‘World War Z’ Movie Debate: Too Different From the Book?

Published 4 years ago by

World War Z Movie Book Differences World War Z Movie Debate: Too Different From the Book?

Paramount’s World War Z has been gaining notoriety lately, ever since set pics of star Brad Pitt started hitting the Net. The adaptation of author Max Brooks’ ‘oral history of the zombie war’ has always had a question mark hovering over it, since the format of book involved a U.N. employee interviewing survivors of the zompocalypse about their experiences.

That’s a tricky narrative format to translate to film. Director Marc Forster could’ve snagged some great dramatic actors for a movie made in the style of a faux documentary; however, a lot of people figured that the World War Z film would go the route of, say, Interview With a Vampire (also starring Pitt), with U.N. worker Gerry Lane’s (Pitt) survivor interviews being the frame for flashbacks to grisly zombie war action. When fans learned the movie was leaning toward a PG-13 rating, they figured the aforementioned format would still work, only with less grisly zombie war action.

It now appears as though the World War Z movie will be a far departure from Brooks’ novel.

We cited the Paramount press release for our earlier report on World War Z‘s release date, but it was other sites like /Film and Movies.com that first picked up on the bombshell packed in the film synopsis that came with Paramount’s announcement:

“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.”

Clearly this is a massive change to the story. Brooks’ book explored – among other things – how the world would or wouldn’t be able to cope with a massive disaster like a zombie apocalypse. The sci-fi/horror premise was a great allegorical frame for a lot of relevant political, social and moral questions. This movie is basically your tried-and-true (and often failed) race-against-time action/thriller. You probably wouldn’t even bat an eye if were to lie and say that Roland Emmerich was directing.

This “tweaking” of the story is also a massive change to the character of Pitt’s U.N. employee, who in the book is a man trying to research the global catastrophe to try and gain some perspective on it and what it has done to humanity. In this movie, he’s basically the reluctant hero who must overcome insurmountable odds to save the world (and just maybe… the woman he loves).

Look… This stuff happens all the time in Hollywood. Books, old films, foreign films, comic books, board games, toys – even websites – all have their likeness funneled through the Tinseltown machine before a lot of them get spit out the other end as flat sheets of cinematic bologna. Why pretend to be surprised that it’s happening to this book?

The only question is: Are you still interested in this project? Or is it straying too far from its roots to be worthy of your ticket money?

Fans of the book: is there a particular scene or moment you worry will be missing from the movie?

World War Z will be in theaters on December 21st, 2012.

Source: Paramount

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. PG-13? Yeeeeeaaaaaah. Count me out Hollywood. I’ll just hang tight until season 4 of the Walking Dead. But thanks for a bunch of nothing! :D

  2. Massive production delays? Completely divergent from the source material, save some scant details? PG-13 you say? The kiss of death says I.

    I stopped caring about zombie movies the moment I understood why I liked ‘The Walking Dead’ so much: TWD gives us time to actually care who dies, AND it features all the sorts of genre related stuff that we find in the movies.

    I don’t care for newer zombie movies, say post 2004, but I was willing to give this one a chance based on my enjoyment of the novel. Now, after the years of b/s on this project, and my own experiences with troubled productions and the products they produce…. No. I will NOT be buying a ticket.


    • Just wondering, I really do like recent zombie movies that give a twist to the usual deal, Shaun of the Dead was great and Zombieland wasn’t bad.

  3. I personally think that World War Z if it is to remain faithful to the source material should be made into a TV mini-series. It is just not possible to cram the contents and events of the book in maybe 2 hours movie time. What I would be missing though is the Battle of Yonkers and the story with the downed fighter pilot that got lost in the woods.

    • I COMPLETELY agree. I’ve always thought it would only work if the episodic nature of the book was kept.

      • I’ve always thought this book should be made into a mini series. Too man great stories to try and cram into a feature film. Too bad they strayed so far from the novel, as it’s one of my favorites!

        As far as what story ill miss from the book, that would have to be The red headed girl, Sharon, who survived as a child. Such a chilling story.

      • I’ve always thought this book should be made into a mini series. Too many great stories to try and cram into a feature film. Too bad they strayed so far from the novel, as it’s one of my favorites!

        As far as what story ill miss from the book, that would have to be The red headed girl, Sharon, who survived as a child. Such a chilling story.

