Thursday, June 20, 2013

"WORLD WAR Z": The Book vs. The Movie

June 20, 2013

The trailer for this film was very exciting as it was cryptic.  It did not show anything really about what the film was about, except for some big unknown event that was turning the city into sudden chaos one morning, wreaking havoc in the life of Brad Pitt and his family.  Then we see the whole world getting affected in a major way, as well.  The mystery, the scope and the title, made me look forward to catching the film when it opened.

When I found out that there was a book that inspired this film,  I sought it out to read it before I watched the movie.  I was very surprised to discover that the Z in this book's title, and I guess likewise the film's, means ZOMBIES!  The trailers (wisely, I thought) did NOT show zombies at all.  

The 2006 book by Max Brooks was a compilation of short man vs. zombie stories via interviews he had supposedly conducted all over the world from several eyewitnesses, an oral history of sorts.  The book goes into a lot of political, sociological and environmental issues as it tells its story from various points of view from various nationalities from various countries, like China, Greece, Brazil, Antarctica, Siberia, the USA (of course), and more.

More than 50% into the book, I did not read any scene at all that even remotely resembled the scenes shown in the trailer.  As I continued to read, I was thinking it would really be difficult to turn the book into a film as is, because of its various points of view, without one single unifying story line.  I was ready at that point to concede that this Brad Pitt film may have nothing to do with the book except for the main "fighting a worldwide zombie infestation" premise.  And I turned out to be right.


"World War Z", the film, is about Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former UN special operations agent and field investigator who had retired from that job to be with his family.  (This character Gerry Lane was NOT even in the book.)  We follow Gerry's adventures as it starts in his home town of Philadelphia, PA, as we saw in the trailer, when he gets his family to safety, and was then assigned to play a vital role in the zombie fight.  

The rest of the film brings Gerry to Korea, Israel, and Wales as he was able to observe and hypothesize a possible weakness in these zombies.  The latter third of the film happens in a WHO facility where Gerry was able to actually conduct the experiment he needed to prove his theory.  Can Gerry discover the key to turn the tide of the war to the human's favor or will the zombies continue to spread their plague?

The zombie scenes were NOT unnecessarily gory.  There were NO scenes of exploding heads or trailing guts or gushing body fluids commonly shown in other zombie films, even as they were very graphically described in the book.  While horror purists would call this lame, the way it was done in this film was not any less exciting, but instead makes this movie more accessible for more people to watch.  This could have been a spectacular gore fest, but obviously the filmmakers had a different vision in mind.

The scenes of the mass zombie attacks were very well-executed by the computer generated visual effects.  The Jerusalem scenes, especially those at the Wall, were especially disturbing and heart-racing.  The scenes on the Belarus Airlines jet plane were also exciting as they were unbelievable.  

The filmmakers try their best to give credible scientific approach to the problem, and I would give them props for that.  This is even if their plan of action was on the simplistic side, and shaky in the medical sense.  Opportunistic infections, anyone?  However, they did prepare us for that solution by the statement a character makes at the beginning of the mission.

Brad Pitt did well as the lead actor.  He was practically the only known name in the cast, and he dominates the screen with this star presence.  Yet, we can still empathize with his character Gerry and the difficult situations he got into, no matter how incredibly lucky or superhuman he may have become.  He had a "sort-of" commercial for a particular soft-drink brand towards the end, which was amusing, yet still well-integrated in the action of the scene.

Overall, I found this movie by Director Marc Foster, in itself, quite absorbing and intense, and ultimately quite entertaining and satisfying in terms of its action and story telling.  Maybe they should have just given the film a different title so expectations about it can be tempered.  It had almost nothing to do with the book anyway, which is why the book's fans are up in arms against it. Those who have not read the book at all will have no problems with this film.  7/10


  1. Interesting, Fred. Which do you prefer; the book or the film adaptation?

    I'm not much into zombies, but a good storytelling is good storytelling. And this one seems like an exciting adventure. The world-travelling has gotten me more interested.

    I have free passes to Eastwood, and if schedule permits, will definitely see this! Thanks for sharing!

    1. The movie had a cohesive story. The book had so many things going on, you get lost, or it can seem too repetitive after reading so many zombie stories. The two are totally different animals. Haha!