Sunday, 23 June 2013

World War Z and Why I Am Conflicted.

Let me start by saying that I really really enjoyed this film. I was surprised by this as I was so sure I would hate it. Many people have had to listen to my rants in the lead up to this film and now I have to admit I was wrong. It was genuinely amazing and there were some bits where I did that thing where I forget to breathe from the suspense. The fact that I saw it at the late night showing after being at work all day and I didn't fall asleep should definitely tell you something. I could even forgive the fact they had running wailing zombies rather than the shuffling moaning zombies in the book because they were good and scary and sometimes I had to hide. Gore fans may be disappointed about the lack of blood and entrails but I didn't mind as I'm not a massive fan of that.

A big plus point for me was that for once I actually believed that this zombie outbreak was worldwide because we got to see other places rather than some American people just going 'Holy moly this things worldwide!' and then hiding somewhere in America for the next 2 hours. The whole Jerusalem part was just breathtaking. We did already see the wall breaching Zombie Scramble in the trailer but there was lots more to it than that. The way that city went from being a safe zone to NOW YOU'RE SCREWED kind of made the whole thing believable as you could see how quickly the virus spreads. And obviously here I could understand their decision to use running zombies as the aerial shots wouldn't have had the same effect if everyone down below was just power walking away.

Zombie Scramble

I liked that it just suddenly started. Everything was dandy and then suddenly...ZOMBIES IN YOUR FACE. I thought this was a good nod to the book as it depicted The Great Panic and how average people didn't believe the threat until the zombies were in their homes and their faces.

 Also hi Peter Capaldi! Didn't know your face was in this. Good to see you!

So I enjoyed the film. The only problem is that I have no idea what book they were basing it on. And this is why I am conflicted. If I put aside the book I enjoyed the film, but after I came out of the cinema and started thinking about it that faded and I went into rant mode which was really irritating for the friend who was with me. And I'm not stupid, I know that there was no way they could do the book justice. Too many characters, too many stories and just too much to condense into a film that would make sense. So my expectations were not that high. But no Yonkers? No quislings? No decimations and crazy religious people in Russia? No Raj-Singh Manoeuver and taking back America? And the thing that has really ruined it for me...?

No Redeker Plan. Seriously. Not mentioned at all.

Fair enough missing out individual stories and characters but the use of the Redeker plan is one of the main themes running through the book and for me, one of the most important parts. It makes you think about the moral questions brought up when some kind of disaster strikes. Do you try to be a hero and save everyone or do you sacrifice some to save the rest? What kind of measures would be put in place by those in charge if something like this happened? For me, these reactions and scenarios are what makes the book so interesting. Yonkers is another major plot point as it represents humanity waking up and realising that all our high tech weapons are useless when all the enemy wants to do is nom your face and blowing them up doesn't really work.

The film has decided to completely ignore these themes and go straight for the all American hero with fantastic swooshy hair who single handedley saves what is left of the world by running a lot and guessing stuff. That is not what the book is about. In the book the world has already lost! There is no magical cure or 'camouflage' or secret weapon or hero. There is a war which humanity pretty much loses. And when they do fight back it's with tactics and hard work and lots of shooting. Not with sketchy science that Brad Pitt made a wild guess at.

Mr Swooshy McSwooshington doing some heroic running

Speaking of Brad Pitt and his fantastic swooshy hair, there's another thing that bugged me. The narrator in the book is a regular UN investigator writing a report trying to find out where humanity went wrong so that it doesn't happen again. We don't know his story or what japes he got up to during the outbreak. Brad Pitt has been made into this UN badass ninja who can fly planes, fix serious injuries with only a basic first aid kit and some vodka and make really really lucky guesses. He's already enough of a hero that his family gets special treatment and are rescued even though he's retired. I'm sorry but he really didn't seem to do much that warranted this hero worship. He mostly ran around while other people died for him. Sure he makes up for it at the end with some impressive swaggering through a screeching bunch of zombies but it was quite a leap to believe that there was no one already on the UN payroll that could have done this job. Maybe it was the hair.

So I might be taking this all way too seriously but it's one of my favourite books so I've decided I'm allowed. And realistically I know there's no way a film adapted faithfully from it would work. There's no central character to focus on. The scope of it is too much. There's too many people, places and events. The whole perspective of the book (the fact that it's looking back at the war rather than happening during it) would probably make it a fairly boring film because there would be nothing to root for. I know this. So here's a thought. Why try to make it a film in the first place? This is a good movie but it's not World War Z so why bother pretending that it is? Make a good zombie film and leave the book for someone else to have a go at. I happen to think the book would have made a good TV series. I find it so frustrating that you can buy the rights to something and then just completely ignore it.

In conclusion I will see this film again because it's a good old fashioned disaster film with lots of tension, running about and scary zombies. There's even a couple of laughs, my favourites being the ill-timed phone call and the guy that accidentally manages to shoot himself in the head. That bit was wonderful. I also really liked seeing zombies pottering about Glasgow and I even enjoyed Brad Pitt with his stupid scarf and his hair acting and his naivety in thinking that piling suitcases in front of a curtain is effective against zombies. So go see it. But also read the book. Just try to keep them separate in your delicious brain as I'm attempting to do, and you'll be fine.

Read it :)