The recent film based on Max Brooks’ book World War Z has sparked some controversy. Many saying that the film did not ‘keep true’ to the novel and did not have any plot related to the book. This is true, there are some small references and nods to the book, but nothing huge plot related. If the film had been titled anything other than World War Z, there would not have been the debate that there currently is.
But, What are the similarities between the book and the film?
Good Question. Asides from the references that I have made mention to, there really isn’t anything else in the film that is in the book. It seems as though, the name World War Z was chosen to buy into the already existing fanbase. Hardcore fans who had previously read the book long before the film came out where hugely anticipating this, so in that sense, it worked. Let’s look at the references that where in the film:
- South Korean Doctor - In South Korea, the film tells us a story about a doctor who was sent to look at a patient who was “acting strangely” We see the doctor lean into the patient to hear him breathing before he is bitten. There is also mention to the patient oozing a “black, tar-like liquid” Although this is a direct reference to the book, there are two huge differences. One; this scene is is set in China in the book. Two; it happens right at the very beginning of the book. And I mead RIGHT at the beginning. Straight after the introduction by Max Brooks, this section happens. Where as it is around a third of the way through in the film.
- Lobo - During the film there was the mention of a weapon named the Lobo. It’s basically a Shovel teamed with an Axe and something that plays quite a large role in the book but is only a passing mention in the film.
- UN Employee - The main character/narrator of the book is named after the author, Max Boooks. Brooks is a UN Employee who interviews many different people who survived The Zombie War, as Brooks names it. In the film, Brad Pitt plays an employee of the UN but does not interview survivors. He has been tasked of trying to find the source of the virus and, in turn, find a cure. So although this character did play the role of a UN employee, he did not have the same role.
Those are really the only references to the book. The locations that Gerry visits during the film do feature in the book, but not in the way that they are in the film. For example; Brooks does visit Israel, but not to speak to a prisoner. He visits this country simply to look at it and interview some of the survivors.
Now, let’s look at the features of the book that do not appear in the film, and vice versa:
- Characters - There are a huge amount of characters that are in the book that do not appear in the film. Obviously, this is due to the fact that the book is a series of interviews between survivors, and why these characters could not have appeared in the film. I am not going to write every single character that is not in the film but is in the book, there is simply not enough time. I will just name a few and show that they’re role is within the story. Some of these characters include:
- Paul Redeker - This character is the creator of the Redeker Plan. He was dubbed ‘heartless’ in the novel because of his intention to sacrifice thousands of humans to eventually save the race. This character was widely unsupported by the general population, but important political figures such as Nelson Mandela stated that “This man will save our people”
- Dr. Kwang Jingshu - I referenced this character in this post already. Dr. Jingshu is the doctor who identified Patient Zero, the first person who displayed the symptoms of the zombie virus.
- Queen Elizabeth II - A name that will be familiar to you. Featured in the book, the Queen converts all of her properties into protected areas open to anyone who was able to defend them. This character stayed at Windsor Castle, in her word “To the end”, against the objections of the British Government.
- Many Locations – There are a huge amount of locations that are visited in the book that are not even mentioned in the film. This is because of the story line that the film took as opposed to the story line of the film.
- Real World Scenarios - The book goes into great detail of what the world has become during The Zombie War. Really taking into consideration of who each action would effect everything else. There is even an interview with an astronaut who was looking down on the Earth during The War. It mentions how he would just look at how the world was changing and how he was completely powerless to do anything.
- Paris - This is one story that really stood out to me in the novel. Because Paris is build on a huge network of tunnels, the Undead eventually made their way down there and it was up to the military to get them out when they started to fight back. Brooks wrote that this was one of the worst places to fight zombies because of the darkness and the “waist-deep puddles” He wrote that zombies would just stand in these puddles, waiting for a victim to fall in. I found this story to be really interesting and disturbing at the same time.
- Reality Show - There was one more story in this novel that I found really interesting and one that I have read, and listened to, several times. It involve a rich man who has fortified his house to stop the Undead from invading. He has also invited some of the rich and famous to come stay with him. He has done this because he has found a way to make money from the war. Through multiple hidden cameras in the house, he has set up a type of reality show that is broadcasted over the internet. I don’t want to spoil how this story ends because it is just too brilliant. But it really shows what people would do when they are in need of help and are in deep danger.
If you are planning to watch this film but haven’t read the book yet. Firstly; sorry, I have just spoiled a lot of things for you. And secondly; watch the film first before you read the book. I promise that if you read the book and have it fresh in you’re mind when you watch the film you will be disappointed. It’s far better to go into this film with no preconceptions of what it is going to be about, or what you are wanting to see in the film based on what you have read in the book.
Overall, I would recommend reading the book rather than seeing the film. This is because you get far more content in the book and it also goes into a lot more detail that is just not achieved in the film.