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Discuss: As 'World War Z' Gets Seven Weeks Of Reshoots, Why Are So Many Tentpoles Being Delayed & Reworked?

by Oliver Lyttelton
June 1, 2012 10:01 AM
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G.I. Joe Retaliation Channing Tatum Dwayne Johnson

But could that be a cover too? Reactions from test screenings have been genuinely dismal, which was surely the biggest reason that the studio decided to delay. And according to Drew McWeeney at HitFix "Things are starting to get genuinely contentious between director Jon Chu and the studio, and right now, there is a chance he won't be directly involved at all with the reshoots." Indeed, the young helmer may even try to resort to legal tactics to ensure that he remains involved in the project. In short: it's an absolute mess, but it's also another film that is trying to save itself from disaster with what would seem to be extensive reshoots (resurrecting Tatum's character, and including more scenes of him and Dwayne Johnson, can't be a minor undertaking).

And now we have a third, as Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reports that Brad Pitt has gone to Budapest for a whopping seven weeks of additional shooting on "World War Z," the zombie tentpole movie he's starring in, also at Paramount. The film, directed by Marc Forster, was originally set to open on December 21st but was pushed back to June 21, 2013. At the time, we'd assumed it was a question of getting out of the way of a jam-packed Christmas season, but the sheer length of these reshoots (outside of the big-budget world, entire films can be made in much less than seven weeks, and the additional photography on "John Carter" lasted only 18 days -- somewhere between three and four weeks). We'll assume until proven otherwise that relations between Forster and Paramount are still rosy, but reshoots of this scope and scale suggest strongly that the film has major, major issues, and that may have been the biggest reason for the delay.

J.J. Abrams Star Trek

So what the devil is going on? Why have studios decided to spend nine figure sums on movies that need fixing after they worked? Perhaps more crucially, how bad did things get that Paramount, who were riding high at the start of the year with "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," have ended up pulling both of their major 2012 tentpole hopes from the release schedule? "Star Trek 2" was originally being eyed for release this month, but J.J. Abrams valiantly put his foot down and refused to let the script and production be rushed, which meant that the film was pushed back to the summer of 2013. Thus, the company were left with a gap, and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," a continuation of a franchise-starter that actually lost the studio money significant amounts of money, theatrically at least, was hurried in front of cameras. It would appear, however, that plan backfired. They're now left without a summer tentpole anyway, and shifting 'Retaliation' to next year has created a perceptionthat the movie is a disaster, however right or wrong that may be.

But the situation with "World War Z" might be more complicated. The film was in development for years, with several A-list writers involved, and Marc Forster is a safe pair of hands rather than some artistic firecracker (or newcomer). We suspect that the subject matter may be one of the things causing problems. It's aiming to be a PG-13 tentpole revolving around a zombie apocalypse, and the tone is likely dark and dour. But it's also possible that the film finally got the greenlight simply because Pitt had a hole in his schedule, a factor far more important for the studio than whether the script is right. "47 Ronin" is a different beast -- the overages and need for reshoots seems to be down to a combatative first-time helmer (although "Drive" writer Hossein Amini was brought on relatively late to polish the script, as he did on "Snow White And The Huntsman").

We hope that all three films turn out to be great. We hope they all turn out to be hits -- no one likes to see a giant flop, particularly when promising directors like Chu or Rinsch are involved. But history is not on their side, when it comes to reshoots of this extent, and reshoots, particularly when new directors are involved, tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Either way, it's indicative of a culture of fear among the studios at the moment. After a lackluster box office in 2011, things picked up this year, but May saw film after film disappoint, with "Dark Shadows," "The Dictator," "Battleship" and even "Men In Black 3" underwhelming (the latter another film with a troubled, contentious production, although the surprisingly decent reviews suggest it may be an example where spending a little extra money helped it creatively).  

Ultimately, the problems with the recent slate was that not many people wanted to see them. Studios dumped hundreds of million dollars on a comedic remake of a campy TV vampire soap, an actioner based on a board game, a comedy about a Middle Eastern despot, and a third installment of a franchise that followed up a dismal second movie a decade ago, without stopping to think if audiences would care about them in the number that they thought they would. And looking at the three films facing reshoots, it's easy to see why studios might start to panic, and do anything they can to make them more appealing. Whether they fix the situation, or make it worse, remains to be seen, but we certainly hope that executives start to learn from their mistakes on these films sooner rather than later.

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  • Xian | June 2, 2012 4:52 PMReply

    World War Z... don't have to much hope for this one though I once did. Seems they're deviating far enough from the book (stupid ADD-addled, running zombies aside) to make this seem much less interesting conceptually than Max Brooks's source work (which, to me, always owed much to Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's "Warday" in its structure and tropes). I think this one's gonna be a dog, especially with a ludicrous PG-13 rating (oh, how far from George A. Romero's great early work has the mighty zombie fallen). It's foolish to make this kind of material kid-friendly.

  • kull | June 1, 2012 8:00 PMReply

    Pixar structures 4 reshoots into the budget, because movies are put together, scenes are scrapped and new scenes are added in. At Pixar, this is a way of perfecting the movie they have. In Hollywood, because it is more public, every news outlet has to report on any reworking and it becomes a bigger story than it needs to be. Wouldn't it be better to judge the movie on it's own? About ten years ago there was a huge reshoot on a certain move that wasnt really reported. The first cut wasnt great at all but the reshoots really helped the movie and it became a big hit and a bigger franchise. Can't the media find something else to report on, like the new french wave, like they used to? At least we learned something back then...

  • Josh | June 1, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    And then you have reshoots like the final final scene of Avengers which wasn't even shot until after the movie premiered.

  • the ayatollah of film | June 1, 2012 2:19 PMReply

    The Daily Mail who have had more campaigns to ban films than actually been constructive towards them, there up there with The Sun, similar group news papers they make a molehill out of nothing sensationalize it, very unreliable source. Ok its not unusual for films to have re-shoots doesn't mean its bad film, sometimes it is a bad film sometimes we should look at the film director John Chu - GI Joe Retaliation, same guy who did a 3d justin bieber film, Marc Forster who hasn't did any breathtaking films, nearly destroyed James Bond (though money was a bigger problem) just a few people mediocre director not delivering. Film studios think we all want 3d, some people think in europe and UK we love 3D its actually the opposite. Sales maybe good but thats the fact due to cinema chains who will only show a film in 3D even if 2D is available or when they do show 2D, the 2d version maybe shown 2 times a day compared 8 or times a day for 3d. film studios want our money and want PG, 12A (PG-13) films even if the source of the film could be a 15 or 18 rating , it's all $$$$

  • Daniel | June 1, 2012 11:18 AMReply

    (I know this will probably get removed, but I'm a longtime pre-indiewire playlister, I swear! So even if you do take it down, please check out the link anyway, I really think you'd dig it!)

    I'm a huge HUGE fan of WWZ, and for any other 'listers who are, or who are filmmakers themselves, I wanted to post the zombie short I made --

    And now for an actual comment: Delayed and reworked doesn't mean bad; there are plenty of great pictures that changed hugely during the course of production . WWZ is a trick and a half, though, and I bet getting the balance right on such a wide ranging story is probably very tough. The book itself is more a collection of short stories than a regular novel, so they've likely had to make big changes already -- which always threatens to upset fans. But from what I've seen, it looks pretty amazing.

  • Thuan Dang | June 1, 2012 11:11 AMReply

    Studios want pg13 tentpoles but they don't have enough quality pg13 tentpole directors to make them. So they cram other type of directors into pg13 and they don't work out. Carl Erik Rinsch isn't a pg13 director. His whole thing is cerebral and very "smartsy". Give him 175 million bucks to make 47 Ronin, dude ain't gonna use it to make MI:4, he's gonna make Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut and probably did.

    Andrew Stanton is a pg13 quad tentpole director, problem with John Carter was that he wasn't trying to make a 4 quadrant tentpole for the present day audience. Give him 200 million plus, he's gonna go out and make John Carter as Star Wars but in todays film landscape? That's utterly failure-bound. Modern filmmaking has moved way past Star Wars, he wanted to go back to the classical way with JC. Wrong move.

