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I don't go to the movies very often, because where I live is halfway up a mountain in Norway and its a long drive to the local town and nearest cinema, but this summer I was lucky enough to take a vacation in California, where cinemas are plentiful. Me and Mr Bookivorous saw several films, and in San Francisco just before we flew home, we went to see World War Z.
Now I had read many negative reviews about this movie, so was prepared for the worst, but slightly to my surprise (because I am fussy about my films) I LOVED IT.
I loved it so much that as soon as I got home, I rushed to buy the book. Guess what? I loved that too. But after I read it, I finally understood why so many people hated the movie.
World War Z the book is a great book. We all love to wonder how we would react if a terrible disaster were to happen. Max Brooks takes those questions and answers them through a series of interviews with the survivors of one of the great 'what if?' scenarios of modern fiction - the Zombie Apocalypse. We learn about the first outbreaks, the wave of panic, the mismanaged and disastrous attempts to use modern warfare, the retreat and then the fight back. Brooks shows us what would happen through the words of a series of fascinating characters - a Japanese gardener who uses his blindness to devastating effect, the soccer mom in one of the early encounters, the ordinary soldiers on the front line, the battle hardened helicopter pilot who must battle her way out of the wilderness, the dog handler who trains his recruits to detect the enemy. It's all fascinating, pageturning stuff. And all totally unfilmable.
So when it came time to put this bestseller on film, what we ended up with is great, but nothing like the book. World War Z the movie is wonderful in its own way. Many of the ideas which make the book so compelling appear in the film, mostly in the briefest of snatches, but the storyline is entirely new, including a radically different approach to how the plague works and how we eventually turn the tide against the walking dead.
Lovers of the book must have felt bereft when they saw the movie. That goes a long way to explaining the backlash. But if you see the movie and then read the book, as I did, the effect is entirely reversed. You get all of the adrenaline of the action adventure, then get to back that up with all the detail you long for after a good film, but never usually get.
So that's my recommendation - if you want to read World War Z, see the movie first. Revel in the excitement and the visual spectacle. Lust quietly after Brad Pitt. Then come home and relive the whole experience by delving into Max Brooks' perfect detailed account of what might happen if the dead did suddenly start to come back to life.