Did the World War Z film ruin the book?

WWZ.jpg
Pretty sure you won't find this in the book...
Welcome to a new column called Geek Speak, in which we take on an aspect of geek culture each week.

After years of hype, numerous setbacks and rampant rumors of a troubled shoot, the big-screen adaptation of Max Brooks' World War Z, the greatest zombie novel of all time, is coming to theaters on Friday. And fans couldn't be more pissed.

The trailer reveals zombies that not only run, but act like army ants in some kind of hive-mind cooperative system. Just as bad, there's Brad Pitt's pretty-boy face trying to save the world. Needless to say, none of that was in the book. On millions of blog posts and forums, on Facebook and Twitter, and wherever angry nerds gather to gripe, the refrain is the same: They ruined the book!

That's nonsense.

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When I met Max Brooks last year at the Zombie Town Hall, we talked briefly about the film. He was serenely nonchalant about the whole thing. To paraphrase, his take was that they had made a movie with the same title of his book. They didn't ruin the book, because hey, his book was still the book. In other words, all they can ruin is their movie -- no matter what happens, the book he wrote is still the same as it ever was.

That's an important point, so let me belabor is a bit. World War Z, the movie, did not ruin World War Z, the book. It cannot ruin World War Z the book. It's just not possible. Let's say, for the sake of argument, you go see the movie. And you hate it. It's awful and nonsensical and takes nothing from book, or maybe what it does take it twists it in some stupid way. Okay, that sucked. You just spent $10, plus whatever outrageous amount for snacks, to see a shitty movie.

But when you come home and open your copy of World War Z, the book you have known and loved, proselytized to friends and read over and over, is that book going to be any different? Is the storyline going to have somehow been altered to match the shitshow you saw on screen? Is Brad Pitt going to have been magically inserted into your favorite scenes? No! No matter what happens in that movie theater over the two hours you watch the movie, the book will be the same as it ever was.

But wait, you say -- what they ruined was the chance for the story you love to be made into a movie. Instead we got this thing with Brad Pitt and running zombies acting like army ants and because of that, there will never be a movie that lived up to the one in your head while you read the book. To this I say, "eh, so it goes."

Look, this was all but a foregone conclusion when the book rights were sold. It almost always is, and with a book as non-Hollywood friendly as World War Z there was no chance for a "pure" adaptation. There's no main character! The book is written as a series of interviews compiled into a comprehensive report to the UN about the history of a years-long conflict! What the fuck was Hollywood going to do with that? Of course it was going to turn it into a big dumb action movie with zombies! I'm not even sure the book as written could be made into a movie, at least not one of reasonable length. Maybe a six-part faux documentary, which would be totally sweet, but not a two-hour movie that people -- and by this I mean people who weren't already rabid fans of the book and/or the zombie genre in general, not people like you and me -- would go pay $10 to see in a theater during the summer blockbuster season.

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16 comments
xaviersx
xaviersx

Only thing Brad Pitt's World War Z seems to ruin is a chance at a faithful adaption of the written source.  Who's going to come along and make the tv show or another movie or trilogy so soon after something titled World War Z?  Nobody, unless they have deep pockets and connections.  That's my only big letdown in this movie being divergent enough that it could have been it's own thing without license of the name.

trevor2755
trevor2755

If I watch the movie before reading the book, will it be a spoiler or give away anything in the book?

DickWhitman
DickWhitman

They could have easily made it into a minimalistic horror film, taking some of the most terrifying parts of the book and showing the interviewees' stories in flashbacks. That would have been true to the book, break convention with blockbuster infected/zombie movies, and keep the fans happy, maybe even make non-book fans happy!

cory.casciato
cory.casciato

Appreciate all the comments, folks. Keep them coming!

filch23
filch23

Yes a film can ruin a book. A crappy film tarnishes the brand. By using the same title the two are inextricably interlinked. There are several examples of this: Golden Compass, Great Gatsby, etc. By creating a piece of crap in the name of the book, the story is forever colored by crappy production.

Christopher David
Christopher David

I think the beauty of the book is that it's told in the aftermath with the threat of reprisal while the movie looks to be in the moment. That is to say, just like every other zombie movie. The book tells a very actual, scientific story of how the world would indeed react if zombies were a real thing.

Christopher David
Christopher David

Well, hard for me to say. The book was actually NOT lame unless you're a dunce. Haven't even seen the movie but based on appearances it doesn't look very faithful to the book. That's okay since the movie CAN be better than the book in some cases e.g. The Shining, Jaws...etc. Still, it seems like the movie should have just named itself any random zombie name and not dragged the book title into it.

Nando Commando
Nando Commando

Haven't read the book, but just saw the movie, and while it was well put together, it lacked that zombie luster. It's no 28 Days Later, but the zombies are fast, awesome, powerful. The story is simple, but still interesting. What I wanted to say after seeing this movie was, "Holy s***! That was awesome!" I can't do that, though.

Anna Gingher
Anna Gingher

Omg that movie is NOT the book. It is so loosely based its stupid to even compare the two. The book is so much better, please read that instead of watching this zombie movie Trying to cash in on max brooks' masterpiece.

Monte Aaron
Monte Aaron

No, the book is still just as good as ever

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