Did World War Z manage to prove the naysayers wrong?
By Tyler Davies
Last month’s big summer release World War Z was one of those unfortunate movies which carried a swathe of negativity long before its release. The problems which the production team was facing had been widely publicised and so, consequently, the online film fraternity had labeled the ambitious film as a doomed project.
The doubts around the film first erupted when the news about the constant delays and the script’s reworking broke out. This doubt was further cemented when the copiously hated Damon Lindelof was roped in to revise the film’s final segment. At this point, every fresh development was being scrutinized and things were not looking bright for the innovative zombie-movie. It’s therefore not strenuous to comprehend why the film carried such a negative vibe before its release, but the question I will attempt to answer is whether this negativity proved to be baseless once the final product was unveiled.
Those of us who haven’t read the original novel which the movie was adapted from did not have a list of compliances for the movie, but obviously the novel’s fan base expected something true to its source material. Interestingly, one of the earlier scripts penned for this novel adaptation was indeed profoundly faithful. The author (Max Brooks) even went on record to state that he was amazed by its capability to be allegiant towards his work. Whilst this was insignificant for those unacquainted with the original – the ardent fans were filled with more than a glimmer of hope. Obviously now, having watched the movie, they are disappointed due to the significant altercations which had been made since that early draft. To be clear, the final product opted for something which was highly unfaithful and this obviously resulted in a disgruntled fanbase.
Despite all this though, I believe it to be the right decision from the makers’ part. Upon watching this in the cinema I knew it would be closer to a popcorn movie rather than a thought-provoking masterpiece, but I was content with that. The makers clearly had envisaged this to be a blockbuster zombie movie; one which the broader audience could relish watching and it succeeded as exactly that. I am admittedly a fan of the intense and gory nature of zombie features in the vein of Dawn of the Dead and The Walking Dead series, but it’s bracing to see such a disparate approach to the genre. One cannot fault their vision of doing something unconventional with this established genre as nobody had attempted to tell a zombie story on such a large scale before. Generally speaking, this grandeur worked too.
It’s, undoubtedly, the parts where the feature film strongly deviated from the novel where the blockbuster elements worked so successfully. Take the zombies for example – they were extremely different from how Brooks wrote them, but if they were indeed slow and mindless predators then it wouldn’t have worked within the grandiose scale of the movie. In this summer flick they were characterised as rapid, athletic and often shrewd (a horde of them using each other to climb over a protective wall serves as an example of this) which was significantly more in sync with the overall feel of the film.
Arguably, the theme of the whole novel is altered in the movie due to it being more of a post-apocalyptic epic rather than a political thriller set in a post-apocalyptic world. Sure, the movie bore shades of a political thriller, but this was only infrequently. The action remains dominant all throughout and, again, this was the right move. A zombie movie focusing on politics would not have attracted a profitable amount of people at the cinemas and could have proved to be a box office dud.
Now onto the heavily debated denouement which made the movie look bad even before it was unveiled to the audience. As stated earlier, this was due to the maligned Damon Lindelof being the penman. In all fairness to the Lost writer, it was unfair to prejudge his work. Though, yes, he did write the unfathomably disappointing ending to Lost, but his inclusion actually improved World War Z.
The ending was, for lack of a better word, surprising. Not the content of it, but the fact that it was so low-key. Throughout the whole movie there was an abundance of illustrious action set-pieces and the ending was therefore quite the revelation. The original finale which was planned would have been another bombardment of action, but thankfully we got Lindelof’s understated resolution. Without going into detail about the final act I’d just like to note that it featured the best zombie fight sequence of the movie. This is due to the more intimate nature of the fights which is often found within the genre. With those final thrilling bouts, World War Z felt accomplished as a rich and balanced zombie movie.
The hopeful final scene also made it well-rounded and it was a masterstroke by Lindelof. It just goes to show that one should never prejudge anything. But then again, what’s interesting to note is that World War Z might not have proven to be so successful among the causal viewers had it not been for the lowered expectations. So in conclusion, World War did prove some of the naysayers wrong, but fans of the source material were correct in their doubts. What the blockbuster flick did achieve, though, was to widen a beaten-to-death genre and make a most exquisite and thoughtful popcorn movie.