Well, I decided after work tonight to race up to the Malco and catch the 10:05 showing of World War Z. As a horror fan I’ve read both of Max Brooks’ incredible books, Zombie Survival Guide & World War Z, and as such went into the experience with extremely low expectations. Lets face it, a book is anywhere from a couple hundred pages to a couple thousand depending on the author and to condense it into and hour and a half and keep any semblance of of order is nearly impossible. Too many characters, descriptions, plots and sub plots. Even stretched out in a mini series or a series of films (The Hobbit) it’s just impossible to truly capture the exact work on film so any screen writer or director worth their career has to aim at the essence of the story and make due with whatever comes out.
Take the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune as opposed to the SciFi Channel’s Frank Herbert’s Dune in 2000. The ’84 version lacked the substance of the story while the ’00 mini series still had to sacrifice plot points and sub stories in order to fit within the time allotted. Neither captured the exact text on film but the 2000 mini series came closest to the essence of the story.
Another abysmal failure of fiction come to film is Starship Troopers. Sharing title and a single plot device (man vs giant, evil bug) the movie had little or nothing to do with Heinlein’s classic about service.
Anyway, back to World War Z. To begin with, I’m not such a purist as to say “zombies don’t run” because there are many classic works where the do. They can also talk and dance depending on who you ask or what films you’re watching. Never the less, Brooks’ zombies were the slow, Romero style shamblers. He even thank Romero in the preface to the book. But the film portrays a running, rabid dog type of zombie that has this unnerving (and kinda’ cool) chattering that it does when it’s not actively peeling off someone’s face. Next, we have a story that carries a former UN official of dubious origins that is recalled to service searching for a cure.
How do I go on without those “spoilers” that people bitch so much about? I guess by telling you to pick up a book and read it before you spend money on a PG13 rated film. Yeah, zombie movies of any ilk should NEVER have less than an R rating unless they are cute, comical, kiddie zombies like in Paranorman or Tofu: The Vegan Zombie. The story portrayed on the big screen wasn’t bad as a Z Flick but as an adaptation of the book failed across the board. The book was a culmination of human stories from an inhuman point in time woven together to show a struggle for survival. Although it was fiction, it made me laugh, cry and look over my shoulder. I walked away from the book feeling as if I’d missed an important piece of history.
The movie was an action adventure with a handful of political and social foot notes scattered through the opening and closing scenes amidst zombies chasing people like wild pack animals. It lacked the essence, the soul of the original work. The characters were flat and dimensionless, void of any real back story of any emotional link. Not only was I unsure if any of them would make it out alive, I really could have cared less if they did. There were a handful of “featured” zombies at the end that gave better performances and more emotion than the A List actors that took the starring roles.
The film was disappointing as a work based on the novel and shared little beyond a name. What’s more, I feel sad for the author who has been quoted as being excited and pleased by the movie. As an author, I’d be heart broken to see my work butchered to fit a 90 minute slot for an audience that will never appreciate the translation. More importantly, a film like this, based (and I keep using that term so loosely) on a novel will prompt some people to actually read the book. If the movie and the book don’t match, don’t come close to matching, then they will pan one and praise the other: usually whichever they experience first.
In conclusion, read the book. Watch the movie at your own peril. Ignoring any alleged link between the two will greatly improve your enjoyment of both. Who knows, AMC is leading the charge with zombies on TV, maybe they will get the rights to do a mini series in a few years? We could only hope.