    Jon Chu is pg13 but isn't a 4 quad tentpole director because did those who went to see the StepUp movies go see it for the story? If Spielberg is the apex and Shawn Levy is basically the median, Chu doesn't even hit the median as a 4 quad tentpole director. Chu's a Bollywood/musical director. He won't dazzle you with story and action but he'll dazzle the hell out of you with dance and singing.

    Marc Forster ain't a 4 quad tentpole director. He's a character driven/adult material filmmaker.

    Hollywood don't have many directors who have a strong passion to make 4quad tentpoles and the intimate storytelling ability for it. Yeah people like Joseph Kosinski can learn special effects but that technical stuff you can learn from others. Visual storytelling, for this point 4 quadrant pg13, whatever you want to call it, visual storytelling, is something you got to figure out by yourself, can't be taught by others. Screenwriters can write a pg13 tentpole script but how it is seen visually is up in the air unless you got a good pg13 tentpole director who will know what works and what won't in his/her head. Most directors aren't interested in only doing just pg13 tentpoles, but the money man, the money (Burton).

  • Eric | June 4, 2012 3:41 PM

    I think I understand what you are trying to say. Basically they are not enough directors that are capable of providing an entertaining, well made, movie. On that has great action, excellent dialogue, and some comedy. When it is vary rare when you are able to bring all three of these elements together. The Avengers is a prefect example of this, and look at what it is doing at the box office.

    Basically it is like trying to fit square and triangle pegs into circle holes. But these movies also fail because they are just poorly developed concepts. And even a great director could not save them, because lets face it, even Speilberg had mad some pieces of crap recently.

  • Gabe Toro | June 2, 2012 12:17 AM

    Can anyone decipher what this comment means?

    Anyway, great piece, Oli. As usual.

  • T | June 1, 2012 11:10 AMReply

    The daily mail is hardly the most reliable source for these things, is it?
    Has ANYONE else confirmed this?
    Pitt's about to shoot a few weeks of "Twelve years a slave" & than a few weeks of "the counselor", almost back-to-back. All while Jolie is shooting Malifecent.
    Highly unlikely that he'll be doing 7 weeks of reshoots on WWZ..

  • me | June 1, 2012 11:03 PM

    Baz Bamigboye is not a "rock solid a source" far from it lol. I have heard that the re-shoots are beeing done in London at one of the Pinewood Studios group and they started in April.

  • KitCon | June 1, 2012 6:53 PM

    Pitt said his role in The Counselor will only require a few days work and that his role in 12 Years is only a cameo.

  • Pwned | June 1, 2012 11:40 AM


  • Oliver Lyttelton | June 1, 2012 11:38 AM

    THR said that the film is facing "several weeks of extensive and costly reshoots" - . And while The Daily Mail as an institution is terrible, Baz Bamigboye is about as rock solid a source as you could ask for.

  • kitcon | June 1, 2012 10:59 AMReply

    Pitt said during the Killing Them Softly Cannes press that they were attempting something similar with WWZ. Perhaps they're retooling it to make whatever message they're hoping to convey clearer?

  • James | June 1, 2012 11:36 AM

    The story in the Mail is short on facts. First, the movie did not wrap last summer, it wrapped last Fall. Then the writer says it is only Pitt, no other cast members and then states the facts are "sketchy". True or not, don't know, but there should have been a bit more fact checking before this story was written.

  • JD | June 1, 2012 10:51 AMReply

    Why do people keep hiring Marc Forster? He's made one inert dud after another (Stay, Stranger Than Fiction, Quantum of Solace). Even his watchable movies (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner) are unusually dull and conventional. It seems like he gets opportunities simply because he has a history of picking good scripts, in spite of the fact that he's never delivered on the potential of those scripts.

  • bonzob | June 1, 2012 7:56 PM

    Agreed, he's terrible. Kite Runner was an abomination. Monster's Ball is wildly overrated. Stay and Quantum of Solace are correctly rated as crap.

    I will say I have a soft spot for Stranger Than Fiction, though. And Neverland isn't good, but the ridiculous sappy ending does kind of get me.

  • Daniel S. | June 1, 2012 11:59 AM

    AMEN!!! Preaching to the choir JD.

  • KT | June 1, 2012 10:36 AMReply

    "Why Are So Many Tentpoles Being Delayed & Reworked?" Because Hollywood typically doesn't know what the fuck they're doing.

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