Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why World War Z Is Probably Doomed

There have been quite a few articles warning us that Brad Pitt’s World War Z will be a dud... a bomb... a flatulent schnauzer. It wouldn’t surprise me. What’s interesting though is the reason they think it will be a bomb compared to why I think it will be a bomb. They are, of course, wrong.

WWZ is a zombie movie. It’s based on a novel by Max Brooks and the story is basically about the UN trying to stop the outbreak. Yeah, I know there’s more to it... ask me if I care and you can find out all you want about it here => LINK. Seriously, aren’t we done with zombies yet? There’s a million fricken zombie movies already and they’re all the same! A retarded chimpanzee with a camcorder can made a zombie movie these days! Why make another one? &^#%$%$! I am looking forward to it.

Anyhoo, Brad Pitt is producing this turkey and it’s been a mess. In particular, the ending as originally shot was considered abrupt and incoherent and it left the studio in shock. Paramount Studio President Marc Evans described it thusly, “It was like, ‘Wow, the ending of our movie doesn’t work!’” So they went about re-shooting it. They spent between $15 and $20 million to re-shoot the ending and now production costs have blown past $200 million into Battleship and John Carter territory (another $125 million will be spent on marketing). Sadly for them, most everyone apparently agrees that they made the ending worse.

As an aside, they say they needed to re-shoot “the ending,” but they apparently re-shot 40 minutes of film. That’s more than just the ending, that’s a whole new film!

So now Wall Street thinks the film is doomed because it had production problems which caused cost overruns. Hence, no one will see it. Hollywood types think the film is doomed because it now has a reputation for being a bad film. Hence, no one will see it. Personally, I don’t buy it. The public doesn’t care about production management, they just care about the quality of the film. As for the perception of the film being lousy, that won’t kill the film either... if it’s good. What that will do is cause audiences to move slowly and to wait to hear word of mouth. If the film passes that test, it will do well. If it doesn’t, it will bomb. In fact, they can probably save the advertising money because studio ads won’t matter at this point.

Anyway, I think the film will probably bomb. And what tells me that is this one idea that keeps popping up about why they needed to re-shoot the ending. Said one insider on the topic:
“The original ending was meant to launch a trilogy, but it took Pitt’s character down an obvious hero path — battling zombies mano-a-corpse in Russia — and it was implausible and unsatisfying.”
Do you notice any key words of doom in that? How about “was meant to launch the trilogy.” Yep. Screwed. When you set out with the idea of using your current product as a means to sell people more stuff in the future, you are asking for trouble. People go to movies because they want to see stories, they don’t go because they want to be prepped for future shakedowns.

This reeks of Golden Compassism. That was a film that (putting aside all its other garbage) failed at a fundamental level because the story never engaged the audience because it was constantly setting up sequels. . . sequels that never came, mind you. It constantly felt like they were showing you things and telling you, “Ok, well, that doesn’t matter now, but remember it for the sequels, will ya?” Forget it! Audience want everything in a movie to wrap up in that movie. Yes, your villain can escape in the sequel and start over again, but he needs to be stopped in this film. Yes, sometimes like in Empire Strikes Back, your resolution can call out for a sequel. But you can’t treat a film as a primer for future films. Audience’s don’t want to feel like they just paid to see part of a film. And if that’s the case with WWZ, then audience will stay home.

Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of a single time when this model has worked where a film is merely a set up for future films. Perhaps, the only time it’s worked is Back to the Future II and that not only angered many people, but it was already a sequel working with characters the audience had learned to love in the first film, so it wasn’t as jarring to be told there would be more. The Lord of the Rings worked too, but that seems like it’s a special case as that’s a widely beloved trilogy of books that just contain too much to do as a single film. I don’t see WWZ having that kind of cache with the public, nor do I see what can’t be done in two hours in a zombie film.

If Team Pitt set out to make a third of a film and pass it off as a complete film (with two sequels coming) then he’s a fool. He should have made this a television series where people look less for a complete story and instead look for relationships with characters.

Thoughts? Zombies, sequels?

34 comments:

Zombie said...

