Category Archives: World War Z

Revisiting ‘World War Z’

world war z book cover

It had been a couple of years since I read “World War Z,” Max Brooks’ “Oral History of the Zombie War,” but in light of seeing the Brad Pitt-starring movie version this summer, I decided to revisit the book.

Reading it recently emphasized two thing to me:

Although I liked the movie fairly well, the book is much, much better.

The book was probably unfilmable as a two-hour movie.

The latter observation isn’t a new one or even new to me, of course. Brooks’ 2006 story is deliberately episodic. Every chapter has a different narrator and is set in a different location around the globe and a different time. True, there is an overarching framework – a United Nations researcher collects first-hand accounts 10 years after the zombie apocalypse – but there’s no place for a starring character – or actor, like Pitt – in the book. A few characters show up again but for the most part only as codas to their earlier tales.

The book’s strength lies in its episodic nature. No narrator, even an omnipotent, all-seeing one, could be as effective as the first-person accounts of the doctors, soldiers, government leaders, opportunists and even International Space Station astronauts as the zombie plague grows from initial outbreak into world-changing calamity.

Despite the premise – the walking dead, to coin a phrase – Brooks’ story is for the most part starkly realistic. There are few superheroics here. Civilians and soldiers fight to survive the onslaught of an enemy that is unlike any army on any battlefield.

Random observations:

I look forward, a few years hence, when somebody gets the idea of turning “World War Z” into a cable TV series. But I hope they’re faithful to Brooks’ story this time. And I hope they don’t decide, for the sake of an ongoing series, to turn Brooks’ book into a multi-year story like the producers of Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” apparently have done.

There’s a nice inside joke, late in the book, referencing Brooks’ father, renowned director and writer Mel Brooks. It’s a sly reference to “Free to Be You and Me,” the early 1970s Marlo Thomas production and one sketch in particular, in which Brooks and Thomas play newborn babies.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, part 2: ‘World War Z’

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I’ve been pretty vocal here about my concerns that Marc Forster’s “World War Z” would vary so much from Max Brooks’ terrific 2006 novel that it wouldn’t possibly capture the essence of the book. And to be sure, adapting Brooks’ book faithfully would be nearly impossible.

Brooks’ book is episodic in the extreme in its record of the zombie apocalypse, moving from China to India to New York to Denver to the Great Plains. Although a narrator – writing an oral history of the zombie war from the perspective of 10 years later – is present throughout the book, nearly every chapter features new characters and a new setting. A couple of years after I read the book, some scenes stand out in my mind: A downed flier is guided through the wilderness by a mysterious voice on a radio. Astronauts watch the end of the world from the International Space Station. The military is humbled in the Battle of Yonkers.

So when the makers of “World War Z” the movie said Brad Pitt would play a U.N. troubleshooter jetting around the globe to find a means of turning back the zombie virus, I thought: Well, that might be fun, but that’s not the plot of the book.

Upon seeing “World War Z” today, I thought two things:

I want to read the book again soon.

Forster and Pitt made a pretty good end-of-the-world movie. There’s little resemblance to Brooks’ book, but it’s a pretty fun suspense thriller along the lines of “The Andromeda Strain” and “Outbreak” and “Contagion.” Maybe even like the first book in “The Strain” series.

world-war-z family

Pitt is called out of retirement in Philly with his wife (Mirielle Enos) and daughters when the outbreak begins. At first, it’s uncertain what’s happening. Zombies? That can’t possibly be real, can it?

But the U.N, gets with the program fairly quickly and sends Pitt jetting around the world, looking for Patient Zero and clues to how to stop the epidemic. He goes from South Korea to Israel to, eventually, Wales. The last section of the movie is a pleasant change from the “Brad flies in and all hell breaks lose” feel of the first two-thirds of the movie. It’s a nail-biting “how do we get from point A to point B and avoid being bitten?” story and it’s very good.

Pitt is fine here, although the part could have been played by anyone from Will Smith to Clive Owen (two actors with plenty of apocalyptic experience).