  4. I hope it is different, I couldn’t finish the book. It was really that bad

    • I really couldn’t finish the book either…it was horrible! there was no real story line, no build up or drama, and really not that much action. It just goes into all this political BS about what would happen in a zombie war…Like i read books to hear more about politics. Give me a break.

  5. I hope it is different, I couldn’t finish the book. It was really that bad.

    • Please. You’re the first person I’ve heard say this about the book. You’re either a troll or a plant.

  6. I hope it is different, I couldn’t finish the book. It was really that bad. can’t see Brad Pitt doing a great job on any movie but it has to do better than that book

  7. I think fast zombies were a huge mistake. Part of the charm of the book for me was the slowly burgeoning but inevitable disaster. Nobody realized how serious the plague was until it was too late, and nobody really realized that it was causing people to turn into zombies until it was too late. I knew the plot would be changed, but I’m sad it’s been white washed and lobotomized.

    • yes! i couldn’t believe it when i saw zombies flying all over the place in the movie preview. it would be hard enough to survive a zombie apocolypse, but to survive one where zombies can run 25 MPH and have super strength? what a joke…they have enough power already with their numbers.

  8. I found the book to be a wonderful read and saw how to make it into a great movie using the faux documentary format with each person relating their story in flash back from to the narrator. To include everything would have necessitated maybe a mini series or the idea could have been expanded to make a whole series (although the series would become stale quickly if every episode was just a new person telling bringing the auidence into their story). I wonder if after the success of The Walking Dead Mel Brooks has second guessed his decision to option the book to a movie and not a network?
    I’m sure the movie will miss the scene with the humans storming the compound of the ultra rich – the tired warrior in a bar lamenting that the world is becoming civilized again – cranking up the Iron Maiden (never agreed with the song choice but it was the writer’s call) to draw in the Zeds – the political suspense that could be made out of the South African policy decisions – the battle of Yonkers – the floating cities – deep sea Zeds – to name a few
    There was lots of great material in the book and I find it sad that b/c they made a movie where they threw out everything but the name that material will never be put on the screen – just a waste.

  9. Sorry
    to answer the question asked Yes I will end up seeing the movie but I’m not in any hurry to fork over for a ticket

  10. I absolutely love the book, and I immediately thought when watching the trailer ‘I may buy a ticket, but I highly doubt I will like this.’ I mean, the lack of adherence to the book was evident from the trailer, and the fabrication of Brad Pitt’s character pisses me off immensely. Aren’t there enough thrillery race against time movies out there? Can’t we have something unique like the book instead?

  11. I’ll probably see it, but I’m pretty irritated with the departure from the book. I agree with others on here who say it would have made a better mini-series.

  12. I’ve always thought this book should be made into a mini series. Too many great stories to try and cram into a feature film. Too bad they strayed so far from the novel, as it’s one of my favorites!

    As far as what story ill miss from the book, that would have to be The red headed girl, Sharon, who survived as a child. Such a chilling story.

  13. I’ve always thought this book should be made into a mini series. Too many great stories to try and cram into a feature film. Too bad they strayed so far from the novel, as it’s one of my favorites! As far as what story ill miss from the book, that would have to be The red headed girl, Sharon, who survived as a child. Such a chilling story.

  14. I agree that the best format for this would have been a TV miniseries. I was really disappointed to look at the cast credits on IMDB and see only Jurgen Warmbrunn represented of all the characters in the book. I will probably not bother seeing this in theatres. Scenes I’ll miss: the Chinese doctor who discovers Patient Zero; pilot Kristina Eliopolis’s helicopter crash and rescue; the battle of Yonkers; the American girl who fled with her parents to Canada and had to resort to cannibalism to survive after supplies ran out and the environment was depleted; the girl who is a recovering Quizling (human who started acting like a zombie).

    I highly recommend the audio book of World War Z–it has a great cast of different actors reading different characters, and while it doesn’t include all of the interviews from the book, it’s pretty satisfying. I love listening to it on long car trips.

    • The red head is a recovering “feral” not a quizling.

  15. This thread has been most cathartic and therapeutic for me. I first posted on this rant a couple months ago stating, like most of us, the degree of regret the film adaptation is taking relative to the original work. Like many of you, I think this amazing novel would be best treated like The Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones, two great examples of taking elaborate works of fiction and adapting them to the small screen with some notable deviations from the original works yet maintaining key elements of the storyline and original material. I still hold out hope something like this can happen (I’m talking to you HBO and Showtime). I can see Battle of Yonkers alone taking three episodes (one for the preparation, media hype, arrogance; one for the fight itself; and one for the aftermath). A book of this scope and magnitude could be stretched out for many seasons and do so without much if any redundancy to Walking Dead. There are like 17 vampire series. Clearly there is room for two zombie ones.