Gaahrcgk! Clowrb rammflg umph lubbugg.

shawn said...

I'm familiar with "World War Z" in that I have the abridged audio book., which I recommend. The book isn't just one story , but is multiple vignettes about life in a post apocalyptic world and at least one about the initial infection and the military response. Pitt's WWZ looks like another "Starship Troopers" in which uses the title and not much else of the source material. I hope it's an entertaining movie, but it is one that I'll probably netflix.

K said...

You're right about trying to set up a series of films without making sure the first one is a solid story. Even without the rumors of story problems I am put off by

1.Brad "People's History of the United States" Pitt is no Steven Seagal when it comes to action films.

2. Based on the trailer it appears the gag with this film is the zombies are super duper zombies. Fast moving quick infection and a bazillion of them. This negates the entire reason for today's zombie films which, IMO is about fantasizing about no guilt blasting of already dead people with guns. Guns are pretty useless when 2000 zombies are running at you.

3. We're still in the middle of a nasty recession with millions out of work. I'm not seeing post apocalyptic films as a big seller at the moment.

Dave Olson said...

I have no intention of seeing this movie. Brad Pitt isn't a bad actor (no, really!), but the fact that he's in a film isn't reason enough to get me to a theater. And I don't give a flying crap about zombies any more than I do about vampires. Neither of them exist any more than wizards, orcs, or the Lizard People who supposedly run the world. If moviemakers want to get my butt in the seat, they'll have to come up with more interesting antagonists.

ScottDS said...

Re: Back to the Future Part II, Robert Zemeckis and Co. specifically attached the teaser for Part III to the end of it because they didn't want to piss people off. Zemeckis talks about going to see The Empire Strikes Back and leaving the theater disappointed about where the film ended. He didn't want people to feel the same way with his own movie.

As for this movie, it'll be an enjoyable Redbox rental and that's probably it. I like zombies, I like Brad Pitt, and in all fairness the trailer looked cool, but I'm in no rush. People who've read the book have told me that, so far, it doesn't resemble the book at all.

As for the production problems, yeah, most people don't care about such things but the entertainment media has a way of making certain movies "targets" and giving them a bad vibe so eventually, even the man on the street is in on the joke. (Waterworld being a great example of a decent movie that was kinda sunk by pre-release mishigas.)

Jason said...

In almost any case I can think of, movies with stories about overrun budgets and production problems almost always can’t wash off the bad buzz. The only exception that comes to mind is Titanic, which was bombarded with tons of stories about its production costs, yet it ended up being one of the biggest hits of all time, though I doubt anyone predicted the movie would attract so many starry-eyed teenage girls who couldn’t get enough of Leo.

Yeah, The Golden Compass was a horrible case of sequelitis killing a movie. In that case, the movie had no real ending. It just…stopped.

I think Back to the Future Part II and The Empire Strikes Back worked is because they felt like complete movies on their own. It’s true they set-up a sequel to come, but I felt like I had a complete movie-going experience by the time the films ended. They still wrapped up the immediate dilemmas of their plots well enough that you didn’t feel cheated. Plus, they were the second film in their respective series. Trying to do blatant sequel set-ups with the first movie, when the audience is just getting introduced to your universe, is a bad, bad idea. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars and The Matrix were set up that way? It wouldn’t be pretty.

rlaWTX said...

I hadn't heard much about the "flop-worthiness" until the last couple of days, so I had seen a couple of trailers w/o that "taint".
I honestly wasn't sure it was a zombie movie or that it was going to be an action movie. You just see Brad looking serious and sad and in a hurry.
When the trailer is blah, THAT's what makes me expect floppiness. After all, we all know they put the best stuff in the trailers...

goldvermilion87 said...

Maybe you should send this to Peter Jackson?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

LOTR was a trilogy going in. That kind of prep work helps an audience.

Ditto Empire Strikes Back... by that point you knew Lucas had the juice to make the third one and his point was to evoke 1940s serials...

Zombies... done. Saturated. Twilight (which I did not hate) is the Blazing Saddles of vampire movies. It closes the current chapter and in a few years it will be re-opened. Zombies have just about run their course too.

