The movie version of Max Brooks’ 2006 zombie novel ‘World War Z’ came out in cinemas on 21 June. ‘World War Z: The Art Of The Film’ has been published by Titan Books to coincide with the film’s release. The book includes the entire screenplay of the movie interspersed with design sketches, production art and stills from the final film.
The film follows Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, an ex-United Nations troubleshooter who is persuaded to rejoin their ranks when a zombie pandemic threatens to destroy the entire civilised world in less than a year. Gerry is tasked with finding the origins of the pandemic in the hope that this will help the UN develop a vaccine or cure. As Gerry travels from country to country, he faces ever-greater dangers from zombies and humans alike. Can he find what he’s looking for before the zombies over-run not only the UN but the family he’s left behind?
The book is nicely laid out in sections, reflecting the different geographical locations in which the action takes place during the movie. The photos and artwork are reproduced on high quality glossy paper and they bring the screenplay to life very well.
If you’ve read the novel, you need to be aware that the film version is only loosely based on it. There are numerous differences, not the least of which is that Brooks’ zombies are traditional in nature, shambling around very slowly and displaying no signs of intelligence. In the film, they can run extremely quickly and seem capable at times of organised behaviour, as if they’re part of a hive or swarm. It’s important to realise this if you get the book before watching the film because otherwise several elements of the screenplay won’t make any sense.
The main limitation of the book is that there is virtually no text other than the screenplay and some brief quotes from various members of the movie crew. I would have liked to have seen some supporting material, such as an interview with director Marc Forster, information on how the special effects were achieved or a discussion of how and why the film version differs so significantly from the book. It is well known that the film has had a troubled history, with several rewrites and the reshooting of much of the last act, all of which has led to a huge increase in the budget. It would have been great to have seen some recognition of these issues in the book. They could perhaps even have been turned into a positive by discussing how these difficulties have led to a stronger film as a result, assuming that anyone thinks this is the case. Some additions such as these could have turned the book from an interesting but ephemeral coffee table item into a more long-lived work of reference for the future.
In conclusion, ‘World War Z: The Art Of The Film’ combines screenplay and art in an interesting and attractive way. However, its appeal is likely to be limited to hard core fans of the movie due to the lack of any significant contextual or explanatory material in addition to the screenplay.