Wednesday, August 24, 2011

World War Z and the nature of multimedia

My wife surprised me last night by asking if we could listen to the audio version of "World War Z" by Max Brooks during a four-hour drive home. Of course I said yes.

The full cast reading is an abridged version, which works in this case, otherwise it could have gotten out of hand, in both length and casting. By adapting the material for a different medium, the audio version remains a compelling piece of work.

This brings me to the recent controversy surrounding the film adaptation starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Foster.

What has people upset is this: The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Enos plays Gerry’s wife Karen Lane; Kertesz is his comrade in arms, Segen.

If you haven't read (or listened to) the novel, you might think, "Sounds fine. One guy and his buddies trying to stop the zombies. Cool." But that's not what the novel is about. The novel is an oral history on the zombie wars. A U.N. employee interviewing various survivors 12 years after victory over the zombie horde was declared. Yes, there is a lot of action, but it is all aftermath. It's all "I saw this," "I did this to survive," "I tried to warn people," and so on. 


I think it would be great if Foster could film the book. I agree with many out there that a mini-series (HBO or Showtime to get all the blood in there) would be ideal for putting the book as it is on film. However, I accept the fact that film, like audio, is a different medium than print. That's why we have the word "adaptation" and the phrase "based on the novel by ... " When taking a story from one medium to another, changes must occur. 

Granted, the change from a book set in the aftermath of a zombie war to a movie set in the midst of the war is a big change. But think of this: if you isolate a few portions of the original story for one film and that film is well made and a box office success, what is to stop you from taking portions not used in the first film for a hopefully just as well made and successful sequel?

In this age of new media and multimedia, we need to be thinking out of the box. Brooks did it with his novel and applause should continue to rain down upon him for it. That doesn't mean he created a new box for us to get stuck in. Remember, "World War Z" the movie is "based on" and "adapted from" the novel. Let's give Foster and his writers (Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski) some credit. This isn't their first rodeo. Let's at least let them finishing shooting the movie before we try to line them up for the firing squad.

Film and audio are different media than print. One must take what works best for the medium one is working in, even if it means changing some things around. Until we have a finished product to compare one version to another, who are we to judge?

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited for this adaptation. I think a film of WWZ shot from a different perspective and involving different characters just gives us more of a great story. The book is already great. The audio is great in a different way. Why would we want a direct film adaptation when the book is fantastic on its own? I like that this appears to be growing in to a multi-dimensional, multi-story arch experience. They could add a mini-series and a graphic novel to go with the movie, audio, book and survival guide. And you have a complete WWZ experience. People need to stop bitching.