I went into a showing of World War Z knowing that it wouldn’t match up with the book. I knew that it was intended as nothing more than a popcorn zombie flick. I knew it was just a movie for Brad Pitt to Brad Pitt his way across the screen for two hours.
There is a difference between an adaptation, which is what most people assume they will get when watching a movie based on a book, and a completely different product with the same logo slapped on it. For example, Kubrick’s version of the Shining, which I’ve complained about before, is still an adaptation of King’s novel. The characters are the same, the setting is the same, and while thematically it might not match up as much, it’s still the same story. World War Z, however, is more like The Lawnmower Man. The Lawnmower Man was a King short story about a demonic landscaper. The movie has a weird cyber-story about a mentally challenged man who becomes a malevolent computer virus after hanging around Pierce Brosnan too long. It bore absolutely no similarity other than the title and the fact that a lawnmower was in the movie.
Much like that lawnmower, the only tenuous link in World War Z is in the scenes in Jerusalem, where a character from the book (who should have been played by Karl Reiner) appears. However, the entire point of the Israeli efforts to combat the zombies was lost in a giant zombie swarm, called to the city by a Muslim chant… yeah, uh, little heavy handed there, movie.
There is also a giant sized plot hole in the idea that the zombie virus migrated via infected airline passengers. While this is something that happens in the book, it makes zero sense in the movie, as the longest it takes for anyone to change once infected is about ten minutes. I don’t know of any ten minute transoceanic flights.
Another problem with the movie is that it does end with Brad Pitt essentially finding a cure, or at least a means of living with the zombie menace. This is where the movie really breaks its final tie with the book. One of the great things about the book is the story of how people eventually organized and fought back, with the march from the west coast to the east, a giant line stretching from Canada to Mexico of infantry killing zombies methodically as they go, was completely destroyed by this ending. The idea of Cuba becoming a major power because of its isolation, of the military learning from its mistakes and its over-saturation of the media…gone.
So there’s just about nothing at all that the movie and the book have in common. Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed in the movie. It was exactly what I had braced myself for it to be. It’s like knowing you’re going to get a shot at the doctor’s office, you’re ready for the pain, but afterward you say, “well, it wasn’t that bad.” But it still hurt, and the movie still wasn’t good compared to the book.