Why The World War Z Book Succeeds Where The Movie Fails

Illustration for article titled Why The World War Z Book Succeeds Where The Movie Fails

Zombies have been tearing apart our fictional worlds for some time now, on-screen, on the page, and sometimes both, like in World War Z. Even when they share a story, though, the versions aren't always equally successful. But what made the World War Z book work while the movie failed?


In response to this post on the novels whose plots people routinely mix-up, a discussion began about Max Brooks' global-zombie epidemic story, World War Z and the movie version of the same. While both stories shared some characters and plot points, noted several commenters, the response to those elements in book was much better than the response to the movies. The difference? The book focused on the people, while the movie focused on the zombies:


I'd say World War Z might deserve a place on the list. Thanks to the movie, people think it's the standard "fight against zombies" but the point of the book is how easily society can break even as people try to keep up "business as usual." The way the military tries "shock and awe" on an enemy that is incapable of feeling either. The guy getting rich off a fake vaccine and the government letting him do it. A White House aide who refuses to take responsibility for the government not seeing the danger. How South Africa, of all places, starts the plan to save as much as they can. How more people die in refugee camps than the zombies and how this all "prunes" the human race in a way. It's a great look at how society copes with such a horrible event and far more than "save the world from zombies" as the movie pushes.


Totally agree - I really liked it because it really had almost nothing to do with "zombies", and everything to do with a realistic look about the worldwide response to an absolute catastrophe. It didn't really need zombies in the first place, and the most horrifying parts of the book are about people interacting with people.


Not to mention that the descriptions of how different countries handled the outbreak were spot on.... it's an EXCELLENT study of the human response to disaster right down to international relations and domestic policy. I saw the movie before I read the book, found it just entertaining enough to want to read the book and then I did and was completely blown away. World War Z the movie is a forgettable standard zombie film. World War Z the book is actually quite brilliant.


Absolutely. My favorite aspects of "zombie" media isn't the horror of zombies - it's the way that society breaks down and re-forms in light of a huge disaster. Zombies are just the "catalyst" for the breakdown of society, and the existence of zombies sets a new set of rules for life that people have to adapt to. It's one of the reasons I love the Walking Dead so much. World War Z nailed this aspect of zombie stories better than pretty much any other book/movie, and that aspect was totally lost in the movie.

What do you think? Would a movie that stuck closer to the spirit of the book have been one you wanted to see? Make your case for why or why in the comments.



A movie version of the book won't work—it's episodic and has weight; it's truly meant for something on television. Probably cable.

The reason the movie was so unlike the book is that although the novel is filled with zombies, it's not about zombies. It's about humanity.

The movie version, however—all about zombies.