‘World War Z’ Endings: The Bloody Battle In Russia Vs. Damon Lindelof's Rewrite, What Was Changed & Why

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by Rodrigo Perez
June 25, 2013 12:31 PM
16 Comments
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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?”

The Final Film You Saw In Theaters
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.

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16 Comments

  • Mario | July 11, 2013 11:31 AMReply

    I think after the Israel zombie hordes and the plane scene, they weren't going to top it, violence and action reached certain levels and trying to match their previous action would just make it more of the same. I think the pace change of the lab/disease bit made people interested because they had their share of action, now look at this "human" moment of heroism to save mankind, that doesn't mean killing more and more zombies. Yes it is a weird change of pace, but it stops the film from becoming repetitive

  • Ollie | July 8, 2013 10:18 PMReply

    I did 3 days and a night shoot on the film as a Russian soldier in an air hanger filled with other soldiers, trucks and civilians. We had to help them onto the trucks and at another moment in filming look on in the background as a guy playing a general talks to the waiting crowd and Pitt, yes he seemed lovely.
    On the night shoot we were at the track/old landing strip where they film Top Gear. On site was a large plane which I'm told is stationed there constantly.
    During filming we, the soldiers, were driven up to the jet in a truck, had to get out and run up the jet stairs, and then inside the plane we had to usher people towards the exits.
    Absolutely gutted to be cut from the film but to be honest haven't seen it yet so now I hope it flops.

  • B | July 2, 2013 10:17 PMReply

    This piece is one of the most poorly structured and incoherently written things I have seen for some time.

  • a | June 27, 2013 7:21 PMReply

    That original ending, even told in brief overview, sounds like an unwieldy mess (the religion stuff, wha?). This might be a case of the studio rewrite-by-committee system getting something absolutely right for once!

  • Franka | June 25, 2013 4:46 PMReply

    Great piece. Curious to read that script now. Anyone have?

  • Sterling Cooper | June 25, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    Thanks to the final season of "Lost", I avoid anything with Lindelof's name on it. In this way I have avoided such turkeys as "Prometheus". I suppose I'll catch up with "WWZ" when I get a screener-- D'OH I mean, a retail dvd from my favorite electronic consumer warehouse, ha ha ha nothing to see here.

  • cinematic_high | June 25, 2013 7:18 PM

    Smart man.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters being introduced and then killed once Pitt left the country.

  • RP | June 25, 2013 4:49 PM

    Mass (who likes to comment a lot). I wouldn't call the Russians the "bad guys" here per se. It's just this military is the antagonists of THIS part of the film. I think the idea was to show some sociopolitical texture -- what some nation's people's might be forced to do given little other choice. One could argue any military might pull this off, though I could see some arguing why couldn't it have been American, Chinese, German, etc. etc.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters being introduced and then killed once Pitt left the country.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters being introduced and then killed once Pitt left the country.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:16 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters bein introduced and then oilled once Pitt left the country.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:16 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters bein introduced and then oilled once Pitt left the country.

  • Mass | June 25, 2013 1:16 PMReply

    Of course they'd make Russians the bad guys. While Israel of course openly and kindly allows people in its borders. Israel won't even allow Palastanians in its borders due to their religious beliefs, so I'm supposed to believe Israel became nice enough to allow anyone into its borders during an infectious zombie disease? Ha! Yeah right.

    Talk about some propoganda for the mind.

    WWZ itself had way too much action, no character development and no scares, by far the best part of the film was when they arrived at Wales and the three characters went to retrieve the camo. The rest of the film was pretty bleh, with characters bein introduced and then oilled once Pitt left the country.

  • reeft | June 25, 2013 12:55 PMReply

    Haven't seen the movie but isn't the headline kind of a spoiler? All the advertisements focused on the (kind of) first half of the movie, right?

  • Franka | June 25, 2013 1:13 PM

    No, the bloody battle doesn't take place in the new movie. But yes, you shouldn't read if you haven't seen the film

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