David and I went to see World War Z last night and while I did enjoy the movie the world it paints seems far from the world presented in the book. The book paints these amazingly complex stories into a single story of the Zombie War or World War Z. We get to see the reaction from all the world powers and the history behind those decisions. We get to see the reaction from people on the ground as they realize what is happening. In the book we eventually see as the world figures out how to deal with the problem.
Now it is important to recognize that the movie for World War Z is designed as a trilogy – it does not give us the whole war and we don’t see the very beginning because we are telling the story from the perspective of America and the United Nations. At the same time they are telling a very different story than what is presented in the book. So the best way to talk about this is to go through some of the biggest differences that I found. (Spoilers for World War Z after the break)
Fast Versus Slow Zombies
So the reason this is a major difference is it changes the pace of the movie. In the book the war lasted 12 years. There is a huge amount of time that passes because the zombies move slowly so they slowly build their forces, but the infection is misdiagnosed for so long is part of the reason the problem spreads the way it does. You can get away from them, but they are an overwhelming force which keeps moving until they are shot in the head. Also, with cities where you are in a lot of small spaces and people caring for the sick that then turn and bite the person taking care of them and others. One zombie could end up infecting an entire apartment building. If you are not paying attention and dealing with the issue it could easily spread.
With the fast moving zombies of the movie the problem grows at a much faster rate and you have to change how the disease moves because suddenly zombies can outrun people. Suddenly instead of it taking a month to infect an apartment building they could basically be infected in a day. It is trying to make it more harrowing and scary, but it takes away part of what was so interesting about the book. The movie ignores the whole stage of the world wondering what was going on. The fast zombies make better action sequences, but it makes a more overwhelming force to deal with. This meant that they had to come up with a solution to the problem because the zombies were taking over the world. When they move fast there is no way to stop them.
So the movie did touch on the political dynamics, but it was definitely a side issue. A huge portion of the book dealt with the political situations all over the world. Instead of seeing just one side of the situation we get to see what is happening in a variety of locations. We hear about Korea, see the nuclear bomb, see Jerusalem in the movie, but they are such brief glimpses – it does not go into the issues that are interesting in the book.
The way the different countries handle things is so intriguing and the reason a nuclear attack happens is part of what is so fascinating. There are some countries that talk to their people; other countries will not tell their citizens anything. The army is a huge presence and often is screwing things up because they are not handling the situation well. They do not know how to fight an enemy that cannot be overpowered. The only thing that can stop them is to shoot the brain. My biggest nitpicky thing is that the Jerusalem solution does work, so them having Jerusalem fall in the movie was ridiculous.
So the thing they never dealt with in the movie was the lack of resources. They wait so long to acknowledge the problem, in the book, that the lack of available resources becomes a huge issue. Having enough food and fuel becomes an issue for everyone. The thought that you would create a floating command base is not a bad idea, but have they thought about what happens with fuel? What are they going to do once fuel runs out and they are stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?
It takes a while to get there, but probably about the time they show in the movie only the military is really flying anymore (partly due to fear of an infected being on a plane). A lot of people do end up on boats, but you end up with floating zombie ships because infected ended up on board. In the book it is not just about getting away from the zombies, but how do you get by and survive while also staying away from zombies.
Movie Versus Book
These are just a few of the major differences from the movie to the book. The other things are what I feel like is a result of the above differences. They have fast moving zombies so they have to create a better way to hide humanity, thus the whole zombies do not come after the diseased. They make the situation go downhill much faster in the movie than it did in the book. For some reason zombies alone was not a dire enough situation – it had to be something that would end the world in a year instead of 12 years.
I could continue, but I think the biggest thing is the movie is kind of forgettable. I had fun when I watched it and there were tense moments where zombies were jumping out at you and the actors did a fabulous job. At the same time the story is forgettable, there was simultaneously not enough and too much happening to tell a good story. I actually think that World War Z could have more closely resembled the book if it had gone the path of Contagion. It would still need to be a trilogy, but you could show a bunch of different stories and see the beginning of the outbreak with the initial reactions of the countries. Then show the failed combat and survival tactics in the next movie. Finally you have the living with the fact that zombies are around and eventual turning point in the war.
In the end I think the story from the book would have been better as a mini series.