I'm a fan of Max Brooks book, World War Z, although the first time I read it, I wasn't.
It seemed like it told too little about the actual onset of the zombie apocalypse, and not enough of the stuff that happened during the zombie apocalypse. I like my apocalyptic zombie fiction to be about the horror and the desperate attempts at survival against the moaning, ravenous hordes of the undead. It was entirely too much about the reclamation of the world after.
Granted, there were some awesome and chilling vignettes. The Battle of Yonkers was incredible, the image of massive hordes of zombies wandering the seabeds of the world as seen through a submarine portal was awesome, or the story about the female fighter pilot shot down in the swamps was brilliant.
The thing is, I re-read it a year or two later, and I've since developed a deeper appreciation for it. It's a great book, told from a creative, unique perspective. I've grown to really like the after action report feel of it. There are some huge concepts in there. From the Reddecker Plan, to the retooling of the West Coast and our culture to combat the zombie menace. The idea of Quislings was fascinating, and I readjusted my own bug out plan after reading about the hell of those survivors who thought that going north was the solution; but only if your solution involved cannibalism and freezing to death. Hell, I'd give my left arm for a functional, accurate Lobo replica, wouldn't you?!?
What I'm saying is that I love the idea of World War Z. It has become, in my mind, a welcome addition to the genre of zombie fiction. And, despite my usual misgivings about movie adaptations, I was kind of excited to hear that Brad Pitt was a fan as well and wanted to do a movie version.
And then the trouble started. The many, many horror and sci-fi fan sites I visit on a daily basis started to report problems. Bad problems. From the original director quitting, to financing issues, and then the poorly received rough cuts (that were about 40 minutes short of being an actual movie's length), the inevitable reshoots to try to fix what was broken, and the reports that the fixes sucked. It was all very disheartening.
I was worried, man. Worried a lot.
Now that I've seen the first trailer for it?
Yep. I'm still fucking worried. Maybe more so. (Check out below for the new trailer.)
Where do I begin?
Maybe we'll start with the zombies themselves. That's as good a place as any. In the book, they were Romero-esque shamblers. Part of the creepiness that Brooks brought to his particular brand of zombie was their relentlessness, and the zombie 'moan'. You see, although they may have been slow, they also made a sound when they'd latched onto the warm, gooey scent of human flesh. They would make this disturbing, unending, wailing moan. This moan was enough to drive you crazy after listening to it for days on end outside of your door. Worse, it brought other zombies. Lots of others. Mobs and hordes of other zombies. It was like a zombie dinner bell, and you were the main course. I hope they keep that, at least, although I'm not hopefully.
But, although they were slow and shambling, the horror and power of the Brooks zombies was their sheer numbers, which negated the ability to walk around a single zombie, or dispatch it at your own leisure.
Now I'm not a zombie purist when it comes to their ambulation. I dig shamblers as much as the next guy, but there's also something really cool about running zombies. they've been put to great use in Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, or in the pseudo-zombie Ragers in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.
Here's how I always came at the runners vs. shamblers argument. In my own wishes for the zombie apocalypse, I wish for shamblers because runners are scary as shit. So yeah, runners are bad and I know I wouldn't last as long as I'd hope in the Zompacalypse if the fuckers could run... so, yeah, I like them.
So, looking at this trailer footage, I see that they've made the very, perhaps unwise, choice to make them runners. That's not an egregious error or choice, but it does show a distinct disdain for the source material. More unacceptable than that, is the poorly rendered CGI. Another thing, the zombie piling? Yeah it looks cool if you can get past the digital look. And that was a kick ass part of the book, but it's not essential. Again. Bad CGI.
In fact, I really fear this is going to be a bloated, CGI crap pile. I think the perfect illustration of how bad these sort of things look is the Will Smith I Am Legend debacle. Despite numerous attempts at a worthwhile adaptation of Richard Matheson's incredible story... this version came the closest to actually capturing the feel of the original novel. Right up until they introduced the crappy, poorly rendered CGI vampires. God that movie pissed me off. You had great story, a great actor, and a more than appropriate attempt to stay true to the source material... and then you skimp and - instead of using an actor and physical effects - you blow the wad on a Mac and sub par CGI.
That's the feeling I'm getting with this trailer.
Worse than that, it looks like it's completely disregarding the actual narrative of the story. World War Z tells the story of the survivors. The story is told by a UN historian who gathers the post-zombie war accounts of various survivors around the world. The uniqueness of the story is that it is told from different points of view, and through the feelings, emotions, and perceptions of varied people. It focuses less on the actual fall of society, and more on the shared experiences that brought us back from the brink of extinction. It's a tale of human triumph against the adversity of mankind's greatest threat - zombies.
Looking at the trailer, it looks like that whole damn premise is thrown out the damned window.
It now looks like a Brad Pitt action vehicle that focuses on his point of view as he tries to - I don't know - heroically fight zombies and get back home in time for family dinner?
I know I'm basing this on one 2 minute trailer, and trailers are deliberately vague... but I'm not feeling good about this. Disregarding the entire source material and loosely basing an action movie on it is not cool .
Granted, it's a zombie flick and I'll see it. You know I will. I am, if anything, a sucker for a good, gory high budget zombie flick. I don't deny that. But the fact is I was eager to see a good adaptation of this, and I am not convinced that this will remain at all true to what was so cool about the book.
I'm hoping this gets better. I'm hoping my fears are misgiven and that World War Z impresses the shit out of me when it hits the theaters. I pray I'm not disappointed by a poor adaptation. I wish all of these things.
Unfortunately, time will tell and I'll just rely on Walking Dead to continue being the best, most realistic, and emotionally kick ass on-screen adaptation of zombie fiction around.
I'll hold out hope, but it doesn't look good, dear reader.
It doesn't look good at all.