Leave a comment

World War Z: is Brad Pitt making the most expensive disaster of all time?

The negative hype surrounding Brad Pitt’s zombie epic World War Z is getting worse all the time, with news of rewrites, reshoots and a budget that has ballooned above $400m

Anyone who has read Max Brooks’s grippingly detailed science fiction novel – or even better, listened to the superb audiobook – will probably have a pretty good idea what kind of movie Brad Pitt originally envisaged when he bought the screen rights to World War Z in 2007. Delivered as a series of oral histories straight from the lips of survivors of the zombie apocalypse, the book presents a steady, nagging creep of horrifying reportage from across the world. It’s like a set of zombie-infested episodes from Radio Four’s From Our Own Correspondent, or Studs Terkel’s vivid and entrancing An Oral History of World War Two rewritten by George A Romero.

One can imagine Steven Soderbergh directing a border-straddling ensemble piece in the style of Traffic or Contagion, with zombies replacing drugs and infection as the dramatic active ingredient. Pitt is said to have initially imagined a zombie apocalypse movie with a genuinely geopolitical flavour. At some point in time, it appears he had one: those who have read Changeling screenwriter JM Straczynski’s initial draft of the script, say it had the potential to catapult the genre into awards season territory.

Since 2008, when that screenplay leaked, matters have taken such a turn for the worse that Pitt must surely be starting to regret ever naming his production company Plan B. First Straczynski’s script was jettisoned for failing to hit the necessary action tentpole beats, with The Kingdom’s Matthew Michael Carnahan brought in to do a complete rewrite. Then, after the shoot finally completed last year, Pitt and his team decided (with the help of Lost’s Damon Lindelof) that the entire 40-minute-long third act would need to be reshot and replaced at vast cost. There are also rumours that Pitt and director Marc Forster refused to talk to each other on set by the end of production. As we head inexorably towards the film’s 21 June release, some reports suggest the budget has ballooned to more than $400m, which would make World War Z the most expensive film of all time.

So negative has the publicity surrounding Pitt’s movie been thus far that the film’s producers appear to have just about given up trying to stem the flow of negative hype. A recent Vanity Fair article on the star’s “epic struggle” to make World War Z delved extensively into the movie’s shortcomings, candidly exposing the collective myopia of a creative team that apparently had little experience of big-budget, spectacle-heavy film-making prior to entering production. (At one point, an entire day of filming was lost because the caterers didn’t have enough food to feed 750 extras, and later on producers discovered a cache of undocumented unpaid bills from a Malta shoot that added considerably to budget costs.)

Lindelof reveals he was called in and asked to give his opinion on World War Z’s ending, which pretty much everyone involved admitted did not work. “The thing we really need right now is someone who is not burdened by all the history that this thing is inheriting, who can see what we’ve got and tell us how to get to where we need to get,” Pitt apparently told the screenwriter.

Lindelof then gave producers two options: a rewrite of existing material to make it work better in terms of “emotional stakes and plot logic, and all that”, or a complete rewrite which would require dumping footage that had already been shot. “I didn’t think anyone was going to say, ‘Let’s throw it out and try something else,'” he admits. But so upset were executives with the previous finale that they agreed to the screenwriter’s plan B with little argument.

Brad Pitt in World War Z

The new version is ironically said to be less spectacular, but with more of the sense of emotional relief supposedly required to send cinemagoers contentedly out into the night. Carnahan’s version is said to have seen Pitt travelling to Russia to free legions of slaves, who he enlists to destroy the zombie threat with lobotomising sheaths that take off their heads. But it was too grim and violent for the PG-13 film Paramount insisted on and cast Pitt in a negative light as a savage, zombie-killing warrior leader. Worse still, it failed to reunite our hero with his family (and therefore felt hollow and bleak).

