[WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR WORLD WAR Z SPOILERS!!!]
For the past year, Paramount's World War Z seemed like a real-life disaster in the making, between un-encouraging departures from the source novel and the six month release day delay to allow for a complete overhaul of the third act (courtesy of co-writers Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard). As a result, the final movie is a passable thriller but - to quote Screen Rant's Ben Kendrick in his World War Z review - "a disjointed narrative experience that presents absorbing information up front and then slides into thoughtless blockbuster fare."
Nonetheless, the global apocalypse blockbuster has managed to open worldwide with a $112 million gross (that includes $66 million in the U.S.), thanks in part to star Brad Pitt's unrelenting commitment to selling audiences on the PG-13 zombie-thriller. Hence, Paramount will begin development on a sequel to its $190 million investment, as studio vice chairman Rob Moore confirmed to THR.
World War Z was originally envisioned as the beginning of a movie trilogy, and the finished version still leaves the door open for additional installments (ending with Pitt's warning, via voice-over, that the titular war "has just begun"). The film's original third act involved a massive zombie battle in Moscow during the winter, which lies in stark contrast to the to the final cut's low-key climax - set in a World Health Organization building that has been partly overtaken by zombies.
Interestingly, the original third act began on a calmer note, and did not include the plane crash sequence - a major selling point in the World War Z marketing - that leaves protagonist Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his newly-acquired "sidekick" Segen (Daniella Kertesz) badly-injured and stranded a ways from civilization.
Things took a darker and far less hopeful turn for our heroes, though, according to Movies.com in the site's breakdown of the film's original conclusion:
The plane Gerry and Segen board is bound for Moscow. Upon safely landing, everyone on board is rounded up by the military. The elderly and the sick are executed and the healthy people, including a very shaken Gerry, are immediately drafted into armed service, though not before one particularly nasty Russian soldier takes Gerry's cell phone. The story then jumps forward an unknown amount of time and we catch up with Gerry, who now has a full beard and has been a part of Russia's zombie-clearing squad at least long enough for it to have changed to winter.
From there, Gerry eventually realizes that the zombies cannot handle Moscow's cold weather - after he notices how much slower they move in comparison to the swarming hordes he encountered in Jerusalem - and this proves to be the key to gaining the upper hand in the battle. Soon thereafter, Gerry recovers his cell phone and attempts to reach his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos).
Gerry reaches Karin. He explains to her that the cold is the way they'll win battles, which does her no good because it just so happens she and the kids are in a refugee camp in the sweltering heat of the Everglades. They're in the type of camp where you have to have something to trade to survive, and it just so happens the one thing Karin had to trade was herself. She doesn't explicitly tell Gerry this, but after she hastily hangs up the phone we see that she's in some kind of reluctantly consensual relationship with the soldier who rescued them from the rooftop at the beginning of the movie.
Those who were paying close-attention during that rooftop rescue sequence (in the final cut), may recall that the nameless "Parajumper" in question was played by Lost alum Matthew Fox. So, if you saw the movie - and were left scratching your head about why the recognizable actor had been cast for what amounts to a single shot cameo - well, now you have your answer.
Lastly, World War Z was (at one point) supposed to wrap things up with Gerry, Segen and Simon - an English-speaking companion the two acquired in Moscow - trekking across Russia and making their way towards the U.S. shoreline, in a last-ditch effort to rescue Gerry's wife and daughters:
Fox' parajumper soldier then calls Gerry back and explains to him that he should just stay wherever he is and start a new life like he and Karin have. Gerry refuses to accept this, though, and he embarks on a rage mission to get back to his wife and daughters. Trouble is the nearest port that won't be frozen is thousands of miles away, so there's a montage of Gerry, Simon and Segen crossing various terrain until they ultimately end up on a boat. They're now off of the Oregon Coast and they attack the American shore like it's D-Day. And that's how the movie ends. Not with Gerry having discovered a cure, but with him storming across the United States of America to get Karin back.
It's possible that only certain portions of this extremely open-ended - and, tonally, far more bleak - original third act were actually shot by World War Z director Marc Forster. Regardless, whatever material did make the jump from script to movie form was messy enough to convince the people working on the project to recruit a couple of high-profile screenwriters to help salvage the whole thing.
There's an argument to be made that the originally-planned direction would have allowed the film to paint a harsher and, in some ways, perhaps a more brutally-realistic portrayal of how social order breaks down during the zombie apocalypse - by showing the terrible effect it has on regular people like Gerry and his family. Still, it's difficult to imagine that Paramount executives would've actually signed off on this ending (for a $200 million summer popcorn flick no less).
Which World War Z ending do you prefer - the original or the final version? Are you interested in seeing a sequel? Let us know in the comments section.
World War Z is now playing in theaters.