World War Z
Against all odds, Brad Pitt made a successful action film. Production was over-budget ($190 million versus a planned $125 million), it went through an incredible number of rewrites, they moved locations (from Malta to Glasgow to Budapest), they had to shoot additional footage (going back to Budapest for 7 weeks), they opened late and critics panned it. Still it made $540 million and a canceled sequel has been reignited by Paramount.
Why is WWZ successful?
1. It’s truly scary. Watching zombies build siege towers out of their own bodies reminded me of how army ants cross rivers.
2. It’s believable because the acting is understated; it’s just you and me, ordinary folk, facing untold horror.
3. The protagonist, a former UN investigator, Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, has no superpowers except his own resourcefulness.
4. The family angle with Mireille Enos playing Pitt’s no-nonsense wife is very well done. She’s not a bimbo, doesn’t panic, and copes well with rapid change. Enos has one of the most expressive faces in the business. If you’ve watched her playing Seattle detective Sarah Linden in The Killing, you already know that. Pitt’s tenderness with her and their children (played by Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins) seems to reflect his own inner belief in family togetherness.
5. The geography (from Philly to Korea to Jerusalem to the UK to Nova Scotia) is interesting.
6. Sidebar stories such as the way they adopt a Mexican American child (Thomas played by Fabrizio Zacharee Guido) add depth to the film.
7. It’s clever. Writers put Pitt on a passenger plane headed for a WHO lab located in Kent. Unfortunately, the plane is being relentlessly taken over by a powerful zombie tribe whose population is rapidly increasing in a nearby rear compartment. There is no way to get Flash Gordon and Dale Arden (err, excuse me, Brad Pitt and his trusty one armed (female) soldier sidekick) out of this evolving tragedy except that Segen (the indomitable Israeli soldier played by Daniella Kertesz) happens to have a grenade and (spoiler alert), Pitt decides to use it. He blows a hole in the plane sucking all the zombies out into the stratosphere. Good idea except he forgot to buckle himself and Segen in before decompression occurs.
8. The story boots along nicely.
9. I think the most important part of the film is the scene where Jerusalem falls to the undead–they overrun the city. As Brad Pitt’s character retreats with Segen accompanied by other Israeli soldiers and pursuing hungry monsters, Pitt stops stock still when he sees an obviously sick boy hunker down, covering his head, while 100s of zombies sprint past him ignoring him completely. This gives Brad an inkling into a possible solution.
10. What rings true about this is that there are some things you can only learn by doing. Many of the world’s greatest inventions are serendipitously discovered by persons who, while they may be applying themselves diligently to a certain task, find something quite different because they are open to seeing opportunity when it arrives in front of their faces. Brad could not have discovered this alternative while safely ensconced on a rescue ship. He had to be in the field. In fact, all of life, work, science, and business are experimental until proven otherwise.
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11. This applies to writing screenplays or novels too. Before I started writing Quantum Entity trilogy, the story arc and storyboards were complete and yet the final product is different from what I intended—in places characters you meet in this lengthy trilogy diverged from my script. Sometimes they refused to say what I expected them to say and sometimes they went off the board entirely and did their own thing. I believe that discovery, and luck combine to produce art as much as hard work, training, discipline and practice do. I realize this is heresy to literature teachers everywhere who will tell you, “Stay on point!” I discuss this further in a free mini book, which not only contains a detailed synopsis of the trilogy, it has some fearless future predictions as well.
Could they have improved the film? Sure. I liked Brad’s (spoiler alert) idea (which he got by observing how the undead ignored a sick boy) of injecting humans with a pathogen to make them unattractive as a food source for these fast moving zombies but I found the scene where Gerry Lane finally solves the problem poorly done.
Lane finds himself in a BSL level 4 biocontainment lab with a tin box full of deadly pathogens he has randomly picked out of a vast array.
He injects himself with “something”, waits a few minutes and then walks past a horde of zombies who turn their nose up at him since eating rotten food is presumably bad for the undead’s state of health. Hmm.
Lane knows he is on CCTV with killer pathogen experts on the other end watching him. I felt sure the writers were going to have him hold up one bottle after the other to the camera until he got a signal from them to try XXBAA instead of YYBAA-2. Instead he holds up a paper sign asking them to say “so long” to his family if things don’t work out.
I rewrote that scene for them. How about if he pantomimes this–
Lane holds up a vial in front of the CCTV camera.
He then puts it down.
He opens and closes his hands three times then gives a thumbs up.
This tells the scientists looking on from the other (safe) lab that if they turn their CCTV system off and on three times (so the red light on the camera flashes thrice), it’s a big GO FLIGHT.
He then opens and closes his hands two times followed by a thumbs down which obviously means don’t use this compound or you will die horribly either from the pathogen itself or via zombie digestion.
This continues until… finally he gets three flashes whereupon he safely injects himself, saves the world and, lastly, goes home to his family.
Other than that, I gave the film two thumbs up.
Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia, other