Paramount’s World War Z adaptation teetered on the verge of collapsing two years ago due to a lack of proper funding, but the project managed to recover and begin production just a few months later. That was before controversy erupted over its departures from Max Brooks’ source material, premature plans for a WWZ trilogy, release date delays, an unusually extensive amount of reshoots, and reports of multiple screenwriters being recruited to revise the film’s final act.
Needless to say, there’s an air of skepticism amongst those who’ve been following progress on World War Z (as far as the final film goes). The trailer premieres this Thursday but, for the time being, we can offer a trailer preview – yes, it’s time for another one of those – that offers a first look at Pitt’s race around the globe to prevent the zombpocalypse in the movie.
Anyone who’s either read or is familiar with the structure of Brooks’ World War Z novel (which is composed of oral interviews with survivors of the zombpocalypse) has long-known that a film adaptation is a tricky proposition. The source material lends itself to a pseudo-documentary format, where interviews conducted in the present serve to provide the narrative framework and are intercut with flashbacks to the global zombie pandemic – similar to the structure of District 9, to use a movie example.
However, the WWZ book is also far more massive in scope than Neil Blomkmap’s allegorical sci-fi film, and technically doesn’t even have a protagonist (outside of the U.N. worker conducting the interviews). We’ve heard that an early script draft penned by J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Changeling) was overall faithful to the original novel design, but thereafter it was heavily-revised by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom, Lion for Lambs) – resulting in a version that better fits Paramount’s criteria for a ‘proper’ blockbuster with a nine-digit budget.
The result of those efforts (as suggested by trailer footage) is a more conventional Hollywood thriller where Pitt plays an ordinary man attempting to save the world; with additional motivation coming from his desire to reunite with his family and wife (The Killing‘s Mireille Enos). Moreover, it appears the traditional lumbering undead featured in Brooks’ novel have been replaced with fast-moving zombies, in the vein of those from Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake.
Bear in mind, although Paramount and director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Machine Gun Preacher) are not taking as ambitious an approach as we and many others might’ve preferred, that doesn’t mean the film is without merit on its own terms. The central metaphor of Brooks’ story remains mostly intact (though, it appears to be secondary to Pitt’s heroics now) and the blending of a gritty global disaster film with socio-political overtones and zombie tropes sets WWZ apart from the plethora of other takes on the zombpocalypse sub-genre (Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, etc.). Lastly, Forster and his director of photography Robert Richardson (Kill Bill, The Aviator, Hugo) seem to have conjured up some unique zombie imagery, such as the stacks of rotting undead attempting to clammer up a massive city-guarding barrier.
UPDATE: Paramount has released an official teaser poster for World War Z:
CLICK FOR FULL VERSION
On the other hand, it won’t come as a surprise should World War Z end up drawing the sort of tepid responses that Forster’s previous forays into action genre territory have generated (given what we know about the tumultuous production). There is strong talent working on both sides of the camera, which should help to elevate the proceedings – but will that be enough to ensure WWZ avoids becoming another costly venture where a problematic filming process prevents the promising source material from achieving its full cinematic potential?
We will find out when World War Z invades theaters on June 21st, 2013.