A Premature Post-Mortem
June 6, 2013 2:55 PM   Subscribe

With the imminent release of the much discussed, and utterly doomed film version of Max Brooks' World War Z, Vanity Fair gives an in depth look at the story behind the creation. From the initial bidding war over the film rights, through the troubled production, rewrites, reshoots, and drama behind what is already being called the biggest flop in film history.
posted by mediocre (108 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
My British brain cannot handle the pun in the title. I know it should be "World War Zee", but I can only read it as the profoundly unsatisfying "World War Zed". Probably the least of their worries, by the the sound of it.
posted by howfar at 3:00 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


what is already being called the biggest flop in film history

Not that Brad Pitt needs my money or anything, but how can it be called a flop when it hasn't even come out yet?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


a) eponysterical

b) the hideous trailers of fast-moving zombies completely misses the point of the creeping dread of Z. The switching perspectives of the book - location, politics, personal, geopolitical, scientific - as the horror unfolded.... told in flashback....... were another GREAT feature of the book, which look to be neutered by a much blander hollywood model focusing on The Star and the Things He Must Do.
posted by lalochezia at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


This picture: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/05/23/article-2329577-0D8AB0D900000578-318_634x428.jpg

That's not Philadelphia. That doesn't look anything LIKE Philadelphia. The only accurate thing is the Philadelphia Fire Department ambulance. The geography is absolutely off. Wow.

Not that I was going to see the movie anyway.
posted by SansPoint at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2013


How does it not look like Philadelphia? You could convince me that's any city in North America. There are no identifying geographic or architectural landmarks.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:06 PM on June 6, 2013


Might not be Philly, but IMDB says of the 21 locations this movie was shot in, that it was/is.

This information is as good as conjecture until the film comes out.
posted by PipRuss at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We don't really need an adaptation of the movie cause we allready have one, the stellar audio book which actually fixes a lot of problems with the book.

So we'll take this as an unrelated zombie movie that shares a title...but movies stuck in this kind of production hell tend to ...not be....good.
posted by The Whelk at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pun in the title? Because it sort-of rhymes with World War Three??
posted by stopgap at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2013


I'm an American and that pun didn't occur to me until like, now.
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Damon Lindelhof has gotta be the biggest con artist going these days. Lost, Prometheus, the new Star Trek, and now this one. Shitshows every one of them.
posted by dobbs at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


Whatever the other merits of the opinions cited, the second link goes to a site that advertises itself in the masthead as Pop Culture for Conservatives and Independents and leads off its Prometheus review with this lovely bit of dogwhistling:
Recently, I’ve given this film a lot of thought however, and I’ve concluded that Prometheus is actually an attack on militant atheism.
I am certain that this site will totally give a film starring Brad Pitt, a celebrity widely known for his left-leaning politics who is married to an even more leftist celebrity, and part of a couple who combined seem to drive the right wing into a frothing rage, a fair shake.

Totally.
posted by scrump at 3:09 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


That scene was shot in Glasgow, Scotland. There was a fair amout of press about it in the UK at the time. I remember because they also shot where I live.
posted by biffa at 3:09 PM on June 6, 2013


dobbs: I liked the new Star Trek. And the sequel.
posted by SansPoint at 3:09 PM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


"utterly doomed"

I remember when they were saying the same thing about Titanic. And boy, were they ever wrong!

About the movie, I mean.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pun in the title? Because it sort-of rhymes with World War Three??

I didn't say it was a good pun, but it is plainly a play on words. And it's a simply awful title said British-ly. Also, it doesn't "sort of" rhyme, unless you know about a next level of rhyming that no-one's told me about. Tell me about it please.
posted by howfar at 3:14 PM on June 6, 2013


Scott Foundas, not exactly a gushing fanboy, gave the film a very positive review in Variety.
posted by eugenen at 3:16 PM on June 6, 2013


I'm sure I'll like the movie better than the awful book. I doubt the movie will be Manos-level bad, but the book read like it was written by a precocious tween. Unbearable.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:17 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Well, since the book was wildly over-rated and implausible beyond even the general lines of zombie mythos, I guess I'm not surprised to find out that the movie's gonna be a ramshackle slog.
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


High five to Haddock.
posted by klangklangston at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2013


The book was tedious. It's like Adrian Mole grew up and had zombie neighbours.
posted by arcticseal at 3:18 PM on June 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


I got your back in the zombie apocalypse, klangston.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:19 PM on June 6, 2013


I loved the book. Maybe that was because I listened to the audiobook during a particularly tedious project at my old job, but I found it utterly engrossing, and deeply creepy. The movie, on the other hand, looks terrible.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:20 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, I was a bit disappointed with the first trailer and I expected it to be nothing like the book. But after seeing the new trailer, I got to thinking: maybe it could be a decent action movie. Maybe not exactly scene-for-scene like the book, but it could carry some of the bigger themes.

And maybe them pumping more money into it is a sign that they believe it could work, rather than a desperate grab for cash.
posted by DavidHogue at 3:22 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's so much worse for what could have been:
When asked about his involvement with the film, author Max Brooks stated that he had "zero control", but favored a role for Brad Pitt, and expressed approval for Straczynski as screenwriter. Brooks said: "I can't give it away, but Straczynski found a way to tie it all together. The last draft I read was amazing."

An early script was leaked onto the Internet in March 2008. Ain't It Cool News review of the script called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material". The review also noted the film appears stylistically similar to Children of Men, following Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind."
Pitt did such a fine job producing/starring in Moneyball, another adaptation of a difficult documentary book. It's weird to see this one turn into such a trainwreck.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:25 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The switching perspectives of the book - location, politics, personal, geopolitical, scientific - as the horror unfolded.... told in flashback....... were another GREAT feature of the book, which look to be neutered by a much blander hollywood model focusing on The Star and the Things He Must Do.

I knew this movie was going off the rails when they dropped the interviewer/flashback framing. That's basically the structure of Citizen Kane, but for some reason, that's not good enough for Hollywood anymore, so they went all Hero's Journey on it.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:30 PM on June 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


The bigger story is that anyone needed a Business Insider hack who doesn't know the difference between a vampire and a zombie to know this movie is going to suck. Exhibit #1: the trailer that only a zombie could find interesting. Exhibit #2: the producers "fixed" a Straczynski screenplay with a string of other writers. I'm surprised it isn't already introduced as a film by Alan Smithee.
posted by Hylas at 3:34 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I have high hopes for this movie. And by "high hopes" I mean, "there's no way it can be worse than the book."
posted by MoonOrb at 3:34 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loved the book!

Zeroing in on the spread of the infection by showing the vastly different ways various countries all over the globe were infected, affected by and dealt with the outbreak gave the book a realism I appreciated, especially since most zombie stories only deal with one country--whichever country the writer is from--and just hand wave away the rest of the globe like it doesn't matter.

The book didn't jump all over the place at all! It just changed perspectives to give an accurate accounting (fictionalized, of course) of a global epidemic.

I do NOT like critics "reviewing" movies before they come out; gleefully malicious critics basically killed John Carter, a perfectly good action sci-fi adventure film, dead in the water by raking it over the coals before any of them had ever even seen the film, basing their reviews on nothing more than gossip over the movie's big budget. That may well be the case with World War Z, too.

Still, I am disappointed that the movie seems to have become "Oh noes, Brad Pitt and his adorable movie family are caught up in a zombie uprising!". We already have plenty of movies that come from that angle, which is why I was looking forward to World War Z in the first place. I had anticipated more of an Andromeda Man approach.
posted by misha at 3:37 PM on June 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


Keith Talent: How does it not look like Philadelphia? You could convince me that's any city in North America. There are no identifying geographic or architectural landmarks.

That proposes to be the intersection of Broad Street and Arch Street, looking towards John F. Kennedy Boulevard. In real life, you'd be staring down the world's largest, and a rather distinctive, Masonry building, that looks nothing like what you'd see there. You would not see Market Street, which stops to allow for that very large masonry building.
posted by SansPoint at 3:38 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


How does it not look like Philadelphia? You could convince me that's any city in North America. There are no identifying geographic or architectural landmarks.

There are three visible street signs: JFK Boulevard, Broad, Arch. Those are 3 major Center City Philadelphia streets, instantly recognizable to any resident.

Except that Broad is the N-S axis of the city's grid, and Arch and JFK run perpendicular to it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:38 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


It should've been a goddamned Ken Burns documentary. Making a traditional film narrative out of it is a terrible idea for terrible people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:43 PM on June 6, 2013 [27 favorites]


dobbs: I liked the new Star Trek. And the sequel.

He only worked on the sequel.

And I forgot about Cowboys & Aliens. But then who of us didn't? Or doesn't wish they could?
posted by dobbs at 3:46 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As biffa said earlier, many of the downtown scenes were shot in Glasgow. The pink tarmac of George Square is clearly visible in the mentioned photo.
posted by Jakey at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2013


I was initially drawn to the book because it seemed a fresh and compelling approach to the whole zombie apocalypse scenario. After reading it I have to agree with what some others have already said: the writing was quite poor, to the point of distraction. A bit of trivia: the author, Max Brooks, has a well-known dad called Mel.
posted by jamjames at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree: The book's interesting concept fell flat when it became apparent that Brooks just didn't possess the writing chops to pull it off. The multitude of different voices all came across as having been written by the same mediocre author, for starters.
posted by item at 3:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Blargh. Now I want a Mel Brooks zombie movie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:52 PM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


The Night of the Living Dead and Loving It
posted by item at 3:53 PM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


I still don't get what the pun is. What pun?
posted by The World Famous at 3:53 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went out and found a copy of the script JMS was working on for this...not done it yet, but it certainly reads like a movie I would love to see. Shame they went away from it.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:53 PM on June 6, 2013


It should've been a goddamned Ken Burns documentary.

Since the book was written as an oral history. To have made it in any other vein than that fails completely to get what made the book work.

I guess people hated it? I loved it, and it's a shame that they even tried to make this movie. I have no intention of seeing it, but that's mostly because it seems like it's gonna be just another zombie flick.
posted by shmegegge at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's basically the structure of Citizen Kane, but for some reason, that's not good enough for Hollywood anymore

Citizen Kane was a flop on release, so maybe Hollywood instead learned the lesson of Citizen Kane.

Also, Is Brad Pitt's $400m World War Z movie set to become the most expensive flop of all time? is a Daily Mail headline with a question, so is probably a QTWTAIN.
posted by liquidindian at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2013


I reserve my judgement until after I have seen the movie. People were insisting Avatar was going to be a flop and it made a billion plus dollars.

It's got swarms of running zombies, yes. Not very traditional, but, then, Romero's zombies weren't created by Haitian voodoo, so there's room for experimentation. It's obviously not Max Brooks' book, either, but we'll see if it succeeds as its own thing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:55 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still don't get what the pun is. What pun?

World War Three.

World War Zee.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, the studio executives interviewed in this sound like people so blinded by an inability to actually understand the structure of what they are doing, it is incredible.

Somehow, they are convinced that the bean counters "know" what does and does not make a good movie. I mean, what was it, 10 references to the budget of the production? Seriously? WHO GIVES A SHIT!

I am seriously scared of just how horrible they will make this.

And what made the original book (and the audiobook) interesting was not the "quality" of the writing (which frankly, people criticizing the style aren't really following that it was a useful story-teller voice that Max Brooks adopted, modeled on the works of Studs Terkel, you know, that famous guy who did a lot of documentary stuff), but the juxtaposition of the two models. It allowed the author to explore details of the scenarios in many ways that just don't flow out of the standard narrative style. It is not an objective style, precisely because it is told by many different individuals from their own point of (flawed) view, recorded by a single narrator, trying to tie all of those stories together to form a gestalt. It is a Heironymus Bosch panoramic scene, as viewed after the war is ostensibly over, but with the added horror of how the survivors remember their individual roles in the atrocities they witnessed and went through.

This sounds like dreck. Also, Damon and his whole "emotional" character bit? Seriously? You want me to care about a character, MAKE THEM INTERESTING, not irrational dipshits who can't seem to figure out how not to look like a scared rabbit in every other scene.

However, I do look forward to the drinking game this movie will ultimately create. My liver may disagree, but my laughing myself silly about how bad this movie is going to be to watch in a few years on netflix is going to be awesome. I have high hopes that it will outperform Legends of the Fall.
posted by daq at 4:00 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


The multitude of different voices all came across as having been written by the same mediocre author, for starters.

This is why I think the audio book is the superior adaptation of the material, the actors ( so many names!) really help separate out the different voices and make it immediate. Like, yeah, go listen to the Audi book, it's great.
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, it doesn't "sort of" rhyme, unless you know about a next level of rhyming that no-one's told me about.

I edit-window-sinned to add the "sort of" because I had never thought of the two phrases as rhyming until you mentioned that there was a pun. I assumed there was some fancy linguistics explanation in which the θr consonant cluster in "three" somehow lengthened that phrase so there was a reason it didn't really read as a rhyme. But I was wrong, and in fact the fancy linguistics explanation is apparently that initial consonant clusters are entirely irrelevant for purposes of identifying syllable rhyme. Forgive me.
posted by stopgap at 4:01 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"And what made the original book (and the audiobook) interesting was not the "quality" of the writing (which frankly, people criticizing the style aren't really following that it was a useful story-teller voice that Max Brooks adopted, modeled on the works of Studs Terkel, you know, that famous guy who did a lot of documentary stuff)"

Max Brooks is no Studs Terkel. He shouldn't feel bad — practically no one is Studs Terkel — but if you've read Studs Terkel, the comparison is especially wan.

"Like, yeah, go listen to the Audi book, it's great."

I can't afford an Audi!

"Zeroing in on the spread of the infection by showing the vastly different ways various countries all over the globe were infected, affected by and dealt with the outbreak gave the book a realism I appreciated, especially since most zombie stories only deal with one country--whichever country the writer is from--and just hand wave away the rest of the globe like it doesn't matter."

That was part of what bugged me, actually. The "science" stuff is just really, wildly off of what actual disease response looks like, and I'd just been reading a bunch of books dealing with the Black Plague and contemporary outbreaks, so it was really glaring when it was off.
posted by klangklangston at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2013


The Daily Mail linked article sounds to me like it's referring to expected US domestic grosses, which these days cosntitute a minority of a film's receipts. I'm not saying it will turn a profit, but I think they're cherrypicking their numbers to sensationalize the story.

I'm also skeptical of the additional $200M figure. Aren't film budget numbers usually inclusive of marketing and distribution costs? This overage doesn't even sound remotely plausible to me as part of a production budget. Even if they have hundreds of CGI artists working on an impossibly tight deadline this stretches credulity.

But really, Hollywood is so broken. People have been making movies for a century now, and there has been so much advancement in every aspect of filmmaking... except in scriptwriting. It's not that there aren't great scriptwriters or great scripts out there, it's that Hollywood is allergic to them. Anaphylactic-shock allergic. It seems like gross negligence to begin shooting a movie as allegedly expensive as this without having a solid handle on how you're going to end the goddamn thing.

The world would not suffer if all above-the-line personnel in Hollywood were prevented from being involved in filmmaking from this point forward.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


World War Three.

World War Zee.


Huh. World War Zed sounds better.
posted by The World Famous at 4:10 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well if you want a harder science zombie story, the Newsflesh series, starting with FEED, is pretty much the plague science recommended hit, plus the zombies are an after thought, it's more about a culture that grew up with the threat of infection all around them and has become really into quartientine and isolation and now the Internet is an even bigger deal.
posted by The Whelk at 4:11 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair, which is big coming from me because I'm probably the most vocally hateful of this bastardization of the book on MetaFilter (this being probably my like.. 4th FPP on the topic).. From the article, it does appear that the reason the project appealed to Pitt enough in the first place to go through the bidding process because of the sociopolitical aspects of the book. So aside from the fact that the movie he made looks like it completely abandoned that aspect in favor of a _____ Saves The World movie with the part of Bruce Willis being played by Brad Pitt, it seemed like he wanted to make something that hewed closer to the book.. but the Hollywood process and studio expectations that exponentially grew as they threw millions and millions of dollars at it turned it made it a nightmare for Pitt and everyone involved.
posted by mediocre at 4:11 PM on June 6, 2013


You can read "Z" as "2" (as in "World War II," properly titled The Second World War, the book by John Keegan, which the cover of Brooks' World War Z references).

I notice the reissue of the Keegan book changed the cover, and Brooks also has a new cover.
posted by bad grammar at 4:13 PM on June 6, 2013


I should have read more carefully. The Commentarama Films link reports the reshoot of Act III cost an additional $15M - $20M. I think the $200M in the Daily Mail article is a mistake, although their math makes me think it wasn't merely a typo.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:13 PM on June 6, 2013


Citizen Kane was a flop on release, so maybe Hollywood instead learned the lesson of Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane is still making money for Warner Brothers 70 years after it was released.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:20 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know a few people who worked on WWZ. One of them was Brad Pitt's handler/monkey boy/assistant, and apparently he was a stand up dude. However, the general consensus is that it's going to be dire. I got the impression that there was a lot of design by committee, which led to last minute changes, which meant that nothing went to plan. Some amount of haphazard behaviour is not totally abnormal on a film set, but it was taken to an extraordinary extreme, which was multiplied by the enormous budget.
posted by Magnakai at 4:20 PM on June 6, 2013


400 million... dollars?

So they've got to earn $400 million just to get back to even?

Which, I guess is doable. Iron Man 3 is already up to over a billion.
posted by notyou at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2013


It should've been a goddamned Ken Burns documentary. Making a traditional film narrative out of it is a terrible idea for terrible people.

Agree with the documentary idea, but Burns is a little dry. My take would have been more along the lines of Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke, which covered hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It's pretty easy to picture since the time from the subject and the documentary production would be closer to that of a WWZ adaptation.

Here's to hoping this movie is so bad that people forgot about it and someone actually makes a more faithful version.
posted by dogwalker at 4:44 PM on June 6, 2013


I enjoyed World War Z, but I'd be more interested to see an adaptation of Zone 1, all zombie movies being equal.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:13 PM on June 6, 2013


I enjoyed Waterworld so I am looking forward to this film's opening.
posted by greasy_skillet at 5:14 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I totally hear y'all on the plot changes being troubling and generic, but I'm still going to be there on opening day because holy fucking shit, $225 million of zombie action.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ain't It Cool News review of the script called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material".

Ain't It Cool News says exactly this about a wide assortment of embarrassingly terrible movies. They weep barely-literate man-tears of joy about practically every movie they review.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:39 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Not very traditional, but, then, Romero's zombies weren't created by Haitian voodoo

Romero has said that when he made Night of the Living Dead, he was making a movie with ghouls. "Zombie" is a more recent all encompassing name adoption for the undead, but this has erroneously led people to believe that Voodoo is where the idea specifically comes from and that is not true at all.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 5:40 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, if anyone can pull a creative and interesting rabbit out of a crushed, burnt and buried hat, it's Drew Goddard.

... so I'm still interested (in downloading it from Usenet later this year).
posted by Auden at 5:42 PM on June 6, 2013


Klang, what specifically about the spread of the pandemic bothered you so much in World War Z?

I ask because I felt there were definitely parallels to the Spanish flu pandemic during World War I.
posted by misha at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2013


more interested to see an adaptation of Zone 1, all zombie movies being equal.

I don't think it would happen (or at least not a faithful adaptation); the ending of Zone 1 is not how Hollywood likes to end their zombie/other post-apocalyptic films. See I Am Legend for an example.
posted by never used baby shoes at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2013


I like the book. I think they could have made a cool movie out of it. Find 100 of the best actors in the world and have them deliver each vignette as a monologue . Maybe with some kind of experimental staging, Dogville style. Fuck it, someone just do a play.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:46 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, that sounds a bit like Pontypool, which was both a movie and a radio play.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:48 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like Adrian Mole grew up and had zombie neighbours.

Never read the book but this makes me want to now.

biggest flop in history

Warren Beatty will be delighted, I'm sure.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:55 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


FYI, in anticipation of the movie, they've released an EXPANDED World War Z audiobook/drama! which I am way more excited about than the movie so far.

I want Hollywood to be more enthusiastic about audio dramas/podcasts, even if just as tie-in material. Just think, a World War Zified rendition of Zombies, Run! would be delicious.

(and I'm still holding out for that Avengers-cast musical drama CD)
posted by nicebookrack at 5:56 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Too anyone listening about a possible avengers musicals, at least two members of your cast have released actual albums.
posted by The Whelk at 5:59 PM on June 6, 2013


I liked pontypool, although I only saw the movie.

There is obviously an overarching story to Wold War Z, but we only hear bits and pieces. Stories told by local survivors as interpreted by the narrator in his reports. We trust that the narrator is honest, but how many of the stories he is told are entirely accurate, how many have changed with time, how many are made up.

You could show each interviewee delivering their tale, with minimal staging, a black stage with a tree, a rock, a wall. Each fade in and out of the darkness. Never show the zombies. It becomes a sory about the narratives we create, our internal mythos, something that is mutable we construct to make sense of the senseless.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:59 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


what is already being called the biggest flop in film history

These kinds of pre-release doom-saying media stories seem like they must be the result of studio / media / Hollywood politics or personal animosity. When you see stories like this about a pretty good movie like John Carter and not a word of foreboding about a train wreck like Prometheus, it tells me nothing about whether the movie is going to be any good.
posted by straight at 6:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ad hominem, I would love to see a stage play version of WWZ as you describe. Surely one's been attempted somewhere by now?

Too anyone listening about a possible avengers musicals, at least two members of your cast have released actual albums

And they are MINE *grabbyhands* but I still want RDJ-as-Tony Stark singing about how annoying Captain America is, and vice versa. I dreamed that snark would never die
posted by nicebookrack at 6:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


They sing a duet to I'm Old Fashioned

Or, you know, Danke Shone, cause I saw Ferris Bueller in the theatre recently and convinced myself Ferris Bueller is a High School AU of Tony.
posted by The Whelk at 6:17 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


sarcasticah: "I loved the book."

I don't know whether to believe you or not.

Also: I don't know how one would not relate "world war three" when hearing this title.
posted by Red Loop at 6:18 PM on June 6, 2013


straight: " When you see stories like this about a pretty good movie like John Carter and not a word of foreboding about a train wreck like Prometheus, it tells me nothing about whether the movie is going to be any good."

"Flop" in Hollywood terms has nothing to do with "good" as such. It's about money. Prometheus made 400 million worldwide on a budget of 130 million, which is not amazing, but it made money, and is nowhere near a flop. Generally, a movie is considered to have made money if it makes twice its shooting budget (since you have to consider marketing, the theaters' cut, etc.).

John Carter made 283 million worldwide on a 250 million budget. Basically, there's no way the studio got its investment back on the theatrical run, and probably not even after home media and TV rights are sold.

The reason people are saying this is going to be a huge flop is that World War Z is never, ever going to make back even its huge 400 million shooting budget, not to mention break even at around 600-800. Very few movies break 400 million in worldwide box office, and none of them are zombie movies.

When zombie/horror movies do really well, they make maybe 100 million worldwide. Snyder's Dawn remake made something like that, as did Zombieland, and those were considered hits because they had a shooting budget of less than 30 million. Hollywood zombie/horror movies usually cost something like that, which is why they're considered relatively safe bets.

If World War Z makes, say, 150 million worldwide, it would make it a smash hit of the genre, but it'll still have made maybe 75 million back for the studio on their 400 million investment.

So yeah, this is a huge flop. It's a given. It's a shame, because although the movie looks like it doesn't have much to do with the (very good) book, it looks like it might actually be a fun zombie movie.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Klang, what specifically about the spread of the pandemic bothered you so much in World War Z?

I ask because I felt there were definitely parallels to the Spanish flu pandemic during World War I.
"

It's been years since I read it, but I remember the scientists in the beginning basically taking no reasonable precautions, and that given the symptoms and incubation time, it was impossible for it to spread like it did — part of the Spanish Flu's pandemic reach was because of all the soldiers packed together.

There were a lot of population problems too, like the sheer number of zombies in some locations just couldn't be justified if there was basically any mortality at all. It was less realistic than this.
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that Brad Pitt needs my money or anything, but how can it be called a flop when it hasn't even come out yet?

Two things:

First, as someone pointed out above, the last movie that had this many flat declarations of unprecedented flop was Titanic, and that worked out okay.

Second, Hollywood has spent over twenty years trying to make Brad Pitt a leading man when he is not. He is a skilled comic actor who has remarkable good looks and more charisma than he knows what to do with, but anyone who has paid attention to his hit-and-miss rate will see that financially successful movies with Brad Pitt wisely make him part of an ensemble (Oceans, Inglourious Basterds, Troy) or at pair him up least with an equal or better co-star (Seven, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Benjamin Button). Brad Pitt above the title leads with a whole lot of low-wattage support actors to a long string of Moneyball and Tree of Life and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Interesting movies in many cases, but "interesting" is not a word that gets many studio heads' toes a-tapping.

All this said, it looks like a generic overblown action movie in all the trailers, which is too bad, as the book was a novel (heh) approach to a genre that had never really been done much in prose.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:53 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the Mail might look into better fact-checking:
Vanity Fair contributor Laura M. Holson blamed poor communication between director Marc Forster and 42-year-old star Pitt whose production company Plan B is bankrolling the project.
Pitt did recently turn 42, but even more recently he turned 49.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know how one would not relate "world war three" when hearing this title.

Because Z is pronounced "zed" in many parts of the world including the UK.
posted by arcticseal at 7:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


convinced myself Ferris Bueller is a High School AU of Tony.

"I don't believe in Jesus. I just believe in me."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because Z is pronounced "zed" in many parts of the world including the UK.

Too bad for many parts of the world, including the UK, it was an American novel, then.
posted by item at 7:51 PM on June 6, 2013


I don't know how one would not relate "world war three" when hearing this title.

Because it's World War Z, not World War Three. World War Three is a different thing. When I hear "World War Two" I don't relate "World War Poo" or "World War Flu." When I hear "World War One" I don't relate "World War Fun" or "World War Bun."

Having no idea at all what the movie was about (no, I didn't read the stupid book), I assumed up until reading this thread that the "Z" meant that it was to be the very last world war, not the third one. Oh well.
posted by The World Famous at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who the hell okays a $400M shooting budget for a zombie movie?
posted by octothorpe at 8:02 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are at Peak Zombie, people.
posted by Renoroc at 8:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, there are people here who liked the audiobook? I'm not even sure whether or not I enjoyed World War Z itself because the cringe-inducing, over-the-top fake accents distracted me so much I temporarily thought I was in a 1930s yuk-yuk cartoon.
posted by threeants at 8:06 PM on June 6, 2013


When you see stories like this about a pretty good movie like John Carter and not a word of foreboding about a train wreck like Prometheus, it tells me nothing about whether the movie is going to be any good.

I imagine it does tell you that different people like different things.
posted by inigo2 at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2013


The Whelk: "We don't really need an adaptation of the movie cause we allready have one, the stellar audio book which actually fixes a lot of problems with the book. "

I've read the book (actually got it with The Zombie Survival Guide as a Secret Quonsar gift a few years back) but not heard the audiobook. Could you please elaborate on how it changes the story?
posted by IndigoRain at 8:24 PM on June 6, 2013


The different voices and takes on the stories help with the "everyone sounds the same" thing the book has.

Some people think the accents are too much, apparently.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That $400M doesn't include marketing does it? That's going to about another $100M. Ouch.
posted by cazoo at 8:31 PM on June 6, 2013


I would pay to see "World War Fun!", its sequel "World War Wahoo!", and the conclusion to the trilogy "World War Wheeeeeeee!".
posted by blue_beetle at 8:46 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


cazoo: "That $400M doesn't include marketing does it? That's going to about another $100M. Ouch"

No, the $400M is the production budget. It's easily going to be another $100M in marketing, and then something like at least 40% of what it makes at the box office is kept by the cinemas. Thus the general "box office of twice production budget to break even" rule of thumb.

I'll say it again, there's zero chance this movie breaks even by that formula. This isn't Titanic, it doesn't have anything even similar to the broad-based (pardon my pun) appeal that Titanic had. Or Avatar, for that matter.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:06 PM on June 6, 2013


I wonder how its budget to box office ratio will stack up against Zyzzyx Road, a $1.3 Million film that brought in $30.00 at the box office (only $20.00 of which counted, because the studio had to reimburse two $5.00 tickets for a makeup artist who had worked on the film and her friend.)
posted by radwolf76 at 10:48 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


1. that last article is great with this Chrome extension, it takes numerical figures in the article like $220 million and displays things of equivalent cost/value. example:

"And all this as the production crests $170 million [≈ cost of F-22 raptor, a stealth fighter jet] as it heads into its costly reshoots, with an ending that is still in flux."

2. This whole thing about "the film community" being for and against something strikes me as stupid writing and stupid beliefs.
posted by Taft at 11:15 PM on June 6, 2013


More recent outings, including Killing Them Softly, The Tree of Life, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, have failed to entice moviegoers in large numbers,

Did anyone think this was a tiny bit unfair. Did anyone expect any of those films to make massive amounts?

As difficult as it is, I do try to think of a film as a film, existing in a seperate universe, and to try not to compare it to the source material. That said, its a bit odd to buy the rights to a global story just to tell another heroes journey? Is the recognition value of the book great enough to be worth attaching its title to a film that very much isn't that?

I read the book very recently actually. Its kind of fun, but it does have a lot of problems. Some of it is slightly plausible, but a lot of it seems absurd. I can just about buy that the epidemic miiight spread because people aren't willing to accept that the infection is a death sentence, but for it to get the scale of the book?

There are multiple sections where there are far more zombies than there should be. There also sections, like the FDA conspiring to lie about a drug that doesn't actually protect people which is essentially ignorant of how the world really works. All the bits about the US governments utterly incompetent response to the problem read as rather implausible.

Theres also an issue with the "international" focus falling to stereotypes. The British get a soldier in a castle who was defending the queen, the Japanese get an otaku who fights with a samurai sword alongside his master, a blind martial artist who once defeated 41 zombies by himself. With a shovel. I dunno, if I was fighting an enemy who, if I get their blood on an open wound, I then become, I might try and keep my distance maybe?

Finally the books style actually gets in its way occasionally. Theres a story later in the book where a character refuses to clarify something, giving the impression of a tragic end. It then transpires that, nope, the story ended totally happily. It makes sense for a narrator to hold back this element to aid suspense, but for a person telling the story to an interviewer? It just comes as bizzare.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:11 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Michael Cimino is breathing a sigh of relief somewhere.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:41 AM on June 7, 2013


The book is great because the only disbelief it asks of the reader is "zombies are possible" and everything that flows(*) from that premise is realistic, grounded speculation. E.g. the nuclear exchange feels entirely plausible even in the absence of the undead.

(*) except for the (otherwise kinda fun) Zatoichi ripoff.
posted by whuppy at 10:16 AM on June 7, 2013


Glad to see I'm not alone in having problems with the book. There were more than a few parts where I was like, "Oh, Max Brooks, no."

But I lurved the structure of the book and its potential, and I was so hoping someone would take that framework and totally own that space for a film or, better yet, an HBO/Showtime series.

Looks like that ain't gonnna be the case. Too bad, so sad.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2013


"Flop" in Hollywood terms has nothing to do with "good" as such. It's about money...The reason people are saying this is going to be a huge flop is that World War Z is never, ever going to make back even its huge 400 million shooting budget, not to mention break even at around 600-800.

Yes, but these pre-release "flop" stories somehow never seem limited to, "this movie's potential audience isn't even theoretically big enough to recoup what they've spent." They almost always discuss ways, beyond simply spending too much, that the director or others involved have screwed up the movie, implying the movie itself will be terrible, rather than simply financially unsuccessful.

Sure, inigo2, different people like different things, but it sure seemed to me that John Carter, for instance, got surprisingly bad reviews and I can't help think all the "(financial) flop" buzz had an influence on it's critical reception.
posted by straight at 12:31 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


straight: " They almost always discuss ways, beyond simply spending too much, that the director or others involved have screwed up the movie, implying the movie itself will be terrible, rather than simply financially unsuccessful."

This is true, and I think it's because these movies that go dramatically over budget often do so because there have been a lot of changes involved, different screenwriters, reshoots, etc. That kind of thing usually means that there's a big difference between the director/screenwriter's idea and what the studio wants, and the studio is trying to fix what they perceive as severe problems. Thing is, that kind of fixing rarely works, and often even makes movies worse.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:41 PM on June 7, 2013


When zombie/horror movies do really well, they make maybe 100 million worldwide. Snyder's Dawn remake made something like that, as did Zombieland, and those were considered hits because they had a shooting budget of less than 30 million. Hollywood zombie/horror movies usually cost something like that, which is why they're considered relatively safe bets.

This isn't Dawn or whatever other run of the mill Hollywood horror film. This is a big budget sci-fi thriller with one of the most bankable leads in the industry. It's I Am Legend, which has flopped it's way to almost $600M worldwide.

Still, $400MM plus half that again is a heck of a hill to climb.
posted by notyou at 2:16 PM on June 7, 2013


The shooting budget wasn't $400m. As mentioned in the Vanity Fair piece, the shooting budget was, reportedly, approximately $220m. The $400m figure is the budget when taking into account marketing, printing, distribution and so on.
posted by Len at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2013


The World Famous: "Because it's World War Z, not World War Three. World War Three is a different thing. When I hear "World War Two" I don't relate "World War Poo" or "World War Flu." When I hear "World War One" I don't relate "World War Fun" or "World War Bun."
"

Well, if you heard of a movie called "World War Poo" you'd make an association, wouldn't you? And assume that whoever named it was aware of the play on words? That's all I'm saying.

Now I need to go pitch "World War Pun".
posted by Red Loop at 4:44 AM on June 8, 2013


First World War Z reviews: It's not a total waste of time

The first reviews for World War Z have been coming out over the past few days, and they're generally ranging from neutral to sort-of positive. The consensus: Parts of the film are thrilling, parts are painfully slow, and the overall effect is a reasonably solid thriller that happens to have a ton of zombies in it.

To read the mass of World War Z reviews is to realize how much this film benefits from lowered expectations — a couple years of bad press have lowered the bar to the point where everybody goes in primed for a trainwreck. Instead, they get a reasonably okay film. Albeit one that bears no resemblance to Max Brooks' novel.

posted by Artw at 6:17 AM on June 8, 2013


I suspect it's going to annoy me both by not adapting the book and instead being a bit generic AND by not being a huge disaster that takes everyone's careers with it. Boring.

/puts away popcorn.
posted by Artw at 6:19 AM on June 8, 2013


There's only one World War Z movie that needs to be made.

VICTORY AT AVALON: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE COLLEGES

Ten Characters I Love (But Don’t Expect To See) in World War Z
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:48 AM on June 19, 2013


That's not Philadelphia. That doesn't look anything LIKE Philadelphia. The only accurate thing is the Philadelphia Fire Department ambulance. The geography is absolutely off. Wow.

Apparently that was a tax credit thing.
posted by octothorpe at 6:17 AM on June 21, 2013


Hardly "the biggest flop in film history":
The well-reviewed zombie thriller “World War Z” (Paramount) was second, with estimated ticket sales of $66 million, a spectacular result that validates the studio’s much-chronicled decision to rework the movie’s ending.
posted by stopgap at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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