Friday, November 9, 2012

Trailer for Zombie Film World War Z Is Divisive

The first theatrical trailer for World War Z was released last night. The film’s title is taken directly from the popular post-apocalyptic zombie novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. And judging from the trailer, the similarities do not go far past the title.
The film stars Brad Pitt as United Nations worker Gerry Lane. The trailer opens on Lane and his happy little family sitting in traffic. In no time, a huge explosion goes off down the street, followed by a runaway garbage truck narrowly missing the Lane family and plowing through a motorcycle cop and several other vehicles.

Panic ensues. Lane steals an RV and contacts a friend with some level of inside information who arranges to pick up the Lanes on a rooftop via helicopter. The family is taken to a fleet of ships in the middle of the ocean where Gerry Lane's well-honed working for the United Nations skills are called upon by some armed force leader to search the globe for a way to stop the outbreak that has turned 5 billion people into zombies.

A large number of people who watch the trailer are going to find it exciting, and they are not wrong. The preview for “World War Z” is full of pyrotechnics, immeasurable hordes of fast running zombies, and heavy artillery. But there is also a group of people who have already labeled the film a failure.

The popular novel “World War Z” seems very unlike this film adaptation. Max Brooks's zombies are slow and shambling as opposed to the relentless fast zombies of the film. Brooks's story is told through a number of first-person accounts in a documentary style; the movie has the feel of an alien-invasion or disaster film. Also, the zombies in the novel are unable to work together because their cognitive functions are impaired; however, the zombies in the adaptation are shown building a pyramid out of their own bodies in an attempt to get over a large defensive wall. (To be fair, one might say that they were simply piling on each other and it happened to benefit them, but that's still very unlike the zombies in the book).

Judging by the positive responses to the preview, a number of movie-goers out there have grown sick and tired of people complaining that the book is not like the movie. They would rather just enjoy the movie for what it is than compare it to the book. But, the problem for fans of the book is not that Hollywood produced yet another movie that follows that same tired formula for a summer blockbuster. No, the problem those who love the novel have is that the amazing story and manner of storytelling that is “World War Z” is not being adapted to the screen. Plus, Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment own the title's film rights, so a film adaptation that stays true to source material will not be produced until Plan B loses or sells the property.

There is another, more upsetting problem with the film that comes across in the preview. This movie does not fit into the zombie film genre that has stuck with so many of us for so long. Sure, the trailer clearly shows mindless, once-human creatures attempting to attack others. But the genre is defined by the human stories and the human conflicts that arise in the zombie apocalypse. Zombie films are not about explosions and an us-against-them mentality. They reveal that we are the monsters, that we are humanity’s biggest threat.

The zombies of this trailer are just a faceless swarm, just an innumberable mass forming a ladder of endlessly pursuant bodies. There is only one moment where the trailer briefly shows a zombie with a face. In all other instances, the zombies are just a CGI swell. The packs of zombies are more like flood waters than masses of infected humans.

Still “World War Z” will be released on June 21, 2013 whether or not fans of the novel and fans of the zombie film in general approve. Do you want to see “World War Z” next summer? Why or why not?