[WARNING: 'World War Z' Spoilers Ahead!]
Director Marc Forster and producer/star Brad Pitt’s globetrotting zombie outbreak thriller World War Z was released on June 21st, and despite the well-documented troubles with the film – including extensive re-shoots and bringing in three high profile screenwriters to write a new ending – the movie is getting pretty good reviews (check out SR’s review here) on top of a solid box office debut.
We’ve known for a while that the film’s original ending – an epic battle with the zombie horde in Russia – was scrapped and writers Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), Drew Goddard (co-writer and director of Cabin In The Woods) and Christopher McQuarrie (writer and director of Jack Reacher) were brought in to reshape the movie. Certain questions remained regarding who wrote what. Plus, Brad Pitt has indicated that sequels could be in the cards.Everyone involved with the film agreed from the beginning that it would depart from the 2006 novel by Max Brooks, which is episodic in nature as an unnamed narrator recounts the “oral history of the zombie war” from multiple viewpoints.
The first pass at the script was done by J. Michael Straczynski (the Superman: Earth One graphic novels). When his approach was rejected, the producers turned to Matthew Michael Carnahan, who re-worked it into more of an action-adventure, which attracted Pitt to star (Pitt’s Plan B studio had won the rights to the book in a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way).
By early 2012, things were apparently so tense between Brad Pitt and Marc Forster that the two had stopped speaking to one another. Damon Lindelof was brought in to view a rough cut and re-structure the ending. Lindelof brought in Drew Goddard, whom he had worked with on Lost.
According to a report from HuffPost Entertainment, the dividing line was the point when Brad Pitt’s character Gerry Lane boards a plane out of Jerusalem. Apparently, everything that happens inside the plane and everything that comes after was written by Lindelof and Goddard, with Christopher McQuarrie subsequently brought in to “sharpen” the new stuff.
Besides the ending, other scenes in the final film which did not exist prior to Lindelof and Goddard’s involvement include two near the beginning (you might want to skip this part if you haven’t seen the film):
‘World War Z’ opens with Lane and his wife, Karen (Mireille Enos), being awakened by their daughters, Rachel and Constance. The next scene finds the family in the kitchen eating breakfast as reports of the first ‘rabies’ (i.e., zombie) outbreak is announced on the television.
Two more scenes were added later:
In one, Lane, who is driving the family from Philadelphia to Newark, New Jersey, in a commandeered RV, has to pull over to treat Rachel’s asthma attack. In the other, Lane phones Karen during a plane ride from South Korea to Jerusalem.
Paramount has invested a hefty amount of time, money and resources into this project, and while the film has debuted at number 2 behind Monsters University, its first weekend is estimated at a healthy $60 million. So it’s not much of a surprise to hear early talks of a sequel – or even a trilogy. Indeed, this seems to have been the plan all along.
While attending a gala premiere for World War Z at the 35th Moscow International Film Festival, Brad Pitt seemed optimistic about the idea of continuing the story, telling The Hollywood Reporter:
“There’s enough to mine from the book. We could barely get a fraction of the book in. So we’ll see. We’ll see.”
Director Marc Forster did not directly address sequel possibilities, but did address the question of whether or not we would see Brad Pitt in any future installments, saying: ”Hopefully, but let’s see how things go.”
Now, Pitt’s statement about only including a “fraction” of the book is not an exaggeration. Besides the fact that the book takes place ten years after the zombie apocalypse has been quelled and is told from many different perspectives, the character Gerry Lane doesn’t appear at all and was added by Straczynski, one of the few holdovers in subsequent drafts of the script.
In theory, there is a huge variety of stories in this universe. One of the most arresting chapters in the book is how a famous filmmaker dealt with the crisis – he did so by making documentaries on how average people made a stand, then distributed them in any way possible to help morale.
That chapter alone could be a whole movie, and a way to do something innovative with the found-footage sub-genre. The chapter – and the book as a whole – contains stinging barbs directed at a soft and entitled North American population, who would be unprepared for a real life hostile invasion or a plague.
That’s a bit much for a straight-forward piece of popcorn entertainment, so unless the studio, producers and writers decide to take a chance and journey out of their safe zone, expect more of the same.
World War Z is now in theaters.