Last week's announcement that Prometheus and Lost writer Damon Lindelof would be rewriting the final act of Brad Pitt's zombie epic World War Z would normally have been interesting, positive news if the film was preparing to go into production in a few months. As the movie wrapped last year and massive reshoots were gearing up for September or October, the last minute hire instead raised eyebrows. What the heck was going on with this major holiday tentpole?
World War Z, originally scheduled for December 2012 with a new target of June 2013, is based on the popular post-apocalyptic novel by Max Brooks and helmed by Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster. With Pitt in the lead, a top-notch ensemble cast (including The Killing's Mireille Enos) and a central plot that would square them off against a hoard of hungry zombies, the movie, on the surface, was the perfect combo. But a recent peek behind the curtain by The Hollywood Reporter would lead one to believe it was a turbulent endeavor from the get go. According to THR, three weeks before shooting, Forster couldn't lock down the look of movement of his zombies — a massive creative decision for a zombie movie (believe or not). On top of that, multiple key crew members, including producers and effects designers, were swapped out with little time to spare. Then there are those who couldn't bail after asking to: Cinematographer Robert Richardson (Hugo, Inglourious Basterds) requested to leave the production on several occasions, but to no avail. Adding to the woes were the push to finish the film in a timely fashion. Second Unit Director Simon Crane, brought in to shoot the movie's massive action scenes, requested 60 days of shooting. He got a third of that time. There was no way the movie everyone set out to make was going to happen. The turbulent "making of" story paints World War Z as a ship that was sinking before it even set sail — but there is reason to think the chaos may not impair the finished product's quality.
Paramount, the studio behind World War Z, sees the film as an investment they can't back down from. The hiring of new talent and scheduling of big reshoots is a clear indication, with Paramount film president Adam Goodman openly admitting his positive feelings and reservations on the project. “The footage from this film looks fantastic, but we all agreed it can have a better ending,” Goodman tells THR. “Getting the ending correct is essential, and we are in that creative process. World War Z is a giant summer movie and we are confident it will be a global hit when it’s released June 2013.” The biggest hurdle for World War Z is the lack of a singular voice. Will Forster return for the reshoots? Are Pitt's demands in contention with the studios? Will Lindelof's rewrites mix with the previously shot footage? A movie made by committee rarely works, but if the problems are clear and easily fixed — THR cites the creative conflict with director Doug Liman over the direction of The Bourne Identity — the final film can click cohesively.
The business side of World War Z may be a mess, but for the average movie-goer, it all comes down to whatever plays up on the big screen when the movie is finally released. As long as Brad Pitt kicks zombie butt in an intense and action-packed fashion, the history surrounding World War Z is moot. The fear in this scenario is that the film may never grace multiplexes — but for now, at least someone behind-the-scenes is trying to keep the movie alive. Or is it undead?
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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