When a movie goes into re-shoots late into production, it’s usually a sign that the film is in trouble. That trouble is doubled when a movie has to completely rewrite its final act and ending before it goes into those re-shoots. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with World War Z. While the film isn’t perfect, it’s serviceable considering the film’s production problems. In fact, one can make the case that re-shoots and rewrites were the best thing for World War Z.
In a column on Movies.com, director Marc Forster breaks down why World War Z‘s ending wasn’t working and how they tried to fix the problem. If you’re not aware, the last third of World War Z was completely different than what Forster and Brad Pitt conceived in the film’s original screenplay. Basically, everything from when Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane and Israeli soldier Segen crash land in Wales after the zombie epidemic reached Jerusalem is new material they had to shoot before the film’s release in June. Originally, the pair landed in Russia were then forced to fight the rising numbers of zombies in giant battle sequences. Forster explains the change:
The problem with that battle sequence is you get lost because obviously you can’t just stay with Gerry, you have so much more going on. So you lose the connection with him. What the ending should really be about is solving that riddle [of how to combat the zombies] with him. And to make it a more quiet and suspenseful is a much more interesting approach than to do it in a big battle way. That’s how these discussions came about and why we ended up setting the ending in a World Health Organization lab. As in all of my movies, I’m always about the character, about these quiet moments. So I was really happy when everyone came around and agreed and supported that vision.
It’s refreshing that Forster and Pitt went smaller and quieter when most summer blockbusters inevitably go bigger in the final act. Movies like The Avengers, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Man of Steel, and Pacific Rim have showcased the trend of culminating summer blockbusters with ever more destruction, more action, and bigger stakes. Forster continues:
I believed in this ending more than anything. What I also liked about it was every summer blockbuster is trying in the third act is to do a bigger set piece that’s bigger and louder than what you’ve seen in the rest of the movie. I felt going against the grain and doing something more quiet and simple will be so much interesting and refreshing and something that we’re not used to. I was excited coming from a concept standpoint that everybody was willing to go there and not be like everybody else and do this big battle set piece, which was huge and loud and long; that we would go and take it in this smaller more quieter space.
As World War Z comes out on home video, a big question is whether any footage from the original ending will be included as a bonus feature. Unfortunately, Forster confirms that the Russian battle sequences will not be included in World War Z’s Blu-ray/DVD because those scenes were never finished and, in some cases, never shot. Forster says:
I don’t think you’ll ever see the Russia sequence, because we never really finished it; we never spent the money to do the visual effects. Once we shot it and we did a rough cut, everyone agreed that this is too big and too exhausting, it would be better to go a simpler route. So to finish the sequence aside from fine tuning it you would have to do massive amounts of CG work, which would be in the millions of dollars, so I don’t think anyone would want to spend the money on that. It’s a fantastic sequence, like the Israel one, but it’s just too much. It was too big and not the right ending.
Meanwhile, Brad Pitt talked about developing World War Z‘s sequel. While World War Z is based on Max Brooks’ “oral history of the zombie apocalypse,” not much material from the book actually ended up in the final movie. There’s a greater chance that the sequel film will incorporate more ideas from the best-selling novel. “We have so many ideas on the table from the time we spent developing this thing and figuring out how the zombie worlds work,” Pitt told Variety. “We gotta get the script right first to determine if we go further.”
World War Z is available today on Blu-ray/DVD and as a digital download. Read more about Marc Forster’s breakdown of World War Z at Movies.com and read more about the zombie film’s darker and more disturbing original ending right here.