I recently re-read World War Z to see if it was as good as I remembered. I hadn’t read it for a few years and I got to thinking—maybe I’m over-selling it, maybe it’s not as good as I recall. So I re-read the book, and then I re-read JM Straczynski’s 2008 draft of the script, and no, I wasn’t over-selling it, and it was every bit as good as I remembered. Better, actually, because once you get past being grossed out at the BRAAAINNNSSS parts of the book, the nuance and detail of the socio-political collapse presented comes through. So yeah, the book is fantastic, Straczynski’s script was amazing, and despite rich source material and a prime cinematic target, the movie is missing by a mile. By, like, millions of miles.
But maybe I’m not the target audience anymore. WWZ has been reworked to the extent that the movie has essentially nothing to do with the book (alienating the audience of a massive best-seller seems like a weird decision, but whatever). That 2008 script wasn’t much like the book either, but Straczynski managed to translate the fear, the desperation, the utter destruction of life as we know it. So it was never going to be a particularly faithful translation. Maybe my challenge now is not rating WWZ as part of a canon, but taking it for what it is, independent of what it could have—should have—been. So let’s talk about the first trailer for a movie whose troubled production is going down in Hollywood history as one of the epic nightmare movies.
It’s a MESS. It starts with Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his family stuck in a traffic jam, and it escalates to a world-wide zombie apocalypse. This should be exciting, but it’s totally generic “one man saves the world” stuff. It’s zombies for the Transformers audience, except movies like Transformers—or as Lainey pointed out, Armageddon—get by on a sense of humor, or a kind of joy in watching which make them good popcorn flicks. But there’s no humor or joy in WWZ. The trailer’s messy merger of a thumping summer blockbuster soundtrack (which sounds an awful lot like the track from the Battleship trailer) conflicts with the dourer “man on a mission” plot points. They’ve dumbed it down to PG-13 and pushed it into summer 2013, hoping for a blockbuster, but too much of its original adult-drama DNA is showing.
Worse, nothing about WWZ looks special, or even particularly interesting. It looks like every other apocalypse movie you’ve ever seen. At the point where Pitt says, “They’re coming,” I laughed out loud. It’s CHEESY. But the biggest miss is that the zombies aren’t scary. They don’t look particularly gross (compare with how f*cking disgusting the zombies are on The Walking Dead), and the CGI zombies—which is most of them—are straight up garbage. There’s no detail rendering! Most of them don’t even appear to have faces. And they’re “fast zombies”. While I get the ant-like concept they’re going for—particularly the way the zombies spill over obstacles like buses and cars—I can’t help but feel that fast zombies are what happens when you know you need to make your monsters scarier but don’t really know how to accomplish it.
I will do my best to manage my disappointment—clearly this is not going to be the epic zombie thriller we hoped for—but between this and those Chanel ads, I’m starting to want to junk-punch Brad Pitt.