The last decade plus of Hollywood’s zombie-mania has been eventful to say the least. It’s brought us shows like The Walking Dead, and film like Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. What was before a fairly simple movie monster, turned into a full-on phenomenon. It’s since tapered off, punctuated by the underwhelming World War Z adaptation back in 2013. Despite the development hell it went through to get made, followed by an underwhelming box office though, we’re getting a sequel due out in 2017 whether we like it or not.
Before we can delve into the sequel, it’s important to remember the inaugural film. Originally based off Max Brooks’s wildly popular novel of the same name, World War Z is widely considered to be the gold standard for zombie literature. It’s told in a series of vignettes during a single apocalypse situation sweeping across the globe, ending with an elegant solution that eventually quashes the undead uprising. This naturally led to Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the book, and so the movie project was born.
It was nothing short of a nightmare once World War Z entered its production phase. The script alone went through multiple rewrites before it was finally finished. This was followed by 7 weeks of reshoots, and then yet another treatment of the script’s third act from Damon Lindelof. Lindelof eventually was unable to complete his rewrites, handing them off next to Drew Goddard. All this sent the movie enormously over-budget, resulting in a hurried-out and watered-down version that tanked at the box office. Despite receiving Brooks’s blessing early on, the film itself bore little if any resemblance to its source material.
That all brings us up to date now, with Paramount officially having green-lit their World War Z sequel. Given the hell they went through getting the first film out, it’s more than a little surprising they’d willfully re-subject themselves to this franchise. That said, an argument can be made that the studio now understands what not to do heading into production. Writer Steven Knight has gone so far as to promise a “clean slate,” so there’s still some hope for the newly-announced 2017 release date.
In order for it to truly succeed though, Paramount will need to demonstrate their understanding of where World War Z came from. The novel itself is a political allegory, choosing to focus on the way our predefined systems of authority function under a global catastrophe. What we got in 2013 was a family-friendly popcorn flick that carried none of that nuance and thoughtfulness. There are enough zombie movies and TV shows out there that we don’t need another film to go through the motions.
Each and every property has managed to set itself apart: The Walking Dead is largely a character thinkpiece. Shaun of the Dead was arguably the best horror-comedy ever made. 28 Days Later reinvented the way we define zombies. World War Z though was largely forgettable in just about every way. The real shame is that given its source material, there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t exist amid the pantheon of great horror. Perhaps Paramount realized this too, and will gift us with a much-needed do-over for the sequel. Or at least that’s the dream.
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