Brad Pitt’s butchering of World War Z

Warning, this blog is dedicated to true World War Z fans that have read the book.  If you have also read The Zombie Survival Guide then you have my added respect.

So, I am flipping through my daily news feed and what awaits me?  The official ‘World War Z’ trailer was released during this past week and I immediately flashed back to Comic Con 2012.  My wife and I were fortunate to get a few World War Z books signed by Max Brooks, himself.  After reading many rumors on various movie blog sites about Brad Pitt and the producer’s changes to the novel turned movie, I couldn’t help but ask Max the burning question that many fans of the novel would like to know.  I asked, “Max, I heard a lot of rumors about the movie not matching up to the book.  What are your thoughts?”  Max then replied that he hasn’t seen the movie or the previews so he couldn’t comment.  However, an anonymous member of his team then interjected that “it was Brad Pitt’s movie now” in a light-hearted manner.  Once I heard those words, my guts sank into a black hole.  So, it is true, I thought to myself.

Getting our books signed by Max Brooks at Comic Con 2012.

I had forgotten about that moment until a cold November day which brought a crashing affirmation to many World War Z fans’.  According to the trailer, Brad Pitt is the sole hero of the world that saves the world from an advance of zombie hordes that move faster than tigers hunting prey.  Not to mention, his family is toted along for the ride for reasons unknown.  Like I said, if you haven’t read the book then you will be nonetheless unchanged by the trailer and may even be excited to see the movie.  But this blog isn’t for those fortunate souls.

No, this blog is for those that have read both zombie novels from Max Brooks and are NOT looking forward to seeing this movie which, according to the trailer, shares nothing in common with the book except the title.  According to the book and many other hardcore zombie novels, zombies don’t run!  They crawl, drag their feet, or walk at their best.  Zombies lash out, at times, when they are close to their victims but they are not even close to Usain Bolt at their fastest speeds.

Secondly, the book details events through interviews conducted by a reporter funded by the United Nations.  The interviewer travels around the world in no rush because the zombie apocalypse has already happened, perhaps years ago.  Why the director and Brad Pitt felt it necessary to change the entire plot is beyond my understanding.  The only theory I have is because Max Brooks’ associate was right; Brad Pitt is using this movie as a means to play a hero role with no regard to the perfection of the book.  I personally would have had more respect for Brad Pitt if he were to have adhered to the structure of the book instead of changing it to compete with other cheesy films of our modern day.

Yet, there is one thing I am grateful for in regards to uncovering diseases, and those are the plagues of directors and A-list actors using awesome books to make sub-par movies aimed at making the actor look awesome.  One recent example of this is the short novel I Am Legend by author Richard Matheson.  Although this book was written in 1954, it was great at detailing how breathing, speaking, and fully coherent vampires would eventually take over the world.  I had lots of respect for Will Smith before this movie was released until I read the book and then immediately watched the movie.  I was upset at how much could have been done with the movie versus the uber CGI and deviation from the original story line. 

However, I am grateful for one thing.  Both cinematic adaptations of ‘World War Z’ and ‘I Am Legend’ show the common plagues that have infected Hollywood: A-list actors rarely read books before they begin work on movies.  If Brad Pitt or Will Smith had read the books then they should have spoken up to the director when they saw that the script didn’t match the book.  Or maybe they had read the books and were unhappy with the original content and decided to modify the flow to make the movie visually appealing? Various sources hint that the involved parties DID read the book and made changes to make it more appealing to movie audiences.  But that excuse doesn’t cut it.  The least Brad Pitt and the director could have done was to use an approach similar to ‘Interview with a Vampire’ in which flashbacks occur.  That format still had visual appeal and was somewhat able to stick with a recantation of events as opposed to changing the plot to a present setting.  In the end, readers turned movie-goers shouldn’t have to settle with poor adaptations just becase directors lack imagination and problem solving.

Then again, perhaps, the problem lies with me?  Maybe I should just lower my expectations and rarely be disappointed?  Should I simply stop reading books and never expect movies to follow the story line?  Is this what we are forced to do to enjoy movie adaptations?  I think not.

Have I totally written this movie off?  Will I ever watch it? Of course….when it drops onto Netflix; I don’t see myself dishing out almost $10 for a butchering of a great book.

Below is the link to the movie so you can judge for yourself.

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About Manny Garza

After serving 8 years in the U.S. Army as an Intelligence Analyst, Manny departed the military in order to pursue his B.A. in Philosophy from American Military University. Aside from college, he writes short stories and essays in the realm of philosophy and science fiction. Manny's short stories are heavily influenced by who he refers to as The Trinity: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Jack Williamson. He is married to his lovely wife, Melissa, and has two dogs named Koopa and Goomba. Aside from being an editor and contributor of Nerd Trek articles, his hobbies include playing guitar, singing, and both tabletop and video game RPGs. Manny currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.