World War Z: Book vs. Movie

World War ZYesterday I went to see the new Brad Pitt movie World War Z, the adaptation of the novel by Max Brooks, where ‘adaptation’ means they share the same title. Seriously, the only similarities the book and movie share is that they’re both about zombies.

And I’m OK with that. Books are not movies. Movies are not books. Get over it, people.

The Book
I liked World War Z the book. It took an over-done concept (zombies) and looked at it from a world-wide, what happens after zombies take over your town? How does humanity come back? Max Brooks came up with really interesting ideas about how useless modern military technology would be (incapacitating weapons that shred limbs and flesh are useless when only a headshot will stop a zombie). There are all the struggles of post-apocalyptic survival that I love, along with this practical, military approach to zombies.

The only complaint I had about World War Z the book is that it’s presented as a historical retelling of the zombie war. As such, there are no central characters. You get snippets from all over the globe and are introduced to different characters each time, compelling characters, that the book never comes back to. That makes it harder to connect with. It’s a testament to the writing that it’s still so good even without main characters, but it does make the book a little bit harder to love.

The Movie
I went into the movie knowing it was nothing like the book and basically expecting a stupid summer blockbuster. I mean, c’mon: Brad Pitt, adaptation that’s nothing like the book, summer movie, explosions, zombies, reshoots, way over budget? But it turned out to be pretty good.

I think part of the reason why is that it’s fairly simple. Brad Pitt is some hotshot United Nations investigator. After saving his family from the initial uprising, he hops around the world trying to track down the source of the zombies and find a cure. That’s it. There’s no crazy twist, no excessive actions sequences, no complicated plot that doesn’t make sense when you sit back and think about it (Avengers, I love you, but I’m looking at you). It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty straight forward and enjoyable.

It sounds like there was quite a bit of drama creating this movie, including plenty of scrapped scenes and a rewritten ending. But I think for once Hollywood made the right decisions. They moved away from the over-the-top action scene and Rambo-like hero and focused on a simple man working to get back to his family. I think it worked.

It’s certainly not World War Z the book, but it’s a good story.

The Author’s Take
Here’s an interesting video of author Max Brooks talking about the whole books vs. movie deal. I like his realism about the whole process:

Props to Single Parents

Dragon MiloSometimes kids can be monsters. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we love ’em. But some days they drive you nuts. That’s why single parents need special props.

Last week Abby took a last minute, 6-day trip to Mississippi to help some friends. School had just ended, it was the start of summer and suddenly she was gone for nearly a week.

I instantly became a full-time single parent. Not fun.

And not because my kids were monsters. If anything, they were easy. We had enough stuff scheduled that nobody was bored (though I was run a little ragged) and that kept fights and whining to a minimum.

But the kids were still monsters, devouring any sense of freedom I had. The simple responsibility of being the sole provider and care taker meant I had no freedom to do so many simple things. Running to the library or the bank required bringing the kids with me. I couldn’t just run to the store after they went to bed. I had a babysitter one night for a vestry meeting (yeah, how ridiculous is that?) and I took off a little early so I could do some fun stuff, wander around a bookstore and grab a quiet meal by myself. I ended up running errands and eating at Subway.

Then every time I turned around nobody had cleaned the kitchen, folded the laundry or mowed the lawn. Oh yeah, that’s my job.

I don’t know how you single parents do it.

Raising kids is hard work. But doing it without backup? Always being on? Never being able to just go do something by yourself? That’s horrific. Single parents deserve a major pat on the back and day at the spa.

I only had to do it for six days.


Spider-Man: Reboots are Boring

Spider Man!I grabbed The Amazing Spider-Man at the library the other day and finally got around to watching it. It came out last summer and is a reboot of the Spider-Man series. For those not in the know (i.e., me) it stars Andrew Garfield (who?) instead of Tobey Maguire. Basically swapping one geek for another (Garfield had a role in The Social Network playing the techie geek who got screwed out of Facebook).

I’m not a big fan of Spider-Man, but it’s another super hero movie and those can be fun.

Instead it was tired. It was the same story we saw in 2002’s Spider-Man, same origin story, same speech from his uncle about responsibility (though they were very careful not to use the oft-quoted line “with great power comes great responsibility”), same New Yorkers that came to Spider-Man’s rescue at a critical moment (a bit of post-9/11 over-reaction back in 2002, at least this time it had a motivation rooted in the story).

I know Hollywood is in love with the remake, that it’s easy box office money and sometimes that can be fun. Sometimes you do need to dust off something that was done a long time ago and revisit it for a new generation with new effects and a different spin. But a mere decade later? With practically the same approach?


I love stories. But why do we have to keep telling the same ones over and over again? At least take the story somewhere new. Sing a new song. Explore some new territory. Make a new myth. I get tired of reading my kids the same story over and over again, and I get tired of watching the same movie over and over again, even if it’s in a slightly new skin.

And yes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now filming, to come out in 2014.

Talking Books on the Human Business Way

Back in February I talked books with Chris Brogan. He’s a social media/marketing/business guy who does the Human Business Way podcast. He titled the show “Kevin Hendricks is a Book Fiend,” which is pretty accurate. We spent about 20 minutes talking books, swapping titles and even get into Star Wars:

Chris: “This is the nerdiest podcast I’ve ever done and I’m blaming you.”

And I accept the credit.

Books to Read
It’s a fun little interview. A few of the great books mentioned include Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Feed, The Passage, Wool, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, For the Win, Tell Me a Story and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Since the podcast aired so long after we talked, Chris guessed about how many books I’d be up to now. He thought 50. I’ve actually read 65 so far this year. But #50 is worth mentioning: The Martian by Andy Weir (I blogged about it earlier). Unfortunately, it was picked up for major release next year, so it’s no longer available. Last time I checked Amazon had an audio version otherwise you need to find someone you can borrow it from or wait until next year. But it’s so full of sci-fi, nerdy goodness that it should have been mentioned in this podcast, right between Wool and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Star Wars
We also spent some time talking Star Wars and the question every parent faces of whether or not to admit the prequels exist. When we did the interview my kids had only seen the originals, but since then they’ve watched the prequels as well. Sadly, they both thought Jar Jar Binks was hilarious. But on the plus side, they like the originals best. Warms a father’s heart.

137 Books
If you want to know more about my crazed reading schedule, you can read my [short] book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again. I talk about how I read so many books and get into practical, nerdy stuff such as tracking what you read and making the most of the library.