Marc Forster’s zombie drama World War Z has traveled a long, bumpy road, and it won’t even hit theaters until June 21. Multiple writers were brought in to fix what was reportedly a disastrous third act, and after wrapping up principal photography, Paramount ordered extensive reshoots. Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) was one of these writers, and he recently opened up about it in an interview.
World War Z is based on the best-selling novel by Max Brooks. If you’ve read the book, you know it doesn’t lend itself to an easy adaptation. While there is an overall thematic arc, there are no continuous characters, and no narrative through line. It reads like a series of short stories. That’s a problem when making the transition from page to screen.
Talking to Vanity Fair, Lindelof says star and producer Brad Pitt told him, “When we started working on the script, a lot of that stuff had to fall away for the story to come together. We started shooting the thing before we locked down how it was going to end up, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”
After watching a rough cut of the film, Lindelof says the conclusion was “abrupt and incoherent,” and that it was “missing a large chunk of footage.” Again, these things do not bode well for a major motion picture.
Part of the draw for Lindelof was that he didn’t have the connection to or history with the source material many of the others involved did. He immediately had two ideas of how to proceed. First was to examine the material to make the plot work better, to rewrite for coherence and logistical concerns, and to up the emotional stakes. Then there was “Road Two, which I think is the long-shot road, is that everything changes after Brad leaves Israel.”
While we don’t know the specifics of what happens after Pitt leaves Israel, it involved major, major changes, and this is the option the producers went with. The result was to trash 12 minutes of footage—a huge battle in Russia—write a new end, and shoot an additional 40 minutes’ worth of movie. This pushed the budget for the film above $200 million.
Whatever the troubles experienced by the production of World War Z, Paramount must think they’ve got something. There’s a big marketing push that includes posters and TV spots, the film has a prime summer release date, and the trailers actually look pretty good. For good or ill, we’ll find out in a month and a half.
What do you think? Are you excited for World War Z, or do you expect a spectacular train wreck?