HMZFilm meets World War Z author + World War Z film review (2013)

Max Brooks at Prince Charles Cinema  Me with Max Brooks Signed copy of World War Z

On Tuesday 21st March 2013 I attended a special screening of landmark horror film Night of the Living Dead (1968) at Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square. The event was introduced by Max Brooks, the international best selling author of Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. Max was on hand to meet fans, sign merchandise and also host an extensive Q+A session following the screening of the film. As expected, questions centered on Max’s supreme novel ‘World War Z’ and Brad Pitt’s recent film adaptation.

Brooks’ vision of a world plagued by a zombie pandemic unfolds in a series of harrowing interviews with survivors from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. It is written through a geo-political lens which expertly depicts how human reaction to such a crisis would vary wildly from one land to the next. Brooks’ copious research into cultural identity and political ideology has made for a chillingly realistic ‘what if’ scenario. Although the book is written from a global perspective, the ‘human factor’ is at the core World War Z. The interview structure lends itself to Brooks exploring his interviewees psyche and cultural indignation towards the crisis. It is a masterpiece which re-invigorated my passion for reading after many years.

My question for Max was around the research required for writing World War Z, his response did not surprise me, given the incredibly accurate and detailed knowledge of the global landscape. ‘For every one to two hours I spent writing, ten to twenty hours of research was carried out’ He went on to describe how his research involved both primary and secondary sources, he spoke to local experts as well as immersing himself in reading.

He was quicMax Brooks signed World War Z posterk to detach himself from the mega-budget film adaptation and urged fans of his book not to compare the two, claiming they ‘only share the same title’. Max was even asked to read the script but flatly refused as it was too late to make his mark. Good questions from audience members were rewarded with film posters’; he signed mine with ‘not my movie’. Having seen the film, I can now understand why, it isn’t World War Z but instead an enthralling summer blockbuster, a money spinning mutation for the masses which sacrifices the originality and terror of the book for hollow emotional fare.

World-War-Z-2013-Movie-PosterDirector: Marc Forster

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof           Source novel: Max Brooks

Certificate: 15    Running Time: 1hr 56 Mins

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Matthew Fox, Fana Mokoena

WWZ rating

Plot: Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) leaves his family behind to help discover the cause of the zombie pandemic which threatens to decimate the world’s population

When taken in isolation, World War Z makes for an enthralling global survival spectacle built around explosive action set pieces and Brad Pitt’s fine performance. Although, Pitt is never truly tested in his role as CIA operative Gerry Lane, his presence alone anchors and overcomes the discernible lack of horror in World War Z. The global nature of the crisis serves as a fine thread which binds the plot together, each country Lane visits offers clues as to the origins of the virus.  Although the film is well paced, it often feels rushed as it moves swiftly towards its frustratingly premature and far-fetched conclusion.

Given the backdrop of a zombie war, genre fans will be disappointed. Although, the zombie hordes are graphically memorable in the sensational swarm sequences, the extermination of individuals occurs off screen. Forster’s depiction of the zombie is far removed from the classic characterization, zombies sprint with ferocious intensity at breakneck speeds obliterating all in their path; rather than ambling with groggy and ultimately aimless intent. The virus makes the infected almost superhuman; the essence of pioneer George A. Romero’s vision of the living dead is almost completely lost.

Max Brooks has view that the quality that makes zombies so terrifying is their sheer mindlessness and inability to think or communicate. They can’t be reasoned with or negotiated with, they simply continue existing until they are put of their misery. In contrast Forster’s infected have emotion and can become more aggressive when provoked. It means there simply isn’t the terror witnessed in zombie classics of a bygone era, Danny Boyle’s classic 28 Days Later is an altogether grittier and affecting take on similar subject matter.

That being said, World War Z envelops into a family friendly action romp with colossal war scenes fitting for a blockbuster of this magnitude. The laboratory finale feels rushed and doesn’t tie in to the epic nature of events preceding it. Despite its shortcomings, it will certainly satisfy a large proportion of cinema going audiences. A sequel appears to have been commissioned, it will be fascinating to see if any of the source material will be explored and leveraged. One thing is for sure, there is an abundant source of richness left untouched after this offering.