‘World War Z’ Trailer: Is It Like the Book?

If a 2 minute and 27 second trailer is any indication then Marc Foster’s version of World War Z will be almost nothing like the Max Brooks novel that the film is based on.

World War Z is one of my favorite books in recent memory because of how serious and respectable it makes itself with such a fictional “horror” topic. It took itself away from the mainstream version of the zombie apocalypse and created something very grounded and personal in it’s retelling of a “zombie epidemic” from a variety of different people around the world. The book reads as a collection of oral interviews from a singular journalist who travels around what’s left of the world 4 years after the war against the zombies was won. Each interview has a unique core to it’s message as he comes across everyone from random civilians, scientists, military operatives, celebrity bodyguards and members of the United Nations. The stories themselves have a flavor to them that never tastes like the next one.. and that helps to keep it fresh and engaging while never dulling the audience with a repetitive nature like “shoot zombies, shoot more zombies”.

This CGI wave of zombies looked pretty poor when you compare it to recent movie effects

I think I speak for most fans of the book who saw this trailer when I say that I’m just disappointed. It seems that they’ve taken the central plot of the book and threw it away for a generic “race against time to save the world” plot which has virtually nothing to do with the story I fell in love with. They even replaced the notoriously slow, “classic” style of zombies with the Dawn of the Dead remake’s “fast moving” version of the undead. My main question about all of this is… why? Why buy the rights to the book if you’re not going to adapt it properly? From my understanding it was Brad Pitt’s Plan B studio that bought the rights so I’m not sure if this was his way of getting a “vehicle” for himself to star in but it seems like that was the general consensus. It’s almost as if they went “Zombies are in right now and we need a zombie movie. Get me the rights to that World War Z book.. I never read it but I heard it’s about a zombie war.. then get me an A-list actor to play the hero. Someone who can bring in cash. Brad Pitt! Done and Done.” For example, here’s a quote from Matthew Fox on his character in the movie: “My role in that film, he’s a Navy Seal, who basically – Marc and I‘s idea on that was he’s a guy who basically is – Brad Pitt’s character goes off to find a solution to this global epidemic, and he is a global problem solver and has a history with the UN and sort of disaster relief. And he leaves his family in a situation on a quarantine flotilla, essentially like a military ship.” – This character doesn’t exist in Max Brook’s novel which was something i found myself repeating over and over when I first saw the trailer.

Brad Pitt stars as the main character of the film… who wasn’t in the book

Look, I understand book adaptations being far from a carbon copy of their source material since it’s oftentimes necessary in order to form a new vision. Take The Lord of the Rings for example: they left out a lot of moments from The Fellowship of the Ring such as “Tom Bombadil”, a character that wouldn’t have translated well to the tone they were creating in that movie. They moved around moments that happened in the second and third books and replaced them with moments that happened in the first. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was virtually nothing like the book aside from the “time turner” focal point and the step by step narrative. That movie did enough to distance itself from what it was based on without giving us something entirely different.

I for one am pretty happy that this never made it into The Lord of the Rings

But then you have instances like the proposed Uncharted movie that was nothing like the game it was based on. They changed the characters and their familiarity with one another as well as the overall plot of the story. It’s shit like this that gets fans aggravated and prompts the “angry fanboy” response from the vocal minority. “Oh it’s only a 2 minute trailer and you’re already saying it didn’t adapt the book properly? Go back to your basement” is something that I’ve seen mentioned on forums after the initial backlash from the fans. I don’t think it’s relatively unreasonable for someone to at least form their primary opinion on a trailer since that’s basically what they’re for right? Trailers set out to present the basic plot for the audience and get them interested in seeing the movie… so why should a negative reaction to a trailer be so goddamn frowned upon?

Now in my case I would say that my initial reaction was confusion that turned to disappointment and ultimately acceptance. I knew from the very beginning that this movie was becoming less and less like the book it was adapted from so I guess I sort of built myself up for the let down. I can say that the trailer somewhat intrigued me to the possibilities that lie ahead in the final product of the movie. I’m still holding out hope that a couple of the stories make their way into the movie, even if it’s just in passing or for a small amount of time. Most of the trailer seemed flat or generic and I got flashbacks of “I Am Legend” when I saw the blurred CGI of the zombie hordes.  As a retelling of the book it looks downright horrendous but as a standalone zombie movie it at least has my attention in the final product.
For now I would recommend staying away from the trailer and picking up Max Brooks’ brilliantly frightening novel if you haven’t read it yet.

If you haven’t read it already then you should pick this one up.. you won’t regret it.

7 Responses to “‘World War Z’ Trailer: Is It Like the Book?”
  1. Livi says:

    Yay, I’m not the only one who thought that pile of scrambling brain-eaters looked hokey!

    And Brad Pitt, c’mon. I don’t hate him, but he just steals whatever plot they had salvaged from the book and puts his Hollywood spin on it.

    Now I haven’t read the novel, and I will probably end up watching this, but you have made it quite clear for me – this isn’t going to be a classic. Just another halfhearted attempt at boosting Pitt’s career…again.


  2. Jamie Z. says:

    Great article, I agree with everything you’ve said!


  3. Haven’t seen the trailer, but my brother told me about it and I was just like “Oh, God, no.” Just make a zombie movie if that’s what you want to do, but why drag World War Z into it? Personally, I would have liked to seen the book adapted into a sort of fictional documentry, maybe with a bit of ‘docu-drama’ for the actual action that goes on. Would have fit in more with the excellent tone of the book, anyway.


  4. From what I have read around the internet World War Z is nothing like the book. Of course what Hollywood adaptation really is? If you take the book out of the equation it does look like it still has the possibility to be a cool movie. I know Zombie purists are crying foul to the lightening quick speed of the zombies, but hopefully it makes them more horrific. Worst case the zombie movie Warm Bodies looks interesting enough if World War Z sucks.


  5. Kajsa says:

    This is sadly what’s happening a lot these days, people either follow the book to closely or, like in this case, not at all. Will definitely read the book when I have time though, sounds great!


  6. Courtney Henry says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I did see the trailer. Thanks for the heads up! I will definitely read the book before subjugating myself to the (probably) atrocious rendition of it.


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