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World War Z: The Controversy Continues

World War ZLet me start by saying this isn’t necessarily a review of the movie, or the book…more like a rant. The movie, World War Z, is nothing like the book by Brooks. Some people have told me, “It had some of the same elements…,” but I’ve watched the movie recently, and I think it’s bullshit for anyone to believe that the movie had anything to do with the book, other than using the title to lure in zombie fans – which wasn’t necessary, but I will get to that later.

First, let me tell you all the things that are wrong with the movie. One: since Plan B Entertainment secured the film rights to the book, it means we will never get to see the movie that should have been made. Two: if you are one of those slackers that “watches the movie, instead of reading the book,” you have seriously fucked yourself out of an excellent piece of zombie literature. It’s not simply that World War Z is a collection of personal accounts of a zombie apocalypse, as well as reflections on the rebuilding efforts years later (not to mention the completely awesome structure of the book overall), but if you replaced the zombie detail with some other kind of epidemic, you would still have a fantastic book about humanity at its best and worst. Last, but not least: they could have easily made the book into a movie, using flashback techniques as they do in so many other movies. (By the way, there is a sequel to the movie in production – seriously, Paramount made an announcement about it.)

World War ZDo yourselves a favor: if you haven’t read the book yet, go buy it NOW. Buy the ORIGINAL book, NOT that shitty movie tie-in crap version. Then you will understand why so many zombiephiles are flipping out across the globe over the dissimilarities between the movie and the book. Do not read this book expecting it to be like the Zombie Survival Guide, or any other zombie novel – World War Z is written like a historical account documenting the human factor in a global war against the undead.

NOW…let’s get back to the movie itself. If you watch the movie, simply because it’s a zombie film, then you will not be disappointed. It’s a great zombie movie…it could have easily stood on its own, without using the title from Max Brooks’ book. I’m not going to launch into a review of the movie, but it was definitely engaging. And that should be the sole goal of any movie or book: entertaining the audience.

Whether you see the movie first, or read the book first, I recommend that you do both…just don’t expect them to have anything in common, other than a well-known title.


  1. Let’s face it… Max Brooks wrote an essential book to the Zombie Survival genre, but a direct movie translation of his book would have bombed. I think Brad Pitt and the producers of the movie are geniuses for giving us the backstory of the book before dropping us at the end of Zombie apocalypse and just doing flashbacks. That formula would have been a catastrophe and we wouldn’t be getting a sequel, which btw will most likely take place where the book opens with Gerry Lane, instead of Max Brooks, being sent across the globe to investigate how over half the population of the earth died and reanimated as *PG-13* eating Zombies. The sequel will most likely serve up a healthy portion of flashbacks as we sampled in the opener (there were several), but will break into another zombie outbreak in the 2nd half of the sequel which will then produce a seed for the completion of the ultimate zombie epic trilogy. Genius Brad!

  2. I can see your point about the flashbacks, particularly “dropping us at the end,” but my main issue is that many people will be expecting it to be like the book, and it simply isn’t.

    I did enjoy the movie, strictly as a zombie film — not a book adaptation. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I haven’t been that entertained by a zombie movie in years. I also like your idea for the sequel, but Hollywood just doesn’t seem to “get” the zombie genre the way the zombie-lit community does.

    Then again, I’m probably biased, naturally preferring books over films. ;)

    (thank you so much for your comment, btw)

  3. I have to agree that the movie, although it had its strong points, had nothing to do with either Max Brooks book. Yes, there were nods to the book all over the place (Brad preferring a crowbar but really having to work to get it disembedded from a zombie head; the Israeli soldier woman’s haircut; etc.), but Max’s book is sui generis — there is nothing out there to compare it to. It is its own thing. The movie was something else entirely.

    Let’s say that you were going to make a movie out of WWZ that respected the source material — but not as far as plot was concerned, totally new plot showing the scenes of panic and carnage that were referred to in the oral histories, okay? What would you have? You would have slow Romero zombies, obviously, ones that had to be hit/shot in the head to drop. You would have deep social commentary on “closed” societies and also U.S. interventionism. You would have a logical and dread-inducing discussion throughout the movie about the Solanum virus. You would, I daresay, have people afraid in an existential way about being in danger of becoming zombies themselves. You would have survival techniques that worked in some locations and army tactics that didn’t at Yonkers.

    For God’s sake, you would have the movie guy make his propaganda film to re-moralize the world. You would have zombies frozen near the poles and you would have zombies walking on the ocean floor and scampering outside the hulls of submarines. NONE of this was in the movie and all of it was unforgettable in the book.

    It is true that you couldn’t do a straight adaptation without it becoming Ken Burns Presents the Zombie War, and that would be box office disaster. (Although I’d love it, but whatevs.) So turn it into a movie with a three-act structure that plays by Hollywood rules — those rules work! But the movie of WWZ reminds me of when a couple from Hamburg, Germany tries a McDonald’s hamburger in the book Blue Highways. The man takes a bite, looks at his wife and then back at William Least-Heat Moon and says, “This is not hamburger. This is joke.”

    This is not World War Z. This is joke.

  4. For those of you who don’t know, Sean Hoade is the author of Dead Man’s Hand or Reviva Las Vegas, which can be found in this anthology:

    Hoade’s short story is about a man travelling throughout the post-apocalypse, playing poker for his survival and the entertainment of others. It was a refreshing change of pace for the zombie genre, instead of the usual survival trek to safety. It is definitely one of the top stories in the anthology.

  5. Kephra

    I think that WWZ is too complex for a feature film, instead i think it would be better to do the “Game of Thrones” approach where you make a mini series out of it. This would lend itself better to jumping from all the different stories. The movie wasn’t bad, but it probably could have been released with a different title and done fine.

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