The real highlights of the film are the suspenseful scenes leading up to a zombie outbreak and/or attack. Forster builds tension quite well and interjects some good scares.

The zombies here are not the slow walkers of George Romero’s “Living Dead” films or TV’s “The Walking Dead.” They’re not precisely like the sprinting zombies of “28 Days Later” or the “Dawn of the Dead” remake. They’re fast but they’re more like lemmings or ants, throwing themselves against barriers and off the roofs of buildings, piling up in a grinding mass in their efforts to reach their prey.

“World War Z” is a disappointment to anyone hoping for a faithful telling of Brooks’ book. But it’s a good, suspenseful action take on the end of the world.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, part 1: ‘This Is The End’

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It’s a big year for the end of the world, with “World War Z” and “This Is The End” and the ongoing apocalyptic TV drama “The Walking Dead.” Later we can expect director Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End.”

It’s safe to say that few end-of-man stories besides “The World’s End” and co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s “This Is The End” play the end of existence for laughs.

And while my expectations for “The World’s End” are high, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from “This Is The End.”

Some of the early reviews indicated it was gut-bustingly funny, while others said the overdose of crude humor was just that.

I thought “This Is The End” was pretty funny, but your reaction to it will depend totally on your tolerance for penis and ejaculation jokes, as well as the modern-day Rat Pack of Rogen and other young actors that include Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride.

A big part of the joke here is that the actors play themselves, or at least versions of themselves. Baruchel comes into L.A. to visit Rogen. Baruchel doesn’t like Los Angeles or the crowd that Rogen hangs with – including most of the above-mentioned bold-faced names, plus others – and is reluctant to go to a party at Franco’s house.

They do go, however, and Baruchel reluctantly mingles with the likes of Rhianna, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Emma Watson and, most memorably, Michael Cera, playing a (presumably) warped version of himself as a bullying, sex-crazed cocaine user.

During the Franco party, something happens: A firestorm rolls over L.A. People are pulled up into the sky in shafts of blue light. The ground opens up and swallows some people whole.

Earthquakes and even a zombie apocalypse get the blame, but Baruchel comes to believe it’s the real apocalypse, as in the Biblical end time. That would explain the disappearance, into heaven, of all the good people – none of whom are at the party, by the way – and the eventual appearance of otherworldly beasts.

Much of the comedy derives from the contentious relationships between the group of “friends” who survive. They argue over the meager provisions that are left, over the sleeping arrangements and over the pecking order.

Rogen and Baruchel and their relationship are the core of the movie, but Hill – as a supernaturally nice guy who nonetheless gets on everyone’s nerves – and McBride as just an awful human being get the biggest laughs.

Some of the funniest moments come from not only the group’s reactions to the seemingly impossible happenings but also to each other.

One standout scene occurs when Watson takes refuge with the group and the hapless Baruchel initiates a discussion, unfortunately within her earshot, about making sure she’s at ease being the only woman in a house full of men. Before long, the others are accusing him of suggesting they rape her. Watson overhears and, wielding an axe, takes things into her own hands.

As trendy as the main cast and supporting actors are, there are a couple of cameos – I won’t reveal them here – that are surprising even in the context of this story.

As apocalyptic comedies go, “This Is The End” ranks pretty high. It’s quite crude but absurdly funny.

 

It’s the end of the world and we feel fine

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No, this isn’t another of those Mayan calendar stories a few weeks late. It’s a quick look at the trend in end of the world movies and TV.

For most of the pop culture world, “The Walking Dead” kicked off the end of the world, zombie style. The AMC series returns for the second half of its so-far gripping third season on Feb. 10.

I’m feeling pretty confident that the show will give us eight more good episodes documenting the most detailed zombie apocalypse so far.

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I’m more uneasy about “World War Z,” the big-screen version of Max Brooks’ excellent episodic novel. The Brad Pitt-starring movie, due out June 21, seems to bear little resemblance to the book based only on what we’ve seen from the teaser trailer. There’s no character in the book comparable to Pitt’s government zombie apocalypse expert. The book makes readers tough out the end of the world and beyond.