    Anyways, what’s done is done. The movie comes out tomorrow and I’m torn as to whether I will make an effort to see it. At first, when I saw the trailer, I was aghast…fast zombies?? What the Zed! Then I put myself in a devil’s advocate role. I know the zombies in the book are more the classical interpretation, but perhaps fast zombies can happen. If they are recently deceased and decomp has not taken effect, AND, the part of the brain still functioning is primal (fight or flight), no reason why some limited measure of fast muscle movement couldn’t take place. Plus, these entities would not be prone to the effects of lactic acid build up and fatigue that wears on us.

    Clearly I’ve given this too much thought. I suppose I’m trying to give the screenwriters/adapters the benefit of the doubt and actively seeking a way to embrace this film. I want to. I really do. Hopefully this film will serve as somewhat of the prequel to book since the book chronicles the zombie war in retrospect and we don’t actually get to see how the apocalypse unfolded from the perspective of Gerry Lane. Maybe the movie will be enough of a departure from the book but still be successful so that it will be a) entertaining despite the lack of homology to the written work, b) spawn sequels where more of the book can be incorporated in and/or c) enable TV rights to be given to a reputable company who has the vision and forthright to adapt this book faithfully and better leverage the potential it holds.

    That’s all I got. A plea for a better adaptation. A rationalization for fast zombies. A hope that the film serves as a potential companion to the book despite its artistic deviations. If you do see the movie, I hope it doesn’t suck. For me, I’m still on the fence.

  16. Telling stories of terror a great Web series maybe people should do their own adaption

  17. Well as I just came home from watching the movie, I will admit that yes it is very far away from the book… and I am a HUGE fan of the book. I loved and adored it… and I can honestly and completly tell you that… the movie was amazing.

    I think considering the way the book was written, that the way they did the movie was perfect.

    I do also agree that a tv-mini series of the book would be awesome too and if you did that to follow the book much more closely. But in the time it takes to do just one movie… they did it wonderfully.

  18. I will watch it tonight. I loved the book. It was perfectly written and just bone chilling. I don’t expect the movie to be nearly as good, but I think it can’t be just like the book in this particular format (film). Hopefully, the film could spin off some of the better ideas I’ve seen in this forum like a TV miniseries. Isn’t that what happened with Marvel’s Avengers?

    I’m no plant. I’m no troll. I’ll be honest with my opinion.

  19. Just saw the first showing today of this. Big fan of the book, and the movie certainly stands on its own. It didn’t suck, not as good as Dawn of the Dead remake, but above average for sure! enjoy!

  20. Saw the movie last night. I’m amazed that anyone claiming to love the book could say anything positive about the movie. I understand and was leery of the challenges of taking the format of the book and translating it into a film. There’s no way to bring all the interviews from the novel into the film, but to remove the spirit of the novel was the most devastating travesty of the film. The story was about adaptation and perseverance. There were so many good things in the novel: the island, the boy trapped in the apartment, the march East, and The Battle of Yonkers. How can you make the movie without the Battle of Yonkers?

    Horribly disappointing film. Zombies don’t run. I should’ve know from the trailers with “running” zombies that it was going to be too drastic a departure from the novel to be worthwhile.


  21. My friends went to see it and as I predicted, it sucked horrible. To all the fools in here that wrote that there was no way anyone could know the movie would suck based on an article and to give it a chance, all I can say is you need to form a line and kiss the collective as–s of all of us whom stated this movie would suck.

    To add more insult to injury, I am going to go see This Is The End, then I am going to sneak in and watch WWZ for free, just to stick it to the studio.

  22. The book was great because you quickly get invested in the characters telling their account of the take over. Zombie movies tend to have masses die on screen, but I feel the book breaks that down a little and lets your see that even though all these people are from different parts of the world and are very different in roles towards society they all have one thing in common. Living. Having to watch Brad on screen feels almost selfish in the aspect that the book is compeling because of these different accounts. Anyway I still have to go see it, but I feel more like its a chore for my curiosity then something to look forward to. My sadness for this movie only increases due to the fact that I read these books back in 2007 and have been waiting a long time for the movie.

