Will WORLD WAR Z Film Be Faithful To The Book?

What a novel idea if Paramount and Brad Pitt's adaptation was...

I was surprisingly open minded when I heard that Max Brooks€™ fantastic 2006 post-apocalyptic zombie novel World War Z was to be made into a film- for any avid fan of a book the prospect of seeing it transferred to the silver screen is tantalising indeed. This initial excitement immediately gave way, of course, as the customary fears began to creep in: what if they stray too far from the novel? What if they butcher the character(s) that I so dearly love?! Truth be told even the news that a substantial slab of the piece would be filmed in my very own Glasgow, and that they were looking for locals to be extras (simultaneously fell off of my chair/ almost choked on my cereal when I read about that) did not quite alleviate my haunted dreams of World War Z becoming a generic zombie-flick. And then Paramount delivered their press release. Admittedly this little slither of disappointment cannot completely be taken as gospel when predicting how the film will end up, but if it is anything to go by, then fellow Brooks fans, I€™m afraid I fear the worst. First off let€™s take a look at some of the things which we know about the upcoming blockbuster movie. As far as opening lines go, the aforementioned press release does not make for pleasant reading for any World War Z faithful:
€œProduction is underway on the Brad Pitt starrer, with Marc Forster directing€.
To me Forster seems an odd choice; never has he dappled in the realm of horror before and if I€™m being honest he has completely failed to impress with either Quantum of Solace or the recent Machine Gun Preacher. But hey, I hope he proves me wrong. Moving on to Pitt, this is more worrying news altogether. Before I get a hail of abusive comments let me just say that I think he is a superb actor, and every bit deserving of his critical acclaim and Academy Award-nominee status. It is for that very reason that he is ill-suited to this role. World War Z is a documentary- the protagonist (if you can even call him that) is Brooks, and what you are reading is a UN commissioned factual account of the decade long Zombie Wars. There is no €œstar€, just a guy doing interviews- they could€™ve picked the studio janitor for goodness sake! Casting Pitt, therefore, begs the question of what exactly is his character, Gerry Lane, going to be doing in the film- as A.V. Club points out, you don€™t pay x millions of dollars to have one of the biggest names in Hollywood sat behind a desk jotting on a notebook for two hours. The synopsis delivered by Paramount corroborates this sharp deviation from the novel as it has Pitt €œ the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself€. No, no, no! It€™s not a race against time- the bleeding narrative takes place ten years after the end of the Zombie Wars. Look, I understand that a story must be manipulated and moulded somewhat so that it makes sense on screen but that€™s just turning the whole premise of the novel on its head for goodness sake. Moving on, there are other small details, such as Philadelphia being a principle setting for the movie despite never featuring in the book. These I can live with. However, one seemingly insubstantial finer point which troubles Simon Pegg and I alike is the direction in which Forster€™s zombies are going. His monsters aren€™t going to be the slow, shambolic shufflers which we know and love; but rather fast paced sprinters- picture the ghouls from I Am Legend doing their whole €˜Hussain Bolt€™ thing or the running dead from 28 Days Later. One of the many fan films from the set in Glasgow is my source. This may seem like a small point but you€™d be surprised how much emphasis Brooks€™ puts on the sluggishness of his more classic zombies as his interviewees recollect the hellishness of their steady shuffle of impending doom. Despite all these known departures from the original text, I feel that Forster still has a slither of an opportunity to please the die-hards, as long as he delivers on the thing which made Brooks€™ novel so loved- its uniqueness. As mentioned earlier, World War Z is more of a documentary than anything else and certainly isn€™t just another hack €˜n€™ slash zombie novel. Neither is it a typical post-apocalyptic survival story full of human-interest and sacrifice (although there are elements of that for sure). Brooks fictionally interviews a staggering variety of people differing from each other in almost every way, be it nationality, ethnicity, social class or occupation, he examines the zombie apocalypse from every angle imaginable. What this achieves is what makes the book special: an extraordinary story told in an ordinary, relatable way. Of course we are shown the endless sea of moaning, shuffling flesh eaters from the perspective of a soldier on the front line as you would expect, but not for any longer a time than through the eyes of a nerdy Japanese teenager who€™s too detached from reality to realise that his parents just don€™t come home one day. I could make endless comparisons like this, but trust me, Brooks has accounted for all walks of life in his narrative. To achieve this you would need an army of actors to play all the interviewees, and hours of screen time to cover the lot. This may explain why recently there have been strong hints at a World War Z trilogy from a LA Times interview, but in my opinion a TV mini-series would be better suited to deliver what the fans want. Moving back to my time on the set in Glasgow, one thing which was very obvious is that for better or worse, this movie is going to have some pretty awesome set pieces. Massive crowds of extras sprinting in a frenzy away from an invisible assailant while fully kitted-out US soldiers take up defensive positions; then huge crashes, from your run of the mill smashed up yellow cabs to a mammoth up turned bin lorry, there was something very €˜Michael Bay€™ about the whole affair. And I can safely say the very brief glimpse I got of the zombies in action definitely made up for barrage the generic €˜sounds-like-a-typical-Friday-night-in-Glasgow-to-me-haw-haw€™ jokes I was on the receiving end of. Going back to the book, however, do these on-set spoilers bode well for a film faithful to the text? Well the book certainly did have its epic set pieces too, the infamous Battle of Yonkers for example, where high tech artillery €œhit each and every single one of them, shredded their insides; organs and flesh were scattered all over€. In the novel, though, this awesome ultra-violence was never present just for the €˜wow factor€™, but rather to make one of Brooks€™ ever-present subtle points- in this case the futility and frivolity of modern day materialism as €œall the wonders of modern warfare flat on their high-tech hyper ass€. Furthermore, Brooks touches on just about every subject possible: from racism and inequality with the infamous Redeker Plan to faith (or lack of) and depression with the Government commissioned propaganda films produced in response to the worrying number of fatalities due to people €œjust giving up€. And although this may all sound a bit too €˜deep€™ and preachy, there was always a comical image or absurd idea around the corner to bring things back level again. So this is the problem which faces Forster: can he communicate Brooks€™ subtleties into the film? Or will it just become another epic Zombie flick, entertaining in its own right, but just not deserving of its title. If the latter is true, take solace, fellow fans, in the fact that we may never live to see the finished product- the scheduled release being the 21st December 2012€
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