Book vs Film: World War Z

We take a look at Hollywood blockbuster World War Z and its paper-based counterpart and debate which works better.

When comparing the zombie craze flick to its paper based source, the colossal differences are evident – World War Z has to be looked at as a stand-alone form of entertainment and the same applies to the renowned novel by Max Brooks. So it is extremely difficult to associate the spine-chillingly realistic account by celebrated author Max Brooks and the oh so typically action filled version by director Marc Forster.

Astonishingly World War Z didn’t turn out to be a pile of disjointed, unwatchable drivel despite the complete lack of source related content in the film and the evident path the action packed adaptation would follow – which of course disappointed many World War Z fans. The novel’s complex narrative structure could be considered rather tricky to translate onto film and it is of course surprising that the script was even remotely filmable – although the film version is somewhat passive compared to the gritty, critically acclaimed novel.

The narrative of the novel concerns a U.N employer interviewing survivors of the most vicious socially shared war the world has ever encountered which crumbled the spirit of humanity to the core – the accounts mostly consist of recollections which if included in the adaptation would have scarcely worked. The movie stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a United Nation’s employee who travels the world in an attempt to end a zombie apocalypse that threatens to wipe out humanity as we know it – this of course is a far-off variation to Brooks’s novel. The change to the story is enormous – the title remains the only connection. Brooks’s novel explores a vast number of subjects – not only the causes of the outbreak but also how well the human race dealt with something as frightening and catastrophic as a zombie apocalypse. Brooks’s narrative created an interesting, symbolic structure which explored numerous social, ethical and political aspects – the body of the story being the way humanity crumbled internally. The novel is an eye opener for all the problems we as a society would scarcely deal with if the opportunity presented itself – the fact that the dead rise is only a small part of the impact of the novel and what it signifies.

The ‘adaptation’ of World War Z took on an entirely new direction with Brad Pitt as the lead ‘hero’ saving the world and his family – which is typical of Hollywood really, once again portraying an American being the most applicable protagonist against a worldwide disaster. Max Brooks’s novel on the other hand concerns the accounts of multiple heroes from all over the world that deal with the crisis in their own significant and admirable ways. Not to mention Pitt’s character who in the book is a man on a mission to collect knowledge and perspective on the global cataclysm that left humanity in ruins.

In spite of obvious flaws, World War Z turned out to be a rather entertaining action film, keeping the frightening way in which the onslaught of the living dead swarmed the screens in mind – but unfortunately this is all the film had to offer – along with the legendary talents of Brad Pitt, of course. The only major error in the narrative of the film is the ending, the sheer ridiculousness of the concept is laughable and impractical – who would have thought that terminal illness repelled the living dead? The ending feels rushed and careless; it’s as if the writers just couldn’t be bothered anymore. Max Brooks’s story is entirely separate and shouldn’t even be remotely associated with the movie.

It is impossible to dismiss the film as a whole due to the way that the director has recreated the view of zombies in general. The zombies in World War Z pick off their victims with swiftness and grit, ripping the flesh off their bodies with frightening power but what makes them more frightening is how high-speed they are.

There is no doubt that the story in World War Z is extremely enthralling, with the narrative so frightening that it is tough to believe that it is fiction and not just Max Brooks warning us of an upcoming epidemic. The film on the other hand is nothing more than another money maker that Hollywood spewed out this summer; it is of course entertaining but nowhere near as crafty as the book. Max Brooks’s novel is clearly the winner here, without a shadow of a doubt.

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