One of my favorite things about the book World War Z is the way the story is told. Instead of a singular, straightforward narrative, the story is told through a collection of interviews from various people who witnessed different stages of the zombie war. The movie World War Z does not share this creative narrative. Instead, it follows a singular, straightforward (boring) narrative of (boring) Brad Pitt as he tries to survive in a world where fast running zombies do parkour for two hours. However, I am still excited for the movie.
Mild SPOILERS herein!
If the trailer is to be believed, it’s a Hollywood movie in every sense of the word; all action, with little meaning or symbolism behind it. Not only that, but it doesn’t even share any of the same characters, or events that were in the book, beginning with a Chinese doctor who first discovered an odd disease that had unsettling effects on its victims, all the way to the end, where (SPOILER) a former U.S. vice president recalls trying to put the pieces of the nation back together after the Zombie War. This is more than a shame; it’s a tragedy (as you can tell, I take my zombies seriously).
However, I think that with some even-keeled thinking, together we can come to terms with this and embrace the film for what it is.
But, before we do that, I would like to focus on a certain event that takes place in the book, the Battle of Yonkers. I wish to do this in order to illustrate exactly what moviegoers have lost in the Hollywood translation, before we can celebrate what they have to look forward to. This is an important part of the healing process.
The Battle of Yonkers takes place about a year after the first zombie outbreak. Up until that point, people were trying their best to ignore it. But over time things slowly came to a boil, and the issue became too large to ignore, and people began to panic. In order to maintain the peace and remove the hysteria sweeping the country, the US launches a huge assault on the zombie hordes in the suburb of New York City known as Yonkers. This was suppose to be the defining moment in the Zombie War where humans proved their dominance over the undead. But instead, the battle was a defining moment of human hubris and one of the greatest military defeats of all time.
Why did it go wrong? Because the government underestimated the tenacity of the slow moving monsters. They figured that bombs from the sky would take them out, but they didn’t. They figured that the soldiers on the ground would keep their cool and execute the enemy with extreme prejudice. But they didn’t. How could they? There were a million ghouls heading towards them, and giant exploding missiles weren’t stopping them. What else was there to do but panic? So, they panicked, and the whole world panicked with them as they watched the horrifying debacle unfold on their television sets. And that’s when the structure of society began to fall. That’s when the Great Panic swept across the land and people began to destroy each other in an attempt to save themselves.
This claustrophobic vision is an example of what we have lost in Hollywood’s translation. There will be no build up of events, no gradual realization of fear followed by a sudden confirmation of doom, and no subtle message about the consequence of willful ignorance. No, instead, Brad Pitt will wake up one day, eat breakfast with the fam, and then run away from Olympic sprinters with bloody faces who will apparently take over the world in 90 days unless Benjamin Button stops them.
Yes, I know, that’s very disappointing to those of us who loved the book. But like I said before, there is reason to be excited. And the reason is this: as mad as that trailer makes me—and it does infuriate me—I also have to admit that it also looks pretty freakin’ sweet. The trailer makes the 13-year-old boy inside me hot blooded for some crazy zombie onslaughts. That 13-year-old boy wants to see the rest of the undead rampages that they tease us with in the preview.
Look, I’ve watched enough trailers to sense if a movie is going to be quality or not. And every time I watch the trailer, I become more assured that this will be a quality film. It won’t be World War Z, but it will be a fun time. And isn’t that, after all, ultimately what we’re after in the end?
PS: I still think it should have been made into an HBO mini-series.
What book do you think was ruined by being made into a movie?