  23. OK
    I just saw the movie. Was it good. Yes. But that’s it. It was just good. Not great. Not fantastic. I wouldn’t see it again on DVD. It’s def. a netflix flick at best.

    Why did the movie suck? During the film I kept thinking: ” Oh this is intense.” But then there were just moments that were so bad near the ending it just ruined the entire film.

    Pitt did a good job. I will say that.

    Now, I think the book would be better translated into anything except the film.

    I agree with about 7/10. Makes me want to reread the book.

  24. I just got out of theater a scant two hours ago.
    The movie has nothing to do with the book.
    The movie was also as boring as Hell.
    There’s some levels in the game Plants Vs Zombies that are ten times more exciting than the movie.

  25. Best Movie I have seen in a lot of years!!! Stuck to the book as best they could… Dog smelled the Zombie on the Plane, First of a Trilogy… Hoping that the Zombies get slower as time goes by, and it gets closer to the book there, but Man I was on the edge of my seat the whole Movie!

  26. I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed in a movie. What a piece of junk. Anyone could have written a better screenplay. Book is fantastic, Movie doesn’t even resemble it, except Brad Pitt’s character is named after the guy in the book, and there are zombies. Not the same zombies, but zombies. Oh, and theres an aircraft carrier.

  27. I’m just sad the badass, blind Japanese gardener who hunts zombies will probably not be in it. Best part of the book, no doubt.

    • Nothing you liked about the book will be in the movie, and there is very little to like about the movie. Can’t even enjoy the zombie parts, as they have superhuman strength and speed.

  28. I went with my dad to see it today, 6-22-13. During the middle of the movie, people were openly laughing at the zombies and the way they acted. I could hear people laugh out loud at the black biologist zombie in the closing scenes. To me, the movie was too long and as someone who didn’t read the book, it still made no sense.

    • I agree. I had people around me laughing at the zombies and other various parts of the movie. I too was laughing. It’s a shame that 180 million was wasted, which most of it went to pay for Brad Pitt’s salary.

      • I didn’t expect the movie to be like the book. It would take 4 days to do that. The book would make a great mini-series. I’m not going to lie when some in the audience laughed at the Zombies, I did too. Come on, it was hard not to. LOL

    • The movie was outstanding. The cast, the direction, and the suspense were all top notch. Obviously there were minor rewrites based in the original book’s storyline, but you expect that going in. You cannot cram the entire book into a 2 hour movie. Overall, you left the theater saying to yourself: “Damn, that was a good movie.” That’s all the satisfaction I needed.

      • ‘Minor rewrites’? Clearly you had not read the book.

  29. I didn’t read the book too much, but I listened to the abridged version through its audible book a lot. It was really good; I even uploaded to my phone so I can listen to all the stories over and over again. I think the two best stories was battle of the yonker and the bodyguard for that live TV show.

    I know the movie adaptation to the book is not going to be good because of how fast the spread was, solution of camouflage, a seemingly victory, and of course the sprint of the zombie. So that was somewhat of a led down.

    Oh, and game shark cheats that Gerry had on was amazing: hawk eyes awareness, invincibility, relocation to W.H.O., and crazy luck on picking the right pathogen vial.

    However the difference that the movie made it somewhat refreshing if you actually listened to all the stories again for about 20 times plus. It also brings out a really good idea: how come zombies don’t attack other zombies. Zombies are only attract to healthy people. So, if you’re a zombie–it is assumed that you’re not healthy. But then again, how is it possible for zombies (of this movie) to even gain that ability or receptor is questionabl

    • They didn’t win the ability,and the camuflage thing is totally imposible, the solanum virus (WWZ and Zombie Survival Guide Virus) is highly repelent and toxic.One of the first things described about the infection is the fact that the bite area is completely sterile, it draws away any other microorganism,the infection process takes several hours and infected don’t only bite and leave, they eat the human they attack.Zombies don’t attack other zombies because they don’t care about other zombies,it’s described that to zombies the others of their kind are as important as rocks, they just converge at one same place because of the howl they make when they detect a prey and even the howl is not intended to atract other zombies to a same prey, it’s just instictive.Also there’s the fact that in the book it’s described that most zombies are not wearing normal clothing but hospital clothing as most of the infected died and came back to life in the hospital.