Can World War Z Be Revived at the Box Office or Is It Already Walking Dead?
World War Z (WWZ) has been infected with trouble from the start. The combination of upset book fans and Paramount’s production woes has made WWZ the punching bag of Hollywood media.
Fans are upset because the movie is very loosely adapted from Max Brooks’ original story. The book takes a geopolitical slant and is a collection of short stories from around the world. Select stories were retained and geopolitics was dropped in favor of creating an action-thriller movie. Consequently, the slow moving zombies were replaced with fast, rage induced zombies as seen in the trailers. Moviegoers expect action in a summer blockbuster, and removing geopolitics allows the film to avoid offending countries and harming foreign box office results. It’s a box office win-win for Paramount. On the other hand, fans such as myself are disappointed to discover that the movie and book seem to only share a title and global zombie pandemic. I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of the book don’t see the movie and continue to spread bad word of mouth.
WWZ’s nightmares extend beyond the screen to its production. Hiring a director, Marc Forster, with little blockbuster experience or success and replacing his usual team with effects-heavy personnel led to confusion in leadership and conflicts on set.
Many costly mistakes were also made causing the film to go over budget and balloon to somewhere between $170-250 million, according to Business Insider’s research. Problems included forgetting millions worth of purchase orders inside a drawer in Malta, getting 85 automatic assault rifles confiscated by a Hungarian anti-terrorism unit (guns were illegally operational), and the costly rewriting and shooting of the entire third act. After filming the entire movie, Paramount realized the ending didn’t work and brought in new writers (David Lindelof, Drew Goddard, and Christopher McQuarrie) to rewrite an entirely new third act. The release date was pushed back giving Hollywood plenty of time to delve into WWZ’s many problems.
Despite all of the negative press and expensive budget, WWZ has a few positive qualities and opportunities to tip the scale back in its favor.
The first and most important advantage is Brad Pitt. He normally delivers in high profile roles, and his name carries a lot of weight overseas. This is the first movie he has both produced and starred in, and I’m sure his star power will draw a large crowd to the theatres.
Second is the fact that zombies are tremendously popular right now. AMC’s The Walking Dead has brought the zombie genre to its peak in pop culture. It was the highest rated show on cable this lastseason and is on break until the fall. WWZ could fill the current zombie void.
Thirdly, WWZ PR and marketing is generating some positive buzz. Early screenings have generated mostly positive remarks. Mike Fleming Jr. from Deadline wrote, “I’m no reviewer, but I can honestly say that WWZ is better than good; try a rocking, smart, pulse-pounding big-scale pandemic with raging zombies, palpable tension, and the kind of hero star turn Pitt hasn’t performed in a long time.” Attention has been drawn away from the film’s problems and refocused on Pitt and the action.
The same can be said for its marketing efforts. After an initially bland and sluggish start (black and white posters with only the title), posters and trailers now emphasize the global post-apocalyptic adventure with Brad Pitt.
The only marketing shortcoming thus far is the failure to mention the word zombie or show any direct combat with them. A trailer mentioning and demonstrating the above would help clarify the storyline to those unfamiliar with the book.
However, positive reviews combined with engaging marketing seem to be generating the positive buzz WWZ desperately needs. It is currently tracking at a $40 million opening weekend and a$105 million domestic haul according to BoxOffice.com. I wouldn’t be surprised if WWZ uses its momentum to build more popularity and exceed predictions.
Lastly, people are quick to forget that Paramount already successfully delayed the release of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation; both of which were considered box office successes and currently have sequels in production. If it has worked before, Paramount can do it again for WWZ.
WWZ’s biggest challenge will be to draw people away from Man of Steel. It is important to remember that the majority of the population hasn’t read the book and is oblivious to all of WWZ’s production problems. Blockbuster movies are created for the masses and both groups only make up a minority of moviegoers. Ultimately, I believe it comes down to marketing, creating positive buzz before the release, and holding out over the intense summer blockbuster competition.
Check out the trailer and let us know how you think it will perform.
Masters, Kim. “Brad Pitt’s Zombie Nightmare: Inside the Troubled ‘World War Z’ Production.” Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/brad-pitt-world-war-z-production-nightmare-336422
Fleming, Mike Jr. “Paramount Out To Prove Its Zombie ‘World War Z’ Doesn’t Stink.” Deadline. http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/after-fixing-world-war-z-ending-paramount-now-out-to-prove-its-zombie-pic-doesnt-stink-like-a-rotting-corpse/
Acuna, Kristen. “Is ‘World War Z’ The Next Big Hollywood Flop?” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/is-world-war-z-the-next-hollywood-flop-2013-5#ixzz2VCVia8ms
“Long Range Forecast: Monsters University & World War Z.” Boxoffice.com. http://www.boxoffice.com/featured_stories/2013-04-long-range-forecast-monsters-university-world-war-z