This is the second part of my extended World War Z review, first seen back in July on my Facebook feed.
I have a few more movie reviews to be brought over in this fashion, thank you for your indulgence.
Even More of a Review for World War Z, by Pat Sponaugle (again, that’s me.)
I realized that I hadn’t really covered some of the SPOILERY topics of the movie that I kind of touched on. So I’ll do it here. Oh, and just to be warned, I’m going to be talking about I AM LEGEND, the book and the movie. I have my reasons.
Read at your own risk because I danced around topics in my previous review. Rather than dancing with the topics, I’m going to smooch them. Gross!
I mentioned that there were aspects of the movie that I felt were strongly influenced by the book. (And of course, aspects that were not influenced by the book.) I’d like to chat a bit about that.
Of course, the book didn’t have fast zombies, the main person we follow is chronicling survivors stories, and there was no vaccine. The only vaccine to getting a zombie to attack you was to hit it in the head with something heavy, or sharp, or both.
The movie therefore has a very different tone in the conflict than the book has. The book in many ways, like great zombie stories, tells in equal measures the difficulty of people dealing with people who are still alive and not infected, but dangerous or desperate. Okay, maybe there’s not as much as 50% in the book on that, but work with me.
The movie really doesn’t deal with that aspect, because it can’t. Because the zombies are fast. There’s not a lot of chance for feudalism and so on to spring up because the zombies are too annoyingly feral fast for that. So, the movie remains focused on man vs. zombie.
The closest the movie comes to humans being less than cool to other humans was when the military moves Pitt’s family from the flotilla to a resettlement camp in Nova Scotia. But even that wasn’t too bad.
But, I mentioned that there were similarities, and I really should follow up on that. I did make some lip service in my first review. WWZ (the book) is about interviews, interviews with survivors. Since (SPOILER ALERT) there is no magic vaccine in the books, the interviews do not really lead up to some miracle action movie plot point, they instead weave a tapestry of facts that builds the narrative of the zombie outbreak.
In the movie, Brad Pitt is running around hoping to stumble on a some critical fact (which indeed he does do) and along the way, he interviews people. A rogue CIA guy who has a fascinating story about North Korea. Soldiers in South Korea who provide a story of a doctor turned Zeke. A Mossad agent who was the tenth man going up against the wisdom of the nine. And finally, some WHO researchers in England. Only the England part has the weakest interaction, and that’s largely because it’s the least like the book.
In particular, the CIA and Mossad stories are the most engaging, and I think those segments were directly from the book. (I could be wrong. Engage!)
When I realized that the gun-running CIA dude had no teeth, which had probably been unwillingly plucked out by North Korean pliers… dude. And the movie didn’t make a big deal about it. Bravo.
Another reason I liked all these interviews: none of the stories led Brad Pitt to the “cure” of the vaccine. They were there to simulate the book’s weaving of the narrative through eye witness accounts and various perspectives.
So I feel that the movie did respect the original source, possibly more than some will acknowledge.
The final scenes of humanity, now protected from the unfairly fast zombies, using their human hunter-killer smarts to herd the zombies via sound into kill zones was very thematically similar to the book. We took it on the chin, we were reeling, but then humans came back. In the book, we came back from organization and economics (I mean making wise decisions, not necessarily the stock market, I’m using an older meaning to economics.) Humans figured the optimal way to deal with zombies. In the movie, human troops had the camouflage factor utilizing a “vaccine” which made the zombies stop attacking. And then the herding and handling could begin.
So, even though the movie was a big action piece instead of the complex and interesting Max Brooks book, it had enough of a connection to the original that I think speaks well of it. It was a pale version and it does not necessarily compare well, but it hit its marks. I don’t think it was a failed opportunity, per se.
Unlike another book and movie that I am going to talk about. And spoil the hell out of.
SPOILERS FOR I AM LEGEND.
A couple of years ago, Will Smith made a thrilling action movie involving a virally induced condition that turned humans into crazed feral inhuman-looking adrenalined raging monsters. I don’t remember if they ate people. Back me up on this Internet.
There are some similarities to WWZ (the movie) and I AM LEGEND (the movie.) Both feature an initial scene where the hero is stuck in traffic when the outbreak hits. Both movies feature the hero trying to come up with some magical cure (Brad is hoping someone else will figure out a cure based on his investigation, Will is directly working on it.) Okay, that’s pretty much where the similarities end, but I sensed a vibe and wanted to mention that.
Let’s talk I AM LEGEND the book, and the movie. The book by the recently deceased Richard Matheson is great. Probably one of the greatest vampire stories I have read. The creatures in the story are referred to by the protagonist as vampires. There’s a living variety and a dead variety. Both varieties want our hero dead, and they spend all night, every night, trying to break into his heavily fortified house.