AndrewPrice said...

I'm glad the Zombies had their say.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I haven't read the books, but that would be my guess too. It sounds like they just made a very standard zombie movie and swiped the title.

AndrewPrice said...

K, All good points. Like you, I don't see much of an appetite right now for apocalypse films. And I just saw the trailer for the first time the other day and I have to say I was turned off. It looked stupid and cartoony and the zombies looked more like waves of blobs rather than people. It left me even less interested in seeing this.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, I've never had a problem with zombies, except that they've become so overused that I'm kind of sick of them. But like you, I would love to see some real human protagonists again.... and not the starving North Koreans.

As an aside, I do like Pitt a lot as an actor.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That does seem to be true. It seems like this film has been targeted by the entertainment media. I'm not sure what Brad did to piss them off, but he did.

The problem with BTTF II is that it just ends midway through -- it doesn't resolve itself. And that really angered a lot of people. If Empire just ended, it would have been an unsatisfactory ending, but an ending. It felt like the end of the chapter, BTTF II did not.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, I agree that it's hard to shake off the bad press, but honestly, I think that in most of the cases where I've heard of production problems, the bad press proved true because the movie did stink. I think bad press just means that word of mouth is all that much more important so you live of die on quality. Look at the films like The Blind Side and Battle: Los Angeles which got universally destroyed by the industry yet made hundreds of millions because word of mouth brought people in.

I agree about Empire. It felt like the end of a chapter. I'm not as happy with BTTF II and I remember a lot of people being angry about it, but it is much more complete than something like Golden Compass. In either event though, I think what allowed both Empire and BTTF II to get away with it was that the stories did feel complete (or largely complete) and you had the first films in each series to bring you in and make you willing to see a continuing story.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, That's true. And if you don't have a lot of good stuff to put into a trailer, then it's time to get creative.... something Hollywood is not good at... because people will think exactly what you said: "If that's the best they have, then this thing stinks!"

As an aside, I saw the trailer and it actually turned me off. It looked ridiculous. And it completely contradicted the idea of a "serious, genre-bending film" as they had been saying for some time now.

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, I mention LOTR above and I think that's a special case because the books have been a well-known trilogy that so many people love. It's one case where people wanted them to follow the books and that meant it wasn't possible to shorten it into a single movie.

The Hobbit would be a good exception, except that I think it's largely piggybacking on the success of LOTR. I suspect that if he'd made The Hobbit first and tried to bust it into three parts, people would have abandoned the film.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I agree. Those films had the groundwork laid for them by the first films or the books which got people to love the characters and the story and make them want to sit through as much as they could get actually. If Star Wars had spent its time telling you what would happen in Empire or introducing Ewoks or Boba Fett for no other reason that they would be needed in future films, people would not have reacted all that well.

I agree about zombies. I think they're just about played out. There's nothing new or original to be done and there are so many bad zombies now that it becomes impossible to make a good one because the whole genre has become tainted.

Totally agree about Twilight too. That killed the current era of vampires.

T-Rav said...

I would agree that the whole zombie thing has pretty much reached the end of the road, and I think the studio has a sneaking suspicion as well. If you've noticed, none of the trailers for this movie show an up-close-and-personal zombie. Faceless, attacking creatures, yes, but nothing that could be ID'd as a zombie. Like my sister said, it's more reminiscent of I Am Legend than of anything by Romero.

LL said...

What's not to like about brain sucking/flesh eating zombies?

However, unbidden by you (thought your review was good) I never intended to see it at the theater. Maybe on HBO in two months?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I concur. I think the zombie wave is slowly fading and their timing is not great. You could be right too about the studio suspecting that. They seem to be careful about not actually saying the word "zombie" in the advertising.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, What's not to like about brain sucking/flesh eating zombies? Obamacare, that's one thing! :P

Actually, I think the problem with zombies is that they're over-saturated. You can't turn on Chiller without seeing a new zombie flick every couple days. At this point, there's just nothing left to say about them -- at least nothing that warrants a high budget.

