World War Z trailer…forget about the book!

This morning, I watched the trailer for World War Z, the troubled movie adaptation of Max Brooks’ 2006 horror novel, starring (and co-produced by) Brad Pitt.

I read the novel a few months ago in preparation for the release of the film, which was originally slated for December of this year. The novel is structured as a series of interviews with survivors of a worldwide zombie epidemic, written by an agent of the United Nations and published 10 years after the end of the war. It is famous for weaving socio-political, cultural, religious and economic commentary into the narrative; the concomitant realism makes the story all the more chilling and believable.

If the book had to be filmed ‘as is’, then it would have featured a bunch of people talking into a camera, with perhaps some intercut footage of the events being described. This would have made it an interesting entry into the genre of ‘found footage’ films, could have been produced for as little as $10-15 mn and would have made a tidy profit at the box office.

Instead, the film makers have decided to convert it into a tentpole action film, looking like a mash-up of a Roland Emmerich disaster film and Will Smith’s I am Legend. Nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but I can’t understand why the producers bother calling the movie an adaptation of World War Z. They could have just gone out and made an original zombie apocalypse picture, because by the looks of the trailer, this film has very little to do with the book.

For starters, the zombies in the book follow the traditional behavioral traits of their ilk as popularized by George A. Romero in his seminal zombie films, i.e. they are slow moving, have no intelligence and reveal their presence by moaning. In the just released trailer on the other hand, one can see hordes of fast-moving zombies literally sweeping through the streets like a tsunami and attacking a fortified enclosure in an apparently coordinated attack. Besides that, the story is not about the lead character viewing the events of the apocalypse in retrospect through the memories of others, but instead has him smack in the middle of these events, as they unfold; and appears to have him play an active role in the government response to the pandemic.

No doubt, the trailer looks pretty impressive, featuring an audio signature very similar to that of the Prometheus trailer from earlier this year. I don’t think any of the social and political insights from the book would have survived, given the blockbuster ambitions of the filmmakers. Having said that, the trailer does look pretty impressive. The only bit of concern is that the director is Marc Forster, who made such a hash of the last Bond outing Quantum of Solace and given the delay of the film’s release from December this year, plus the rumors of logistical issues and cost over-runs, one wonders what the end product will look like.

All will be revealed in June 2013.

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