If you follow entertainment news at all you know that director Marc Forster and star Brad Pitt found Max Brooks' 2006 zombie novel World War Z fiercely difficult to adapt. Multiple screenwriters — including Damon Lindelof and an uncredited Christopher McQuarrie — were brought in to tweak the script. Maybe it's because Brooks' novel is episodic, focusing on different vignettes about the Zombie War as a whole, like Studs Terkel's World War II oral history The Good War, rather than traditional three-act plotting. Or Forster & Co. simply wanted to create a rip-roaring action thriller instead of the political commentary that Brooks' had originally intended. Either way, a lot of the original novel got tweaked, or outright excised, in its translation to the big screen. Here are seven key differences between the book and the movie.
1. The Movie Drops the Book's Framing Device — Brooks himself is the narrator of his own novel, having reimagined himself working for the United Nations to chronicle the decade-long Zombie War that has just wiped out most of humanity and against which the survivors have only just recently emerged victorious. Unlike the movie, the book presents a past-tense account of events that have already concluded, as Brooks interviews combatants of the war about their experiences, resulting in an episodic structure.
2. China Has "Patient Zero" in the Book...But Not the Movie — Perhaps fearing that the inclusion of the detail that the first person infected with the zombie virus was in China would upset Chinese censors and prevent World War Z's distribution there, the movie suggests that "Patient Zero" was actually found in South Korea...or India. It's a little bit unclear.
3. American Ingenuity Saves the Day in the Movie, While American Complacency Threatens Our Doom in the Novel — Brooks directs much of his most potent political commentary toward America in his novel, showing the U.S. government as overconfident, but unprepared, in its response to the zombie outbreak. Isolationist tendencies prevent the U.S. from responding to reports of the outbreak elsewhere, and even once the government does react, the fact that our forces are tied down in "brushfire wars" (i.e. Iraq, Afghanistan) means we don't have many resources to fight the crisis. Some reviewers have noted that U.S. handling of the Zombie War recalls the unpreparedness of emergency management during Hurricane Katrina. But Brooks is also careful to show that the military's tactics in the fight — using shock and awe campaigns against undead beings that "can't be shocked and awed" — are outmoded.
4. However, America is Transformed by the War — The movie takes place over the course of a few weeks. The novel takes place over ten years. So while America may have started off ineptly in the fight, the whole of U.S. society is transformed during that decade to meet the crisis. Martial law and rationing of food are instituted. A "Re-Education Act" passes that requires training for adults to learn how to survive in a zombie-infested world, and public humiliation is re-instituted as a form of punishment for infractions against the law. Because of this, several secessionist zones pop up, including in the Black Hills.
5. The Nations that Are Winners and Losers Aren't Who You'd Expect — The movie makes you think that the whole world is suffering equally from the plague, with the exception of Israel. Even Wales, which along with most of the United Kingdom in the book emerges unscathed, is overrun by zombies in the movie. Some outcomes in the novel aren't unexpected: Pakistan and Iran obliterate each other with nuclear weapons following a refugee crisis. But Cuba, on the other hand, emerges as a major new power, having undergone a democratic revolution during the war. Havana even becomes the world's leading financial capital. China also transforms into a democratic society, and an independent Tibet possesses the world's most populous city in Lhasa. The zombies, however, completely exterminate the population of Iceland.
6. Really Weird Things Happen in North Korea — Actually, this is something that happens in both the book and movie, but with a few differences. In the film, the North Korean government orders that the teeth of all 23 million of its inhabitants be extracted so no one who becomes a zombie can bite and spread the infection. In the novel, the entire population disappears, presumably to hide in a network of underground bunkers that run through the whole country.
7. The Treatment of Prisoners Takes an Inhumane Hit — Another thing totally left out of the movie, convicts are basically exterminated by world governments in the novel by being dropped into infected areas and used to distract the zombies while the non-convict population escapes.
Funny that a movie with so many chomping zombies would ultimately be pretty toothless compared to its source material.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter@Ctblauvelt | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter@Hollywood_com
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Fans of DOA series Emily Owens, MD, listen up: in the wake of the disheartening cancelation of the charming freshman CW hospital drama, some good news has arrived!
It was announced on Thursday that Emily Owens producer Dan Jinks will executive produce a new Robin Hood drama for The CW, with the script penned by Cashmere Mafia’s Tze Chun. Sherwood, an hour-long period drama with a female slant, has officially received script commitment at the network.
Set in 1072 England, Sherwood revolves around a young noblewoman who sets out to free her serf boyfriend, who has been wrongfully imprisoned by ruthless Norman occupiers. She gets help from the vanished Robin of Locksley, inadvertently reuniting – and joining – the fabled Robin Hood and his Merry Men, inspiring new hope for the oppressed people of Nottingham.
