Paramount announces World War Z release date, plot

World War ZParamount Pictures has announced some details on the upcoming film World War Z, based on Max Brooks’ novel, an oral history of the Zombie war. Some of the details I’m okay with. One I’m really happy about. Another, I’m not happy with at all.

Much of the news deals with the cast and crew, which includes Brad Pitt as United Nations employee Gerry Lane, Mireille Enos (AMC’s The Killing) as his wife Karen, newcomer Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale (The Departed) and Matthew Fox (Lost). It’s directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace). I have no qualms with the cast or the crew. I’m sure they’ll do just fine.

The release date is set for Dec. 21, 2012, which I consider a stroke of genius, as it has been predicted by many to be Doomsday. (I really don’t think anything is going to happen, but wouldn’t it suck if something did and nobody was around to see the movie?)

I am concerned, however, by the plot synopsis provided by Paramount. It says, and I quote:

“The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.  Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.”

I’m sorry, I hate to be one of those “the book is way better because the movie changed so much” kind of people, and usually I’m not, but this is a fairly fundamental change. A race against time? To stop the Zombie pandemic? Dear Paramount, the book takes place 10 years after the Zombocalypse. That’s why it’s called an oral history of the Zombie war.

Brooks purposely wrote it this way. He told me so. Okay, maybe not me specifically, but during his panel at Phoenix Comicon in May, he talked about how he modeled the book after Studs Terkel’s novel The Good War, which won a Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction for his collection of interviews with World War II survivors. Brooks said he wrote it this way, at least in part, as a social commentary to analyze the differences in how other cultures handled the crisis and to look back on alternative ways in which the pandemic spread (i.e. black market organ transplants). The narrator himself never encounters a single zombie, cover to cover. To deviate from this structure, to make it a present-day geo-political thriller, is to change the entire premise, the entire point.

To be fair, I can probably understand their thought process in adapting it this way. It’s like those Shark Week survivor shows; it’s less exciting if you know from the beginning that the person lived. But I can assure all of you who haven’t read it, each story within the novel is plenty intense enough. More than one of them gave me recurring nightmares.

So I just have to wonder, if the studio has to change World War Z so drastically to meet their action/horror standards, why bother adapting it at all?

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