By now, the legendary production problems that plagued Marc Forster’s World War Z have been well-documented. However, as the film becomes a much-bigger international blockbuster than anyone expected, stories of the movie that might have been and how Brad Pitt wrested control of the project and essentially reshot the entire third act are becoming increasingly common. There will almost certainly be a great book written about rising budgets, ego clashes, and a film that deviated so wildly from its original concept that poor Matthew Fox ended up with nothing more than a cameo. World War Z: The Art of the Film is not that book. However, while it sheds almost no light on the difficulties of the production, it does offer new insight into what ended up on the screen with the (mostly) final shooting script, production art, design sketches, and storyboards.
The bulk of The Art of the Film consists of a well-presented version of the shooting script that deviates slightly but somewhat significantly from what you saw on the big screen. While this would have been a true collectible if it contained the original shooting script, in which Brad Pitt’s character Gerry went to Moscow and in which Matthew Fox’s character played a vastly more significant role, there are notable changes in this script from what survived the editing bay, including a different intro that would give the piece a flashback structure that might make its episodic nature easier to understand. The fact that Titan presents this as the shooting script is interesting because it’s not as different as the original adaptation of Max Brooks’s novel that Pitt signed on to but you can see how this movie was changing all the way up to the last minute. There are numerous passages, like a recall of the little vodka bottles from the plane or Gerry being shot with a tranquilizer at the W.H.O. facility that will likely surface as deleted scenes someday. Get a sneak peek now.
More interesting than playing “contrast & compare” with the book and the film to its true fans will be the art, which colorfully accentuates the sections of the script in which it was utilized. The script and its art are divided by location – Newark Projects, Korea, Wales, etc. For example, for the Israel chunk of the film, we see concept drawings, visual effects models, etc. from the action scenes in that part of the flick. And the script is peppered with quotes from the people who made the movie. Some are pretty standard sell-the-movie fare (“It’s very, very smart… it’s not at all a sort of straight-up-the-middle horror zombie movie,” says Matthew Fox) while others get a little deeper (“Their make-up, hair, clothing and desiccated look are products of how we interpret their behavior. Lighting, color and contrast – even clothing color – is delicate and critical,” says Scott Farrar, Visual Effects Supervisor). Sadly, most of these quotes float without much context as the actual “making-of” aspect of the book is woefully thin.
Most bizarrely, the longest passage of text that’s not the script comes at the end of the book in a passage about tools used to kill zombies by the “Weapons Master” on the film. Anyone who’s seen it may think this even odder since there aren’t a whole lot of tools other than guns and a crucial crowbar in the film. This may actually be the best glimpse at the WWZ that will never be since that version included a third act in which Gerry had become a zombie hunter, likely using the tools discussed and sketched in these closing pages.
As with all coffee table books designed as official companions to visually strong movies, World War Z: The Art of the Film is filled with images. Some are straight movie stills, but the vast majority consists of concept art, storyboards, and other tools used in the design of the film. Seeing the detail that goes into the individual zombies or the way the effective action set-pieces have been designed visually should be of interest to the film’s fans. In the end, World War Z has already divided audiences with its PG-13 approach to zombie action. To at least get part of the story as to how this version of the beloved book ended up a massive blockbuster, check out World War Z: The Art of the Film.