Yesterday 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.
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.
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: