As you may have noticed from the outraged wails of zombiephiles the world over, this week the first movie trailer for “World War Z,” Brad Pitt‘s film adaptation of Max Brooks‘s bestselling zombie novel of the same name, debuted on Entertainment Tonight. The trailer was met with excitement by some, but utter dismay (and creative epithets) by many fans of Brooks’s defining work of zombie fiction.
It’s a perfectly acceptable action movie trailer as far as action movie trailers go. There are things like ‘SPLOSIONS and PEOPLE RUNNING and DRAMATIC MUSIC and of course BRAD PITT AS BRAD PITT LOOKING EARNEST.
It’s just that the trailer bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to “World War Z.”
I shall therefore refer to it as “The Movie Inexplicably Known as ‘World War Z'” or “TMIKAWWZ” for the purposes of this article.
Max Brooks’s game-changing novel was a sweeping epic of global proportions. It was a game-changer that did amazing things with an experimental storytelling structure. Think “The Good War” meets “The Walking Dead” with a healthy dose of creativity, damn good writing and characterization, and genuine terror. That was “World War Z.” Each chapter focused on a different character through personal interviews. Thus it was not the story of one person, but of humankind, as each story contributed to the overall record of events of how humanity survived the apocalypse by working together.
Trust Hollywood to reduce a wholly inclusive story about the struggles of diverse people all over the globe to an action movie about a white American man saving the world.
I can just imagine how this conversation went down in the Paramount Pictures board room: “Zombies have been done. Now we’ve got ‘The Walking Dead’ and everyone recognizes the slow, moaning, gross, bloody zombie. We need to do something different. Something unique. Something no one’s ever seen before. I know! Let’s make them FAST ZOMBIES!”
And then when the intern piped up with “Actually, ’28 Days Later’ already happened and it was groundbreaking,” everyone told him “Hush! We’re onto something here. This is HOLLYWOOD.”
And thus “The Movie Inexplicably Known as ‘World War Z'” was born.
Now let’s be clear: “TMIKAWWZ” could actually turn out to be a pretty good zombie flick. It could be greatly entertaining and meaningful. I fully expect to enjoy it at least a little bit. But if the trailer is any indication then it is in no way, shape, or form even remotely adapted from “World War Z” the novel. Maybe you could say it is “inspired by” or “loosely based on” the ideas of Max Brooks. But judging from the trailer alone, it loses the inherent meaning and structure of “World War Z.”
We were warned this could happen. Amidst the news that the film was over-budget and in trouble with the law in Budapest, we learned that the script had been drastically changed from the original. Many fans (yours truly included) got that sinking feeling that always comes when Hollywood gets ahold of something you love and throttles the life and genius out of it. Now it appears we were right to worry.
To be fair, the trailer does have its moments. The first time I watched it, I got chills at the brief shots of the zombie horde flowing like water across the cityscape. That, I will admit, I have never seen before… partially because it did not appear in the pages of “World War Z.”
Perhaps strangest of all about this surprisingly unrelated-to-the-book movie trailer is that Max Brooks has yet to go on record saying he’s for or against it. Now, we’re not one to argue with the word of the master, so maybe this means that the trailer is completely misleading and that the film actually is much closer to Brooks’s original version than we have been led to believe. Maybe. We hope.
So there you have it. Our first look at the over-budget, over-scheduled, and over-hyped “The Movie Inexplicably Known as ‘World War Z.'” Come hell or legions of computer-generated, frighteningly ambulatory corpses, it’ll be coming to a theater near you next summer.
Stay informed, stay alive: “World War Z” comes out on June 21st, 2013 from Plan B and Paramount Pictures. It is directed by Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) and stars Brad Pitt and about fifty bajillion CGI zombies. Check out the original novel, “World War Z” by Max Brooks at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on 16th Street in downtown Denver.