In 2006 Max Brooks’ novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War hit bookshelves across North America. As a sequel to his previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide, it was guaranteed to acquire cult status, with zombie-lovers all over the world treating its predecessor as a bible for the imminent undead apocalypse. Fans were thrilled when it was announced just the following year that the rights to the film adaptation had been bought by Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt’s film production company.¹
Although the film struggled early on financially2, filming finally went underway this summer. It wasn’t until just three days ago, however, that Paramount released their official synopsis for the film, which goes as follows:3
“The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.”
Cue instant uproar from the entire internet.
To be fair, film adaptations of books have often changed substantial plot points to the benefit of the film’s reception, et cetera. Stuart Little was a hit with children because it didn’t feature what is essentially a mouse who acts like a little man who was born of a human womb. Teenagers enjoyed A Walk to Remember because it was set in the 90s and not in the mid-1950s.4 World War Z, however, is not a novel that required such significant changes.
In reference to the latter part of the title, An Oral History of the Zombie War, the novel consists of a number of interviews conducted just ten years after the last country was officially deemed victorious over the undead hordes. What makes the scope of the novel so grand is who is being interviewed.
Beginning with Chinese doctor Kwang Jingshu and the minor outbreak in New Dachang and reaching as far as Xolelwa Azania of South Africa, reading through World War Z is a global experience. Tying the novel together are several interviews with Todd Wainio, a former U.S. Army infantryman who had taken part in the greatest military defeat of the Zombie Wars.
Pitt’s adaptation with himself as a modern-day Cassandra5 is not the story that needs to be told. By omitting the latter part of the title the film will ultimately fail to capture what made the novel stand out among the rest: an almost uncomfortable sense of peace after a decade at war and one man questioning why exactly it all happened.
The film will be watched by many because even those who haven’t read the book have heard the title World War Z. They were probably raved to about the novel and how it captured the horrors of a zombie pandemic in a way that was both realistic and emotional. It’s too bad that they won’t realize the film is just another fast-paced action thriller with a bit of zombie thrown in until they’re sitting in their seats.
1. Plan B Entertainment was originally founded by Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and some other dude. Which had to have been awkward, especially for the other guy.
2. It’s hard to believe the amount of fun these newswriters must be having coming up with these titles. Source: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/03/world_war_z_brad_pitt.html
3. From the reliably titled site, Movies.com: http://www.movies.com/movie-news/world-war-z-movie/3869
4. As well as significant deviations from the plot as well as Shane West as a rebellious badboy, etc etc.
5. King Priam’s daughter, soothsayer of Troy. Warned her countrymen the danger that was the Trojan Horse, to no avail. Just in case you were wondering.