Like you, I'll see it when it comes to HBO, but I won't pay for it. And I won't really miss it if I never see it.

LL said...

Zombies won't be collecting ObamaCare and they just might save the nation from bankruptcy as their numbers grow exponentially.

In the world of Sci-Fi horror, nothing is easier to shoot than zombies. The make-up is simple and you can get the Westmore School crowd to do it on the cheap as student projects. The actors don't have to act, just moan. If you shoot them in Mexico, you don't have to pay union scale. Put enough make up on them and who can tell moaning in Spanish from moaning in English?

My parting thought on Brad Pitt - I like his mom. But he has more bucks than brains.

AndrewPrice said...

All true. Zombies are incredibly easy to film and to manage. It takes little in the way of costuming, makeup, actor skills, etc. It's also easy to make a plot with zombies since 90% of it is pre-written from other films. There's another aspect too, which is that there's no moral issues with zombies, so your heroes can be as sadistic as they like without the audience getting upset. You can't do that with human villains.

Agreed on Pitt.

The problem with zombies isn't so much that they will use Obamacare... it's that they will vote for it. :(

PikeBishop said...

For those who have not read the book, go read it, its chock full of great vignettes as a UN official goes from place to place and conducts interviews of survivors, ten years after the Human Zombie War ended.

Now, I unlike some purist fans of the book I can see changing the central character to something a bit more active like the Pitt character. I mean a bunch of people remembering and giving interviews to the main character makes for a pretty dull framing story of all those annecdotes. Fine, I can see that. But my biggest fear was "PLease don't turn this into Brad Pitt saves the world." Well guess what boys and girls? Brad Pitt saves the world.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I haven't read it, but it doesn't surprise me that they would completely the change idea. They seem to be buying brands more than ideas lately.

T-Rav said...

I've always felt that zombie movies of this kind suffer from a very basic flaw. Let's say an honest-to-God zombie virus appears and turns millions into walking flesh-eating corpses. Scary, yes; and there'll be quite a few casualties and all--but zombies are easy to identify, and theoretically easy to kill. Destroy the brain. Which might be difficult, if we didn't have a large and well-equipped army and lots and lots of privately owned firearms.

Bottom line, there's a reason why zombie movies show the very beginning of an outbreak and/or the post-apocalyptic, zombie-overrun world--that in-between step is really hard to plausibly depict. It just doesn't make sense that a sophisticated civilization could be brought down by creatures whom everyone has the means and the knowhow to kill.

In short, if World War Z does fail, I think it will be because of the problems mentioned above and the difficulty of what they're trying to do in the first place.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That is ultimately the problem. The zombies have a few hours of surprise to bite people, but after that, everyone will know to shoot any zombie on site in the US (Europe is a different story of course, they will sit around and wait to be saved).

K said...

Another point about zombie movies, they're powerful subliminal advertisements for assault weapons with large magazines. ;)

AndrewPrice said...

K, Absolutely! In fact, I'd love to see more anti-gun control messages stuck into these films.

"Do you have a gun?"
"No, I support the Brady Coalition on gun control. How could I be so stupid?!"
Chomp Chomp

Voz said...

That's a comforting thought, that if for any reason there ever was a zombie apocalypse, only the conservative/republican with a sprinkling of democrat/liberal people would be around at the end...since they're the ones with the guns...

AndrewPrice said...

Voz, I suspect the Zombi apocalypse will end up wiping out a lot more liberals than conservatives.

Anthony said...

I think zombie movies and games (anyone else looking forward to The Last of Us?) can still do well, but spending a couple hundred million on a zombie movie is kind of insane. There are lots of (low budget) commercially successful zombie movies, but I can't think of any in modern times that have made hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brad Pitt's a good actor and a name a lot of people recognize, but I don't think he had enough drawing power to make this movie profitable.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I agree. With the market so flooded and zombie films so easy to make, I think it's insane to invest that kind of money in a zombie film unless you've got some really amazing angle. And I don't see that here.

I also agree about Pitt. While I like him as an actor a good deal, he doesn't have the draw to carry a film like this.

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