History is littered with movie productions that went haywire and melted down (we recently chronicled a few that survived bad buzz and some that didn't). Either imploding on set because of director/actor spats, budgets that ballooned into excess causing for major flops, or any number of confluent forces that created disaster. Some films escaped their thought-to-be impending doom (“Avatar,” “Titanic”) and others (“John Carter,” “Battleship,”), well, they pretty much lived up to their “this is going to bomb” narrative.
2013’s easily most maligned film is the Brad Pitt’s zombie drama, “World War Z.” Originally due Christmas 2012, the movie was delayed until just this past weekend because the principal creatives involved, including the studio suits, didn’t believe the ending of the movie worked. Eyed as a potential trilogy from the start, as news of the delay arrived, so too did reports of drama spring from the project like a leaky dyke. Seven weeks of reshoots were called for, writers had to craft a new ending, and things got so bad apparently Pitt stopped talking to director Marc Forster (his DP Robert Richardson apparently wasn’t too thrilled with the overall experience either).
But “World War Z” arrived in theaters this past weekend and as we noted yesterday in our Best/Worst post-mortem, it wasn’t all that bad. Or at least nowhere near as bad as the disaster the media made it out to be originally (you can read our original review too, which perhaps liked it slightly less than everyone else). And with a surprisingly good $67 million in box-office receipts in its opening frame, and an B+ Cinemascore, clearly audiences responded to the film as well, not really giving a toss for the anti-buzz.
So what changed in “World War Z” exactly? Well, three writers received final credit Matthew Michael Carnahan (“Lions For Lambs”), Drew Goddard (“Cabin In The Woods”) and Damon Lindelof (Christopher McQuarrie was also hired to do punch ups after Goddard and Lindelof took a run at it, while J. Michael Straczynski wrote one of the original drafts way back when). Most of who wrote what exactly has come out already. But as we got our hands on the Matthew Michael Carnahan’s draft of the script (and Straczynski's draft for that matter) and have seen the film, we thought we’d breakdown the “original script” vs. the final version that ended up on screen that has a last act mostly credited to Lindelof and Goddard (the latter of whom was brought on by an overwhelmed Lindelof to give the ending its “heroic flourish”).
Obviously, a MAJOR spoiler alert is in effect going forward, as we are discussing the ending of the movie.
It’s probably not even worth getting into the J. Michael Straczynski draft in too much detail,as the changes since are a natural part of movie development. But, suffice to say he left the project unhappy. “Marc wanted to make a big, huge action movie that wasn’t terribly smart and had big, huge set pieces in it," Straczynski, the told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “If all you wanted to do was as empty-headed Rambo-versus-the-zombies action film, why option this really elegant, smart book?”
If you saw “World War Z” this weekend, you know it essentially has four sections broken up by location. Philadelphia, which is the opening of the film, South Korea, which is the in the first act and gives Pitt’s U.N. crisis specialist clues of where to go next, Israel at the top of the second act, and then Wales in the final act where a wounded Pitt stops by a fortified World Health Organization building.
Damon Lindelof told Vanity Fair a few weeks back in a rather controversial expose of the film’s problems that “everything changes after Brad leaves Israel,” and having read Carnahan’s script that’s essentially true (and the Huffington Post confirmed this as well recently).
The New Version: Starts with Zombies On A Plane
What Happened: Pitt’s Gerry Lane character see Jerusalem fall under zombie siege despite the city just having presciently built a wall around the entire metropolis a few weeks earlier. Lane has to help the injured Israeli soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) because he chopped off her hand to protect her from falling to full-scale zombie infection. They have to get on a plane and this is the break in the line between the old and new scripts.
Where The New Changes Begin: Lane and Segen get on a Belarus Air plane flight that’s rerouted by the U.N., but a zombie attack mid-flight changes everything.
The New Ending: Lane and Segen crash land in Wales and make their way to a W.H.O. building which leads to the new ending. Gerry Lane and the scientists there discover that by injecting themselves with various illnesses, the zombies become blind to the humans, only hungry for healthy humans to kill.
On page 2, everything we know about the original ending.