What’s apparent here is that somewhere along the way, Pitt simply ended up optioning the wrong novel. Brooks’s intelligent alternative history beautifully posits the collective inability of global political administrations to function in the face of an entirely unexpected threat, and the appalling ramifications of their failure on ordinary individuals from soldiers to doctors to priests. It’s a satire on the sloth-like clumsiness of even the most sophisticated forms of government that’s notable for its lack of a traditional Hollywood-style central figure. The idea that one man could make such a big difference in the face of worldwide meltdown, at least in the traditional action-hero sense, is laughable to anyone who has read it. And yet, in the trailers for World War Z it’s apparent that everyone’s favourite Chanel No 5 advocate is being hyped up to be the saviour of humanity.

Hollywood used to have a history of making a mess out of supposedly “unfilmable” books, but in recent years it has become apparent that audiences are more than willing to see traditional filmic narrative techniques jettisoned if it means telling the story they have come to know and love. Stories don’t always need to be curtailed, simplified and souped up for the big screen, at least not so ham-fistedly that nothing is left of the book’s original spirit.

With its elegant documentary-style approach, Brooks’s novel reignited the sagging zombie genre in the literary world, so it’s incredibly disappointing that the movie adaptation looks unlikely to do the same for its celluloid equivalent. The only consolation might be that if World War Z does go down in flames, Heaven’s Gate-style, it could serve as a warning to studios that butchering much-loved material for the sake of popcorn kicks rarely ends in anything but misery for all concerned.

Visit original post here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Booky Thoughts and Me

Book reviews and pondering thoughts of a down to earth person


Little Fingers Big Art


This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees


children's author

My blog

Just another WordPress site

valeriu dg barbu

©valeriu barbu

Time to Write

Ups and downs while writing my first novel

Daily (w)rite

Author Site for Damyanti Biswas

D.C. Rush Books

Family Values - Lessons for Life

Jillian Chantal

Romantic Adventure with an International Flair

Trade News in Brief

International Economic Affairs & Relations / Regional & International Organizations / Global Commerce & Business

Book Reader Chronicles

From One Book Reader to Another

Victors Heroes

Real People; Real Heroes

Book Obsessed Shan in San Fran

This blog is dedicated to my love of reading :)

Natasha Metzler

learning to delight in a promise-making God


Delicious plant-based, whole food recipes & my healthy living tips!

Phillybookpick's Blog

GREAT BOOK PICKS -In the World of page turning thrillers !

What the Cat Read

Book reviews done by the felines in my life.

Be as One

Welcome--top posts above, new posts below; sample and enjoy!


A fine WordPress.com site

The Adventures of Captain Crick, Superhero Blog

The Official Blog of "The Adventures of Captain Crick, Superhero" by Barbara Brown

Simple Tom

Some say I was born high. Others say i'm just simple :)

Route Blog

Books One Way Or Another

Eagle Eye Internet Video Productions

Affordable Videos For Your Website


Fun Learning Resouces for Kids


YA book reviews & more ...

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

Manon's maze

A labyrinth of art, fashion, movies and all my other obsessions

Parenting And Stuff

Not a "how to be a great parent" blog

Paper Engines

Cultural Critique, Art and The Musings of a Moral Mad Scientist


Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

Arrow Gate Publishing

Dedicated To Writers

Top 10 of Anything and Everything!!!

Animals, Gift Ideas, Travel, Books, Recycling Ideas and Many, Many More

The Seeker's Dungeon

Troubling the Surf with the Ocean

Crafted in Carhartt

about women who do amazing things

readful things blog

colourful language, colourful opinions

Waking Brain Cells

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells." — Dr. Seuss

Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

A blog dedicated to both giveaways and reviewing books, since they are "the cheapest vacation you can buy," as Charlaine Harris once said.

Sty of Books

Book Review Updates on Mondays. DTMK on Tuesdays. Everything else will find its time.

The Book Addicts

We Eat, Breathe, Dream, and Live Books. Join Us.

%d bloggers like this: