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Ken Burns' World War Z
June 22, 2013 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Finally, the faithful movie adaptation of Max Brooks' "World War Z" that we deserve.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse (72 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cute, though kind of an easy joke that rests on its one premise.
posted by xingcat at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2013


It just makes me sad, because yes: add some first-person interviews with flashbacks, change the photos to color, and get better voice actors, and this is exactly the World War Z I wanted.
posted by redsparkler at 8:26 AM on June 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


Decent if facile concept, woefully inadequate execution.
posted by 7segment at 8:32 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Both WWZ and District 9 could have done with being more like Alive in Joburg.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


A couple of good voice actors reading from the book and some graphics/illustrations in a fake documentary style is all you really need to bring WWZ to life. Make this happen, Internet!

I just had a terrible vision: imagine if some Hollywood nut decided to make WWZ into a blockbuster catastrophe action drama thingy starring Tom Cruise or some such person.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bonus points for having a shot from the helicopter refueling scene from Dawn of the Dead but yeah, this was a little flat.
posted by octothorpe at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2013


I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper .....BRAAAAAAIIIIIINNS.

/Ashokan Farewell
posted by LionIndex at 8:38 AM on June 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


It just makes me sad, because yes: add some first-person interviews with flashbacks, change the photos to color, and get better voice actors, and this is exactly the World War Z I wanted.

Exactly. Full-on Ken Burns-style but with culled news footage where appropriate (say, the Battle of Yonkers, obviously) and this is precisely how this should be done.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:42 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't help but wonder, though, if a more faithful Burns-style "documentary" would lead to the same troubles (for me) as the book - without any recurring characters, without anyone to latch onto for more than a few pages (or minutes), I just never felt attached to anyone. After awhile the stories, while disturbing, started losing any impact because I just kept having to forget people and learn new ones.
posted by ORthey at 8:52 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you guys seen World War Z?
posted by Brocktoon at 8:55 AM on June 22, 2013


Reviews say its sort of average, nobody is particularly interested.
posted by Artw at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


As mentioned on Twitter, I'm hoping WWZ makes good money cause it makes a FEED movie more likely ( which is the kind of zombie story I pefer anyway, zombies are just a background motif, more about a society obsessed with infection and quartientine. )
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A couple of good voice actors reading from the book and some graphics/illustrations in a fake documentary style is all you really need to bring WWZ to life. Make this happen, Internet!

This is basically what the WWZ audiobook is, with a bunch of well-known actors reading the book in the style of a radio documentary. I'm surprised that the publisher hasn't already done a "visual" version of the audiobook, with simple still images layered over the narration, along the lines of La Jetee.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:09 AM on June 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the reviews, I forget which, held the opinion that you're never going to get a good zombie movie for a big budget, as the money drives out the necessary subversiveness. So since medium budget movies basically do not exist anymore we better content ourselves with the low budget ones.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the reviews, I forget which, held the opinion that you're never going to get a good zombie movie for a big budget, as the money drives out the necessary subversiveness. So since medium budget movies basically do not exist anymore we better content ourselves with the low budget ones.

So to take a break from my self-imposed posting ban on the blue:

Watch The Battery. This is what zombie movies should be.
posted by anansi at 9:28 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


i think the only visual i really want to see are all the zombies walking around the ocean floor.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I rode in an elevator with Ken Burns once (really). He got off 4 floors before me, otherwise we would have all turned sepia.
posted by jonmc at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just want to see VICTORY AT AVALON, is that so bad?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:33 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


i think the only visual i really want to see are all the zombies walking around the ocean floor.

The one that stuck with me is the dude in Japan crawling out of his high-rise on the bedsheet rope.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:41 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that the publisher hasn't already done a "visual" version of the audiobook, with simple still images layered over the narration, along the lines of La Jetee.

There would likely be a rights issue. They had the rights to make an audiobook, and the rights to make a movie were sold to someone else. Someone with the movie rights might interpret "visual version of the audiobook" as "those guys are making a movie, let's sue them."

So I'm not really surprised the publisher hasn't made something like that, even if it would be pretty cool.
posted by RobotHero at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2013


> i think the only visual i really want to see are all the zombies walking around the ocean floor.

Yeah! They could fight sharks!
posted by Panjandrum at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brad Pitt has Jenifer Aniston hair. That is all I have to say about World War Z.
posted by srboisvert at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Reviews say its sort of average, nobody is particularly interested.

Per Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, it's also cruising at about 10% better reviewed than Man of Steel.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2013


It just makes me sad, because yes: add some first-person interviews with flashbacks, change the photos to color, and get better voice actors, and this is exactly the World War Z I wanted.

I'd guess we get this the same weekend that version of I am Legend opens, where it's basically just Bryan Cranston driving a wood-paneled station wagon around the suburbs of LA, breaking into abandoned homes and dragging sleeping vampires out of closets by day, and making a nice steak and listening to classical music by night.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:14 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


It sez something about my history of movie watching lately that I was pleased to not be frustrated with World War Z. And Daniel Lindehof was involved.

Mostly I'm just tired of fucking zombies. They are disgusting and boring.
posted by angrycat at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They already made a great WWZ movie. It was called "Contagion".
posted by Renoroc at 10:21 AM on June 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mostly I'm just tired of fucking zombies. They are disgusting and boring.

Sounds like the worst lay ever.
posted by Renoroc at 10:23 AM on June 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


The theatrical release of World War Z is a perfectly competent generic zombie movie that has essentially nothing in common with the book save the title. It has its problems in logic and pacing and chronology, but it made for a low-expectations, low-delivery PG-13 matinee apocalypse. It was more entertaining than anything Michael Bay has ever done.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2013


Daniel Lindehof was involved.

He's no Josh Wheeton, that's for sure.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:32 AM on June 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


The local weekly here seemed to think it was OK; not the train wreck we seem to want it to be. His main criticism was that is was too lighthearted for a zombie movie. That is interesting to me, as the book certainly has that feeling too.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:33 AM on June 22, 2013


Ugh, zombies are so overplayed. Especially in video games. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that zombies are such an easy trope to implement in a game environment.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2013


I don't give a shit about anything zombie on film unless Newsflesh gets a movie.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2013


dude writes a good movie, i'll spell his name right then
posted by angrycat at 11:01 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Both WWZ and District 9 could have done with being more like Alive in Joburg

You realize that D9 was done by the same guy who did the Alive in Joburg short, right?

I just wish he'd done the Halo movie, the concept short was amazing.
posted by mrbill at 11:11 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You realize that D9 was done by the same guy who did the Alive in Joburg short, right?

Yup, and before it goes all action-splodey they are pretty similar, and TBH though I like the action-splode it would have been a far better movie if it had remained constant in style.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on June 22, 2013


(I'm kind of the other way with the Halo movie - we've gotten a lot out of him NOT doing it.)
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on June 22, 2013


Actually one of the things I did like about WWZ was it did not observe te modern three act spec fiction plan of 1) reveal world / 2) hero faces problem / 3) 25 minutes of explosions.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:19 AM on June 22, 2013


I m increasingly falling apart during part 3 - the more frenetic the action the more lulled into sleep I become. I loved Iron Man 3 but the last hour or however long that fight lasted nearly had me in a coma.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, zombies are so overplayed. Especially in video games. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that zombies are such an easy trope to implement in a game environment.

I think it's for the same reason WWII is so popular as a setting- there's basically no moral ambiguity. A zombie isn't a person with hopes and dreams and family, it's a rotting pile of flesh that happens to be moving and needs to be stopped from doing that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:50 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why wasn't there a District 9 II?
posted by MoxieProxy at 12:10 PM on June 22, 2013


Would you settle for this? I sure fuckin' will.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2013


When will filmmakers learn that jerky, hand-held, close-up camera work is sucking the life out of their action scenes? WWZ's action scenes suffer badly from this. (That, and the zombies all sound like Zerg.)
posted by smrtsch at 12:19 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


MoxieProxy: "Why wasn't there a District 9 II?"

It's in the works - apparently he's booked up three films ahead and District 10 keeps getting bumped for other films.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:20 PM on June 22, 2013


Came excited, left mostly disappointed. Did they even PLAY Ashokan Farewell? Where was the Shelby Foote impersonator?
posted by taromsn at 12:38 PM on June 22, 2013


BrockToon: I saw WWZ yesterday (fortunately at a matinee) - maybe I'm a grumpy old fart now, I got bored rather quickly with the usual tropes from Lane to boy he rescued just before heads off: "Take care of the girls," to *knowing* that Lane isn't going to die and he miraculously escapes death, to making all of the right choices about the disease.

It's no secret that the zombies are fast, and so is the zombie-infection (differing from the book) and it speeds up the progress, similar in my view to how an episode of House speeds up timelines for infection and cures. Oh, and the one person who puts it all together.

At the end of the movie, it just kind of fizzles out. I was wondering how they would tee it up for future movies without leaving it a cliff-hanger since the second/third movies are not guaranteed if this one busts at the box office.

I'm not a purist, but I feel that some retrospective would have provided some level of actual suspense, not knowing who will make it out alive - except for the person retelling the story, who could have been shown at the end. The video above was right in that one perspective is too limiting and doesn't convey the scope.

The fast zombie + infection versus slow zombie + infection in my view was an action vs. suspense tradeoff the studio made for their own reasons.
posted by BustedCatalyzer at 12:42 PM on June 22, 2013


Just got back from it (I have a weakness for end of the world movies that involve pandemics, no idea why). It was competent, but weirdly paced. The climax of the movie is so low key if you blink you'll miss it. Nothing in the movie requires a big screen and surround sound, so if you want to save some cash wait until the rental.

One pleasant, if distracting, surprise was Peter Capaldi showing up as a Welsh W.H.O. scientist. I think I was probably more excited to see that Malcolm had survived the zombie apocalypse than I was by anything else in the movie.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:49 PM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd guess we get this the same weekend that version of I am Legend opens, where it's basically just Bryan Cranston driving a wood-paneled station wagon around the suburbs of LA, breaking into abandoned homes and dragging sleeping vampires out of closets by day, and making a nice steak and listening to classical music by night.

I and everyone I know would watch the HELL out of that movie. The whole problem with films like WWZ, Oblivion, and the 2007 I Am Legend is that they all sent a fancy-pants movie star to do an actor's job.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:53 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The theatrical release of World War Z is a perfectly competent generic zombie movie that has essentially nothing in common with the book save the title.

The io9 review read the same way, but criticized the movie for cutting the interesting story lines short. Put another way, you might enjoy the movie if you've never read the book, but if you've read the book, you'll be hugely disappointed.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2013


It would be more accurate to say Capaldi is a WHO scientist working in Wales.
posted by biffa at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2013


if you've read the book, you'll be hugely disappointed.

I've read the book (and loved it) and I was not hugely disappointed by the movie. I thought it was fine enough, and plenty interesting in itself and on the larger scale of zombie movies. The movie is so completely detached from the book that it kinda transcends the sort of disappointment of "not living up to the book." There are some things to be disappointed about for sure, but those problems exist in the movie as a movie not the movie as an adaptation. At least that was the case for me.
posted by dogwalker at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't read the book but I thought the film was actually pretty good as a stand alone work. The action scenes were well done and I actually appreciated that it managed to show all sorts of horrors without being gory. But the film slams to a halt about two thirds of the way through and the last act is bland and cheap looking. If it had managed to keep up the pace, World War Z would have been fantastic, as it is it is just pretty good. self-link review
posted by AndrewStephens at 2:14 PM on June 22, 2013


That's funny, I thought the last act was the best part.
posted by dogwalker at 2:24 PM on June 22, 2013


I largely agree with Andrew. The odd thing to me was it felt like they were introducing things that then disappeared. The daughter's asthma, the rescued boy, the transfer to Nova Scotia, nothing significant came of any of them. Definite feel of stuff having been chopped and changed in places, especially at the end.
posted by biffa at 2:31 PM on June 22, 2013


Has anybody tried to read any of the other available zombie novels? I quit trying for awhile, as all that I tried were unreadably bad, no matter how low your standards nor how pumped you were for beachy, purely entertaining reading. (Monster Island comes to mind...)

In the last couple of months I found several that were actually readable, many of them published straight to Kindle (or whatever you call it).

D. J. Molles, The Remaining (Readable. Set in central NC, so kind of cool if you know the area.)

Keith C. Blackmore, Mountain Man (Better. Still not awesome, but passably entertaining.)

John L. Campbell, Omega Days (downright pretty ok! Enjoyed it and didn't feel ashamed.)

Brian J. Jarrett, Into the Badlands (Not too damn shabby--some decent characters even.)

Well, there's that, FWIW...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really liked the anthology The Living Dead lots of varied takes on what a " zombie" is, very variable quality but some stories just knocked it out of the damn park.

Plus people are going to rush in to recommend the Newsflesh series which, if you're into world building, I also recommend.
posted by The Whelk at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2013


Mostly I'm just tired of fucking zombies.

I'm tired of most things that come out of Hollywood. Zombies included, but right now mostly superheroes.
posted by JHarris at 2:53 PM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really liked the anthology The Living Dead lots of varied takes on what a " zombie" is, very variable quality but some stories just knocked it out of the damn park.

Really, Whelk? I'm pretty sure I hated that anthology... I think that was the one I thought was too weird... Which is to say: I have simple taste in zombie fiction, and just wanted a lot of shooting and explosions, and, as you say, that anthology sought to advance the genre...

But, speaking of non-standard zombie fiction that (IMHO) is pretty good, I really liked Colson Whitehead's Zone One, even though it's more literary...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2013


Yeah no I was there for " werid takes on zombie tropes" and I got it in spades.
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on June 22, 2013


After the clusterfuck that were Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness, nothing can make my sphincter pucker in fear like the phrase Lindelof is involved. My wife wants to go see this and I now know that I need to lower my expectations down to the sticky theater floor.

Loved the book - I want to see a movie based on the Avalon battle as well. Scripted by a minion of St. Whedon of course.
posted by Ber at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


One pleasant, if distracting, surprise was Peter Capaldi showing up as a Welsh W.H.O. scientist. I think I was probably more excited to see that Malcolm had survived the zombie apocalypse than I was by anything else in the movie.

I have had a keen liking and even a crush on this guy since binging on Thick of It. Which, yeah, creeps me out, I'm hot for an abusive Scotsman (the character, not the actor)
posted by angrycat at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2013


Previously in...
posted by Artw at 5:48 PM on June 22, 2013


and get better voice actors

You should really just listen to the World War Z audiobook. According to the Nerdist (it may have been Max Brooks's episode or maybe just something Hardwick said on one of the episodes), Max Brooks considers it the definitive version of World War Z. He grew up dyslexic, so his mother would get him audiobooks. Because of that he wanted to make a great audiobook, and he really succeeded.
posted by gc at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's one thing to have high standards for films, and another to just relax and try to enjoy yourself. I highly doubt anyone expected a benchmark film here. It smells like typical modern B movie fare, and it smelled that eay ages ago. These films generally aren't worth the price of admission unless you are incredibly high on oxy, or pulling it out of a Redbox. I guess if you're willing to pay $15 to see this now, did you expect to get your money's worth, or do you just refuse to relax and perhaps just laugh at the deficiencies of this film?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2013


Yeah, but what about Mel Brooks's World War Z?

I'm tired of most things that come out of Hollywood. Zombies included, but right now mostly superheroes.

I hear you. I think it would be a little better if there weren't so many origin stories in the superhero genre -- only so many of those one can take. And while a serious take is welcome, broody epicness is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Zombies, though. Vampires I get, especially a new "sexy" (though mannered) or romantic take on the concept. But zombies? It feels like nightmares the 1% have (they're coming for our brains! and our health care!), but they always seem to star stalwart salt of the earth types. Are the masses being pitted against one another? </structuralism>
posted by dhartung at 9:09 PM on June 22, 2013


gc: "and get better voice actors

You should really just listen to the World War Z audiobook. According to the Nerdist (it may have been Max Brooks's episode or maybe just something Hardwick said on one of the episodes), Max Brooks considers it the definitive version of World War Z. He grew up dyslexic, so his mother would get him audiobooks. Because of that he wanted to make a great audiobook, and he really succeeded.
"

It is really good. Unfortunately, the abridged version misses a ton of good stuff out, but has waaay better production values and voice acting that the unabridged version on Audible. So it's listen to the full version and put up with pretty flat voicings, or miss a third of the story.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:43 AM on June 23, 2013


The odd thing to me was it felt like they were introducing things that then disappeared. The daughter's asthma, the rescued boy, the transfer to Nova Scotia, nothing significant came of any of them

Apparently they reshot the entire last third. Which leads to oddities like Matthew Fox from Lost being in this, but having all his lines cut because he was supposed to reappear at the end and now he doesn't need that intro.
posted by smackfu at 6:57 AM on June 23, 2013


it's a rotting pile of flesh that happens to be moving and needs to be stopped from doing that.

We have been in the era of problems that require a duct tape solution for too long. Clearly it is time to move on to WD-40.
posted by flaterik at 12:50 PM on June 23, 2013


I thought the movie was pretty good, and I had read the book. (Though that was long enough ago that I can't quite remember the finer details.) I agree the pacing was a bit awkward - why spend so much of the movie in that lab? - and thought it could have gone a bit further with the "solving the mystery" aspect of it instead. But if you're going into it with the expectation level of I Am Legend / 28 Days Later / Zombieland, I think you wouldn't be disappointed. I did find it odd that they mentioned the airplane was the best conductor for the virus, when people were transforming in minutes to seconds, and they showed what happens if an infected person gets on a plane. I'm pretty sure they explain that in the book. In any case, I jumped a few more times than I did at this sepia slide-show.
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:54 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, the abridged version misses a ton of good stuff out, but has waaay better production values and voice acting that the unabridged version on Audible. So it's listen to the full version and put up with pretty flat voicings, or miss a third of the story.

OK, this explains why everyone keeps saying 'The audiobook is great' when the Audible version I'm listening to right now is wooden and awful.
posted by Acheman at 4:34 AM on June 24, 2013


Yeah, but what about Mel Brooks's World War Z?

I'll just remind you all once again, it's not coincidence Max and Mel share the same last name. The Max Brooks who wrote World War Z is Mel Brooks' son.

He grew up dyslexic, so his mother would get him audiobooks.

The mother in question is Anne Bancroft.
posted by JHarris at 4:47 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "I'll just remind you all once again, it's not coincidence Max and Mel share the same last name. The Max Brooks who wrote World War Z is Mel Brooks' son.

The mother in question is Anne Bancroft.
"

Boy that must have been a crazy and awesome household to grow up in.
posted by octothorpe at 6:21 AM on June 24, 2013


The larger-than-expected opening means we might get a World War Z zequel.
posted by gladly at 9:32 AM on June 24, 2013


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