Before you start groaning at the prospect of yet another show focusing on archery, or yet another Robin Hood project, let’s celebrate the fresh direction The CW is taking. We know that 2012 was the year in archery, but all of these recent pop culture archers were modern. The bows and arrows in the dystopian future reality show movie The Hunger Games, The CW’s DC Comics franchise adaptation series Arrow, Marvel’s The Avengers, and even the Olympics are high-tech, perfectly-manufactured, and in some cases even weaponized. Sherwood, dating all the way back to the medieval times, will certainly showcase imperfect, hand-crafted bows and arrows. There will also be a certain level of authenticity to the use of bows and arrows, since there won’t be any guns or other modern weapons to render the archers ineffective.
And as for the high influx of Robin Hood projects in recent times – BBC’s 2006 series Robin Hood and Ridley Scott’s 2010 Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe most prominently come to mind, as well as NBC’s in-development re-imagining Robin Hood project hailing from Blue Bloods’ Ken Sanzel, focusing on an Iraq War veteran-turned-outlaw in upstate New York – The CW’s series is the first to take a female perspective on the tale, focusing not on Robin of Locksley but actually on the young woman who reunites and joins the Merry Men.
No word yet on any casting news, but I think it's safe to assume there will be lots of shirtless ab shots of Robin, and the young noblewoman at the center of the series will look like she just left the salon with a new blow-out and makeover even after hours of journeying on horseback and storming castles. Who do you think will star in Sherwood? Will any of the Merry Men be ugly (doubt it...)? Hit the comments with your dream casting choices!
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: BBC America]
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Movies set in or around the Iraq war have almost universally failed at the box office but it would be a shame if co-writer and director Neil Burger’s heartfelt and engaging road flick about a trio of returning Iraq vets doesn’t find an audience. Actually Iraq is just an underlying plot device to put these three disparate and likeable characters together on a cross-country journey in a cramped minivan. The Lucky Ones is very much in line with the classic Hollywood genre of road movie a la Little Miss Sunshine. In this case three soldiers return to an America that almost seems foreign and find themselves joined at the hip by an experience only they seem to fully understand. When T.K Poole (Michael Pena) Colee Dunn (Rachel McAdams) and fifty-something reservist Fred Cheever (Tim Robbins) arrive in New York from Germany after a two-year tour of duty they find their connecting flights cancelled because of a power outage. They decide a minivan is the answer and even though they never knew each other before a bond develops as they travel by land to get to their final destinations. Each has complications when they get there. T.K. is dealing with a shrapnel injury to his private parts that has left him impotent and is worried about meeting up with his fiancée; Colee is headed to a meeting with the parents of a deceased fellow soldier with whom she was more than friends; and Cheever returns home to St. Louis only to find that his wife has moved on emotionally and his teenage son needs $20 000 for college. It’s a trip that will change each one of them in significant ways. This modest and understated little movie has some of the best acting we’ve seen all year. Robbins is perfectly cast nicely underplaying a career soldier who finally comes home to stay only to find he no longer has the life he thought was still waiting for him. Pena (World Trade Center Crash) continues to show great promise as T.K. the self-styled leader whose sexual insecurities make him second-guess his relationship with the fiancée he is driving to see. Best of all though is McAdams (The Notebook) who loses herself in sweet Colee Dunn a tough but very well-meaning girl who doles out the kind of encouraging words she really needs for herself. It would be easy to underrate this performance since McAdams makes this young injured army vet seem so effortlessly natural and appealing particularly in a sequence where she brings the dead soldier’s prized guitar back to his parents (nicely played by Annie Corley and John Diehl). Although on the surface this film would seem to be about as far away as you can get from Neil Burger’s previous film the surprise hit and elegant period piece The Illusionist both movies still deal with truth vs. reality and perception to varying degrees. What The Lucky Ones proves without a doubt is that Burger is a talent to be reckoned with. He has taken the shopworn movie staple the road picture and given it life and heart. It’s certainly no easy task to make this kind of movie visually interesting when half the time your three main characters are riding together in a minivan. Miraculously he keeps it interesting and vital (with a special shout-out to cinematographer Declan Quinn). Although Iraq is not completely under the radar the focus here is on the sometimes amusing sometimes maddening sometimes heartbreaking human element the simple unsaid plight of three strangers who find a common bond. That Burger (who co-wrote the script with Dirk Wittenborn) is able to give it all a fresh spin and deliver three such memorable characters is the real achievement.