Damon Lindelof working on the script, there are a ton of plot issues that just don’t make sense. For starters they make the entire process of ‘reanimation’ from bitten to biting take exactly ten seconds. Ten seconds for the body to die, twitch, and return to the battlefield as a soulless rage monster. That seems a little unrealistic. And this isn’t a minor irksome annoyance it’s a MAJOR component of the plot. They use a literal, audible ten second countdown no less than five times throughout the movie to determine whether someone is infected or not. So, okay, it FEELS like a crappy plot device but what’s the harm?
Well their crappy plot device isn’t even consistent with other things that are said in the film. They called airplanes the ‘perfect delivery system’ for the virus. But how? If you go from infection to bath salts in ten seconds, how is that plane going to get ANYWHERE before everything goes to shit and it crashes like… I don’t know… THE EXACT AIRPLANE CRASH SCENE YOU INCLUDED IN THE DAMN MOVIE. Not to mention that there are two other scenes stating that people reanimated 5-10 minutes after death, after being very sick for a significant amount of time. So which is it? Or did we just get SUPER unlucky and happen across two types of zombieism at the same time? There’s your sequel.
I can’t really fault the movie for not being like the book seeing as it contained only a single scene from the entire 350 page text. The entire plotline, main cast of characters, and final resolution were entirely bespoke to the film. So my question is this: Why even call this World War Z? I’m serious. I understand branding but it’s not like the book was a household name you could hitch your wagon to. When the Jerusalem scene was the only piece of the entire story you kept, why bother co-opting a pre-existing property only to insanely dilute it? The book is an oral history a decade after the, itself decade long, zombie war. The entire plotline of the film from outbreak to (frankly bullshit) resolution can’t have lasted more than three weeks.
And that ending? Hey guys! Instead of (un)dying from one plague, lets just kill ourselves with THIS plague cause its waaaay better. Seriously? Dr. Who was there (at W.H.O.) and THAT’S the best you could come up with? This section stinks so heavily of Damon Lindelof I want to take it out back and shoot it. We need to hire some zombie physicians if they can diagnose terminal illnesses at a bloodthirsty full sprint. And what virus, disease, or parasite will not infect a sick host? None. Not one. That took me like four minutes on Google. Google is your friend Damon Lindelof. Your only friend.
I wanted to say it was a good movie, just not a good adaptation of the book. After all, zombie movies are generally awesome and crazy and Brad Pitt has bought every inch of his fame through fabulous work. I specifically removed my protracted yet heartfelt love letter to the book to focus on just the film I had, not the film I wanted. But I just can’t do it. There just is too much wrong, too little right, and not enough all around to justify the time and money spent on this movie. It’s reckless treatment of such a valuable and frankly important collection of stories falls for the very clichés the book sought to rise above. It’s tarnished the brand of World War Z so deeply that every time I want to recommend the truly astonishing work that Max Brooks gave us, I have to spend most of the conversation explaining just how little it had to do with this movie.
But those of us that know, those of us that have taken the time to invest in those characters, we move on. Because, really, those characters are us. The weak and the cruel and the strong and the brave are all parts of us. Messages like that can’t be taken down by cheap attempts at commercialism. These characters rebuilt their world from the rubble, and we can to. This is not the end of the World War Z story. Not even close. Not even if I have to do it myself.
The thing I love about WWZ is that it breaks away from the whole “everything happens in America” cliche SO many Hollywood movies or novels fall into. It’s more interesting because it considers how the bigger ramifications for global politics and relations. And it made everything seem a bit scarier and real for me, because I’m not American- the global leapfrogging from China, India. South Africa etc was really interesting. (The part that freaked me out the most was North Korea…)
and add in APH like maybe the countries who have been the most badly overrun such that the majority of their population has turned could be becoming progressively weaker or somewhat insane (if their citizen’s minds are still somehow, locked inside).
orrrr the countries band together and end up being employed by their bosses as the most effective zombie killers because they can’t die (because they’re not really human) so they can get bitten loads of time without turning. I imagine America might do this, and his government tries to figure out how to cook up a plausible story.
I try not to be angry, bitter at the unfairness of it all. I wish I could make sense of it. I once met an ex-Iranian pilot who was traveling through Canada looking for a place to settle down. He said that Americans are the only people he’s ever met who just can’t accept that bad things can happen to good people. Maybe he’s right.
Sharon could be considered beautiful by almost any standard – with long red hair, sparkling green eyes, and the body of a dancer or a prewar supermodel. She also has the mind of a four year old child.
We are at the Rothman Rehabilitation Home for Feral Children. Doctor Roberta Kelner, Sharon’s caseworker, describes her condition as ‘lucky’. “At least she has language skills, a cohesive thought process,” she explains, “It’s rudimentary, but at least it’s fully functional.”