In the wake of recent news that director David Fincher remains interested in directing the sequel to World War Z, film fans are abuzz at the potential for new life being breathed into the troubled follow-up to the 2013 zombie blockbuster. Despite Paramount Pictures pulling World War Z 2 from its scheduled 2017 release date without setting a new date, eyes are now on whether Fincher will indeed take over the director’s chair of World War Z 2, which is once again set to star Brad Pitt.
In the original World War Z, which was based on the best-selling novel by Max Brooks, Pitt played a UN inspector striving to protect his family from a global zombie outbreak. The film was plagued by script problems troubles and required reshoots after test audiences reacted negatively to its third act. Director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) reportedly also clashed with Pitt during production and opted not to return to helm the sequel. Despite its difficult journey to the screen, World War Z, which arrived in the midst of a surge of popularity of the zombie horror genre spearheaded by the runaway popularity of The Walking Dead, was generally well-received by audiences, earning more than $540 million worldwide.
J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) was set to direct World War Z 2, but respectfully bowed out over concerns that he didn’t have enough prep time to meet the studio’s planned 2017 release date. World War Z 2 reportedly has a solid script penned by writer Dennis Kelly, who created the buzzed-about UK series Utopia. David Fincher (who, as a producer and director of the hit Netflix series House of Cards, is himself no stranger to television) worked on an American adaptation of Utopia with writer Gillian Flynn, who authored the book and the screenplay to Fincher’s hit film Gone Girl. The Utopia remake ended up getting cancelled, but Fincher is apparently keen on Kelly’s World War Z 2 script.
At this point, if the release date is no longer an issue, Paramount’s best bet to galvanize the World War Z franchise is to turn it over to David Fincher and let him loose on the zombies. If Fincher wants to do it, loves the script, and has a long, successful history with the movie’s star Brad Pitt, he is clearly the best choice to take us into World War Z 2.
Fincher is one of the most highly-regarded directors in Hollywood. He initially made a name for himself as a director of groundbreaking music videos for some of the biggest pop stars in the world like Madonna (Vogue) and the late George Michael (Freedom ’90). No stranger to troubled productions himself, Fincher’s first foray into feature filmmaking was also a sci-fi/horror sequel, Alien 3. The inexperienced Fincher clashed with the studio’s constant interference, resulting in a final product that underwhelmed both with audiences and at the box office. Since then, Fincher’s resume has been comprised of a series of darkly provocative and often brilliant films, including the serial killer tomes Se7en and Zodiac, and the cult-favorite Fight Club.
Fincher has been nominated for two Best Director Academy Awards for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. His most recent film was his 2014 adaptation of the Gillian Flynn best-seller Gone Girl, which was also his highest grossing film to date at $369-million worldwide. With over 100 nominations for various filmmaking awards worldwide and 59 wins, David Fincher has long been a favorite of critics and film enthusiasts alike. However, for all of his achievements and accolades, a tentpole blockbuster film is something David Fincher has not yet added to his impressive resume. Fincher is also not known for expressing interest in directing studio blockbusters, which makes his interest in World War Z 2 that much more compelling.
World War Z 2 would mark the fourth collaboration between Fincher and Pitt; they have previously worked together on Se7en, Fight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The duo together crawled upwards to a new respectability in their careers with Se7en, Fincher’s first feature film after the failure of Alien 3. Pitt, meanwhile, was struggling to be seen as more than a handsome eye candy hunk after appearing Legends of the Fall. The sordid, deeply disturbing tale of two detectives hunting a serial killer whose murders are reenactments of the seven deadly sins, Se7en was a breakthrough success for Fincher and Pitt. Joined by Edward Norton, Fincher and Pitt again teamed up for Fight Club – their stylish and blistering adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel that disappointed at the box office but has since become such a beloved cult classic that the author even admires the film above his own novel.
Fincher and Pitt’s greatest mainstream success together was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where Pitt starred as the titular character, who is born an old man and ages backwards. Benjamin Button received 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Director nods for Pitt and Fincher, before going on to win three Oscars for Makeup, Art Direction, and Visual Effects. Benjamin Button‘s $333-million worldwide gross was also Fincher’s greatest box office success up to that point, until Gone Girl eclipsed it.
Though World War Z 2 is a sequel based only upon the concepts introduced in the Max Brooks novel (the original itself widely diverged from the source material), Fincher has a successful track record of adapting printed works into feature films. Besides Gone Girl, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is based upon a 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Fincher’s The Social Network, with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), was based upon the Ben Mezrich expose of the founding of Facebook, The Accidental Billionaires. Fincher also helmed the American adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
Paramount is a studio with relatively few blockbuster tent-pole franchises, compared to Disney with its plethora of Marvel and Star Wars movies, or Warner Bros. with its burgeoning DC Comics-based shared universe. Michael Bay’s two most recent Transformers movies globally raked in a billion dollars each, while Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible remains highly successful, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films continue to be reliable hits. Beyond those, Paramount could stand to take a few calculated risks, and betting World War Z on David Fincher could reap a huge payoff. Fincher is even reportedly keen on delivering World War Z 2 at a lower budget than the original’s $190-million price tag. Though dealing with an auteur like Fincher, with his requisite ego, might cause the studio higher-ups some headaches, the rewards would be worth it.
With its ratings waning and the popularity of The Walking Dead on the decline, the zombie genre would greatly benefit from a jolt of Oscar-caliber respectability. This has happened before: Academy Award-nominated writer Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) overseeing the first season of The Walking Dead gave the show a powerful initial boost, especially among audiences who had no prior interest in the zombie-horror genre. Director Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later was a modest hit and performed respectably at the box office a few years before Boyle won the Oscar for directing Slumdog Millionaire.
With David Fincher, World War Z 2 benefits from a visionary stylist and acclaimed storyteller behind the camera, who is also known as an exacting perfectionist who demand dozens of takes until he achieves what he wants. (Rooney Mara famously told a story that Fincher made her and Jesse Eisenberg shoot 99 takes of the opening scene of The Social Network.) Also, as his first sequel since Alien 3, World War Z 2 would give Fincher the chance to finally correct that early blemish in his directing career and deliver a crowd-pleasing hit sequel. Imagine as well the possibility of Fincher’s frequent collaborators, Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross providing the soundtrack for World War Z 2! David Fincher has a masterful command of film, experience in working in the sci-fi/horror genres, and is among the very best at delivering powerful and unforgettable motion picture experiences. He is definitely the best man to direct this franchise. World War Z 2 would reanimate into an A-list movie franchise with David Fincher calling the shots.