It seems that everywhere you look nowadays, you see zombies. No, not silently creeping up behind you at work while you’re filing that TPS report. Not ready to leap on top of you and eat your face as soon as you open your front door. But with shows like The Walking Dead, movies like Warm Bodies and video games like The Last of Us, zombies have become a big part of our culture. So how do filmmakers keep making films about the living dead without being stale? Well, in the case of World War Z, it takes one of the most popular zombie authors on the planet and the ability to overcome a few setbacks.
Author Max Brooks – son of comedian Mel Brooks and actress Anne Bancroft – made a name for himself during the initial wave of zombie-mania with his witty and insightful book, The Zombie Survival Guide. He followed up the faux manual in 2006 with World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which presented various accounts of a fictional war with zombies collected into an anthology. Both books were praised for their humor and inventiveness, prompting interest from film production companies. In the end, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Productions paid a pretty penny to beat out Leonardo DiCaprio’s company, Appian Way.
This is where production problems began. A script was fully written, then completely scrapped and re-written. Paramount threatened to back out if another financier didn’t step up. Actors and actresses committed to the film and then backed out. There was even a customs incident where fake firearms to be used for filming weren’t declared when brought into Hungary (and turned out not to be fake). Oh, and after the film was completed, they brought in Damon Lindelof (Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Drew Goddard to completely rework the last third of the film. All in all, the reshoots alone cost $200 million and pushed the release date from December 2012 to June 2013.
If the response from critics is any indication, the extra work was worth it. Although it isn’t presented in the “eye-witness account” format as in the book, it does retain the expansive global feel that made the book so popular. You aren’t trapped in a house or shopping mall watching TV; you get to witness the pandemic as if it were a real international incident being dealt with by multiple governments. The zombie apocalypse wouldn’t happen the same way around the world, and audiences will get to see a few stunning scenarios of how it might go down. Brook’s extensive research adds incredible realism to the film, and the addition of the “zombie waves” seen in the trailer will blow audiences out of their seats.
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