By day, he goes out and kills dormant vampires. Kills them dead so they won’t rise again. Burns them. He’s pretty efficient. He’s also resupplying and trying to understand the vampires scientifically. At night, they attack his house, but he chills out. He’s done due diligence in fortressing up. They’re an angry mob, not superhuman flip-out ninja monsters.
In the movie, the hero is trying to find a cure. He spends his days doing some resupply, he exercises, does some scouting, and makes sure he’s home before dark because his fortified home would not keep out the creatures if they found his home, since they are the fast zombie variety. His security is mostly obscurity. He hopes they don’t find him. Hopes hopes.
I’m not sure if they are zombies per se. I don’t think the movie makes it clear that they are dead. They’re sort of intelligent, in a pack oriented non-verbal sort of way. (Not like the book where the living vampires still possessed reasoning but the dead vampires were like animals.)
In the book and movie, eventually the main character (Neville? That’s his name, right?) encounters someone to talk to and eventually has to deal with being captured by the creatures. The movie has an action movie ending (actually two, there’s an alternate ending) and it is lame (both are lame.) The book has an amazing ending and I won’t spoil it here. Because it’s too wonderful. Read the book and we can debate this. In a friendly respectful way.
The point I am getting to… the I Am Legend movie completely misses the point of the source material by failing to respect the ending, which ties directly into the title of the work. If someone had just seen the movie, why was the movie called I Am Legend? Why?
Okay, time for a very short mini rant, and I’ll get back to why I am talking about I AM LEGEND and why it related to WWZ.
In the book, there’s no two ways about it. They are called vampires. Neville calls them vampires. They are nocturnal and vampiric. Garlic affects them. Staking them is the preferred way to kill them. There’s a lot of time spent dealing with them as classical vampires.
In the movie, we just don’t know what they are. Neville has no word for them, and at some point he meets a woman (who is totally a human, not a critter in disguise, let’s make that clear) with a young boy. She refers to the creatures as “Dark Seekers.”
What a f**king stupid name. Dark Seekers? Well gosh, they’re nocturnal so lets call them dark seekers since they, you know, seek the dark. They also stand around a lot when they are dormant, so lets call them alternatively Day Standers.
Oooh! It’s the Day Standers. They breathe kind of rapidly too, so lets call them the Rapid Breathers.
They are kind of hairless, so lets call them the Alopecia Sufferers. Why not?
Let’s not call them vampires or ghouls or zombies or freaks or mutants or morlocks or ragers or biters. Lets just call them by this stupid title.
And Neville upon hearing her call the Chuds “Dark Seekers”, starts to call them that too. Dude. Seriously. Dark Seekers?
Look, I’m sorry for being irrational. Dark Seekers just pressed my button.
Back on topic: I AM LEGEND the movie deviated from the book and had its own fast zombie style situation, but it was actually kind of reminiscent to the book in many ways. But then the ending failed so heavily that it weighs the movie down down away from the excellence of the book, and it’s a crap adaptation. A Craptation.
World War Z the movie, for all of its deviations and reliance on a magical vaccine to enable Brad Pitt to save the day, actually kept a certain running thread that was reminiscent enough of the book that I felt it was honestly a better adaptation. At least the title makes sense in regards to the content of the movie, which is not true of I AM LEGEND.
I’ll end this by being critical of one aspect of the movie. (And again, I liked the movie, okay?)
Brad’s character Gerry, while he was globetrotting around, gets the idea that the zombies don’t attack people with terminal diseases.
He ends up, after a dramatic plane crash (which totally showcased his excellent hair. He’s unfairly handsome) in Wales at a World Health Organization facility.
They talk about his idea that infecting a healthy human with a deadly but treatable disease would make the human no longer a target for a zombie, but testing it out will be tricky, since all of their deadly but curable diseases are in the B Wing, which is overrun by zombies because despite being a World Health Organization facility where they probably handle all kinds of crazy deadly stuff, the lead researcher totally violated whatever usual deadly disease protocol and ended up accidentally infecting himself. What a clown.
So, Brad and the lead researcher and a tough as nails Israeli try to stealth in and get the samples out of B Wing (the B stands for BAD IDEA.)
I get that the movie wants Brad to do the heroism, but the smart thing to do is to try and spread the word about people not being attacked by zombies, and the hypothesis about disease-as-camouflage. It’d be cool if some other WHO and CDC labs could at least try to do this too. Maybe a few didn’t have Doctor Nick from the Simpsons as the lead guy accidentally stabbing himself with vials of Vitamin Z (the Z stands for Braaaaaiiiiiinnnnzzzzzz.)
So, I wasn’t invested that much in Brad’s action, because if he got zombified, I assumed that Team Wales WHO would get the word out, and a few days later someone else would have gotten a positive test to the theory.
So, I was okay with it, and the B Wing stuff was pretty exciting, but it just didn’t involve my emotions like they probably wanted from me.
Great product placement though. Pepsi!
Images from World War Z (the movie) and I am Legend (the crappy movie.)
© Patrick Sponaugle 2013 Some Rights Reserved