I wouldn’t call myself a horror fan anymore, but I dabble in minuscule doses under controlled circumstances, if I sense some sort of aesthetic at work whose quality isn’t measured by how many sanguinary “epic kills” are racked up for our carnival amazement. I read Max Brooks’ debut novel World War Z a while back and thought it was an exemplary exception. Styled as an assembled “oral history”, WWZ was a patchwork of short stories about human perseverance (or lack thereof at times) in the face of standard undead onslaught, attached to a Big Picture framework you could discern if you paid attention to the little details scattered throughout its varied first-person narratives. Brooks had a remarkably dexterous way of shifting across a full spectrum of cosmopolitan viewpoints across continents, at exploring different levels of survival competence ranging from blind luck to militarily prepared, and especially at extrapolating how governments other than ours might respond to such a nightmarish, supernatural threat. (Ever wonder what extremes China might consider? Brooks does.) Content extremity was kept to a minimum in most sections, opting instead for a more well-rounded, humanizing approach to the storytellers. It wasn’t Frank Peretti, but it wasn’t torture porn or splatterpunk, either.
This mosaic of unrelated characters has apparently now been funneled into the major motion picture World War Z starring Brad Pitt as the Main Character the book didn’t really have, Mireille Enos from The Killing demoted from failed detective to The Wife, and some cute defenseless children, because Paramount Pictures is reportedly aiming for a PG-13 rating so everyone can conscientiously keep a Blu-Ray copy on the family-blockbuster shelf next to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
At first glance, my impression is that the producer who optioned the book had an intern read it for them, and their major takeaway was “Army versus zombies”. If this trailer is fully indicative of the finished product, the endgame for this “adaptation” is family man Pitt leading disposable soldiers into Lord of the Rings-level skirmishes against untold legions of the Speedy Gonzales walkers from 28 Days Later, all set to the bombastic accompaniment of the Transformers Trailers Marching Band.
Maybe the trailer is misleading. Maybe this really will be faithfully executed as a multi-narrative ensemble along the lines of Traffic, Babel, or Syriana. Maybe the producers didn’t trust the viewing public to hop aboard the WWZ bandwagon if they revealed too soon that Pitt and Enos comprise only 10% of the film, but totally promise that the other 90% will blow us all away even if we don’t recognize a single actor in the rest of it and some of them are subtitled. (The dismal returns for Babel certainly wouldn’t help allay their fears.)
The director is Marc Forster, whose inconsistent films have included the mostly touching Finding Neverland; the quirky, underrated Stranger Than Fiction; and the sad, hollow Quantum of Solace, whose misfire we can thank for necessitating the James Bond producers to work that much more diligently to ensure that Skyfall will be an A++++ product to atone for Quantum‘s deficiencies.
I’ll admit many a moon has passed since I finished reading World War Z for myself, but this trailer doesn’t remind me of any of it.