World War Z has been out around the globe for two weeks now and grossed almost $300 million in that time, shockingly surpassing its massive budget. In fact, Paramount has already begun talking about greenlighting a sequel, especially in the wake of the behind-the-scenes drama, including massive reshoots and a clear divide between producer/star Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster. With everyone riding high on this success, it’s easy to forget that about a year ago everyone feared how the film would fare, as zombie films had technically never been a box office draw and the film’s all-but-assured PG-13 rating being a dealbreaker for genre purists. After a major rewrite to the third act was requested, which brought both Damon Limdelof (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods) on board, word spread that the film was suffering from a lot of issues and the ending would be scrapped entirely.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
For those who have seen the film, the third act takes a dramatic, more personal turn from the rest of the film. When Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his partner Segen make it onto an airliner after escaping a zombie hoard in Jerusalem, a hidden zombie makes its way into the coach area, and Gerry, in his panic, sets off a grenade causing the plane to come down. An injured Gerry and Segen, the only survivors of the crash, make their way to a W.H.O. Research Facility in Cardiff, Wales, where Gerry, after becoming a zombie killing hero, tests his theory on how to camouflage people from the undead. It works, mankind has a new way to fight zombies, but Gerry warns that the camouflage technique “isn’t the end.”
While several have had issues with the film’s current ending and it’s shift in tone and character, the third act seems to have worked for both the studio and most of the viewing public, which is precisely why the ending was changed. Thanks to a story originally posted by Dread Central, the original ending, before rewritten, was one that cast a much darker tone on the story, and held a deeper socio-political meaning.
Instead of the attack on the plane, and it’s subsequent crash, Gerry and Segen are forced to land in Moscow. Gerry and Segen are taken from the plane and drafted into Russia’s armed forces to fight the undead as able-bodied men. One Russian soldier takes Gerry’s phone, which he has used to keep in contact with his family, as they are taken, which leads his family to be exiled as they were in the current cut of the film. The film then jumps forward several month where Gerry, now full-bearded and armed with the half-shovel, half-ax “Lobo” weapon from the World War Z novel, is a cold, hard, zombie killing machine in the Russian service. After a major battle against the undead, Gerry manages to take his phone back from the man who took it.
When he calls to contact his wife, he discovers that his family has been taken to a military camp in the Everglades, where everyone must earn their keep or trade to stay. Karin, Gerry’s wife played by Mirielle Enos, doesn’t have any advantageous skills or knowledge that she can trade, and is forced trade her body to a Paratrooper character, seen earlier played by Matthew Fox, in exchange for protection and residence for her family. Gerry then speaks with the paratrooper, who tells him to forget his family and move on. Gerry, Segen, and others make their way to America, eventually landing on the Oregon coast ready to fight their way to get Gerry’s family back.
While the ending seems to hold to more of the concepts presented by Max Brooks in his novel, Paramount felt it didn’t work with the rest of the film, nor would it be as relatable to wide audience. Henceforth, Paramount shelled out $50 million for a rewrite and reshoots, and possibly for the better as the film is now a bonafide smash and further indication that horror has become a mainstream force to be reckoned with. Definitely, the original ending would have made for a very different tone entirely, and a very different sequel than what will be most likely be seen.
– By Matthew Delhauer
Matt Delhauer is a graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, with a degree in communications and digital filmmaking. As an avid fan of horror films since childhood, Matt has had years of exposure to the best, worst, and many in between. Outside of film Matt also holds knowledge in several fields of media and entertainment, from literature to television, which are all met with an eye for analysis and a love of entertainment. For more of Matt’s work take a look at his blog at www.gingergeekblogs.blogspot.com or follow him on twitter: @MattDelhauer