World War Z was one of the surprising hits of the summer. Not because no one knew anything about the film before it opened, but because everyone knew everything about it. The stories of its tortured production were the meat for a number news reports for months, and the fact that director Marc Forster and star/producer Brad Pitt gutted the film’s third act for a drastic and expensive reshoot seemed to indicate that there was indeed major trouble on the project. But the film connected with audiences and since it managed to bring in over half a billion dollars worldwide, it is perhaps inevitable that they are moving forward with a sequel.
It is just that that sequel will not have the participation of Forster.
In a Hollywood Reporter story on Pitt’s Plan B production shingle, the potential World War Z sequel is mentioned but it is stated that “director Marc Forster won’t be back.”
And honestly that’s probably for the best.
I’m going to discount the reports that Pitt and Forster did not get along on the set, though that probably did play a factor into whomever decided to end the relationship between the two.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the why they had to basically reshoot the final third of the film at a cost of millions of extras dollars, making the risky project that much more of a financial gamble. And that’s because Forester completely threw out the original script that screenwriter J Michael Straczynski had written from Max Brooks’ original novel and brought in an entirely new writer. At the time it didn’t make much sense to me, and even now it still doesn’t. Straczynski’s draft was good enough that it got mentioned on the 2007 Black List, was gaining lots of praise in industry press and was the thing that got the studio first excited about the project. And, having read it myself, I found it to be an amazing bit of storytelling, taking the premise of a zombie outbreak and truly making it global, while at the same time taking the unorthodox structure of Max Brooks’ original novel and turning it into a more linear narrative and making it film-able.
But upon Forster’s hiring, he immediately threw out the two drafts that Straczynski wrote, something which Brooks indicated to me was a stupid idea, and brought in Matthew Michael Carnahan to completely rewrite the screenplay, and in my opinion dumb it down to a more general blockbuster level that ejected much of the subtly and smart material that the Straczynski drafts contained. And in the process added a third act that was sprawling and expensive and ultimately, as was found out after tens of millions of dollars had been spent trying to shoot it, didn’t work. I don’t blame Pitt and Plan B for not wanting to continue working with a director whose instincts cost them millions of dollars.
While there is the old saying “You go into battle with the army you have, not the army you wish you had,” and the same applies to filmmaking as well. But no matter what kind of army you have, if the battle plan is so flawed that it takes some major on-the-fly changes and the cost of more resources to achieve victory, than the plan is still a failure. And the general responsible, should be removed from command. In this case, that general is Marc Forster, and his removal from a World War Z sequel is a most welcome piece of news.