World War Z rewrite?
For those of you in the know, J. Michael Straczynski was adapting Max Brooks rather good World War Z novel into a film. Now he's a really well proven writer, let's not bother talking about the amazing work he's done on Babylon 5, but there's also Clint Eastwood's Changeling and a host of big films on the way.
So why is he being replaced on World War Z? According to reports he's been replaced and his script it being rewritten by Matthew Michael Carnahan, so what does that mean? Well although it's not necessarily a bad thing as Carnahan is a good writer, it does suggest World War Z could be taking a different direction.
Just comparing the two writers and the source material for a moment, the source is very intelligent and treats a usually action packed genre with wads of reality, a view of “if this really happened, how would the world react”. Now through in J. Michael Straczynski to the mix and we have a really intelligent writer who has a talent for bringing complex and emotionally strong stories to the screen.
Then look at Matthew Michael Carnahan who has written The Kingdom (Filmstalker review), Lions for Lambs (Filmstalker review) and State of Play. You can see a similar mind set from Lions for Lambs, although the film wasn't executed quite as well as we would have hoped, and from The Kingdom and State of Play there's a similar feeling, although it's mixed with plenty of Hollywood with action and less requirement for thought.
Not that I'm saying he's a dumb Hollywood writer, far from it, he's certainly pushing scripts the right way, but for World War Z this spells something akin to a few steps back. You see the novel doesn't have the action sequences in it, it's not about that, it's about people affected by a worldwide zombie outbreak and how they and the authorities deal with it, interviewing key witnesses and those involved in the events, it's a good read.
Looking at the other films that Carnahan has written there's a degree of Hollywood and of action, not that the scripts are completely sanitised, I'm really not saying that, but compared to what World War Z is and what J. Michael Straczynski would perhaps have been producing you have to assume that it's going to be something rather different and there's going to be far more action than the novel.
”They say it’s a positive move because they’re very excited, but the truth is, it’s also positive because they just paid him a buttload of money, and [with] the money they paid him, the money they paid Straczynski and they money they’ve paid me, they’ve really dug themselves a deep hole, so they better make this thing!”
Well most sites who are talking about it say they hope that too, except me. I hope that if they are going to alter it and add in plenty of action that they decide not to make it. At all.
You can just imagine the conversation that the studio executives had when they had when they read the script from JMS:
”Wait a minute, we thought this was a zombie film. Where's the zombies eating people? Where's the mindless hordes racing after survivors who are picking up anything to defend themselves? Where's the army blowing them up?”
I think the bonus to remember here is that Carnahan can do something special here. He can pull the script back to Hollywood just enough to get the studio to say yes, and not too far away from the original.
Hold up though, let's go back to December of last year and see what JMS himself has to say about his script:
“The fictional concept of the book is that its written by someone with the UN, so let’s tell that story...Let’s show the book being written. We follow this guy all over the world as he goes on these interviews, and he has his own personal story as well. You’re cutting between the past and the present, how he got to this point...
...It has that international feel to it, and because it goes backward and forward in time, we can cherry-pick our favorite moments in the book...Some of it is crazy in scale. It’s huge. It’s as political as the book was. And it ends with that book being completed.”
So that's suggesting something about the scale of the film, and he's talking about big scale, and that means money. Here's what else he says:
“We talk about it as a thriller, the closest comparison being The Bourne Identity...Most zombie movies to this point have been small, focusing on a few people in a house. And this has got real scare. You’re in India with hundreds of boats trying to get out of there with a tidal wave of zombies. The scale of what we’re doing here is phenomenal.”
What's interesting is that this speaks about action, he speaks about showing those big action based scenes that aren't really in the book. He's suggesting that it's all there. So what was the problem? Perhaps it was the scale after all, perhaps that's what caused Hollywood to delay the film and move onto Carnahan for a new script?