“Warm Bodies” is yet another take on the zombie story with a zombie – I guess we could consider him the spiritual descendant of “Bud” the trained zombie from “Day of the Dead” – who, post apocalypse, is so enamored of a living girl that he begins to revert to human.

This-Is-The-End-Poster

I’m kind of amused but skeptical about “This is The End,” the end-of-the-world comedy featuring Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and a host of young comedic actors, most of them apparently playing themselves. Judging by the trailer, this looks to be a blue end of the world.

I’m enthusiastically looking forward to Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End,” Wright’s take on an epic pub crawl featuring his regulars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman. I don’t know another single thing about the movie but I want to see it now.

Movies I’m looking forward to in 2013

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2012 was a pretty good year for geek movies. I’m still boggled, sometimes, that so many comic book, science fiction and fantasy movies – not to mention big-budget, well-crafted ones – are released these days. We might be in a golden age for the genre.

Looking ahead to 2013, the calendar looks like just as much of a treat for fans.

“Iron Man 3.” After the superhero team-up that was “The Avengers,” why look forward to a solo superhero outing? Isn’t that a step back? Well, it would be but for a few reasons. I trust Robert Downey Jr. and director Shane Black. The preview looks dire and action-filled. And the movie kicks off Marvel’s Phase Two, which culminates in “The Avengers” sequel in 2015, so I’m pretty sure they’ll have some references to the big picture. May 3.

“Thor: The Dark World.” The first “Thor,” in some ways, held the promise (threat?) of being the weakest movie in the first phase of Marvel. Yet it was solid entertainment and laid the groundwork for much of the mythology that followed in “Captain America” and “The Avengers.” I feel very much at ease with this realm of big-screen Marvel. Nov. 8.

“Pacific Rim.” This story about giant robots created to fight giant, Godzilla-style monsters looks like something to appeal to all the 12 year olds within us. July 12.

star trek into darkness cell

“Star Trek Into Darkness.” This J.J. Abrams sequel to the reboot looks awesome. Unleash the Cumberbatch! May 17.

“The Wolverine.” I am not the craziest of fans of Marvel’s snikt-happy mutant. But Hugh Jackman has been so good as the character I’m looking forward to this and his role, however big, in “Days of Future Past.” July 26.

“Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” The first movie was a pleasant surprise. The second book is the weakest of the series, but I’m hoping they pull it off. Nov. 22.

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“Oz the Great and Powerful.” This retooling of the classic story, a kind of prequel, could be really fun or really awful. March 8.

“The World’s End.” While we’re waiting for director Edgar Wright to make “Ant-Man,” how about this end of the world comedy starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman? Yes, please. Oct. 25.

Movies I’m almost dreading:

“Man of Steel.” We don’t need another origin story. We don’t need a “dark” Superman. We need a Superman who feels like the last of his kind but isn’t mopey about it. We don’t need a “Dark Knight” treatment, but I’m afraid that’s what we’re getting. June 14.

“World War Z.” I’ve said it before, but here it is again. The preview doesn’t look like the terrific Max Brooks book. June 21.

“The Lone Ranger.” A beloved childhood hero. I’m just not sure about the approach. Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp bring a lot of charisma to the proceedings, however. We’ll see. May 31.

‘World War Z’ trailer: Not the story I know

I’m on the record with my concern about the big-screen movie version of Max Brooks’ “World War Z,” one of my favorite end-of-the-world novels of recent years.

So seing the trailer for the movie starring Brad Pitt, which opens next summer, filled me with even more dread.

The trailer, with Pitt as some sort of … zombie expert? … with his family in New York when the zombie apocalypse begins plays more like the flashback scenes in Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” than anything in Brooks’ ingenious novel, which tells, in episodic scenes that rarely return to the same characters twice, the tale of the fall and rise of civilization.

I’m not sure I can bring myself to see this.