By now we are all aware that WORLD WAR Z was a troubled production with rewrites, reshoots and budgetary issues plaguing the film on its journey to the big screen, but apparently the last-minute changes worked out for the best as the film has gotten some pretty damned good reviews (read The Arrow's take on it HERE) and it made some major box-office bank, earning almost $112 million worldwide over the weekend. So what necessitated the script changes in the first place? And what was the original ending that caused all of the fuss? Read on for details, but be aware that there are SPOILERS HEREIN.
We've known for a while that screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were brought in to make some changes, and according to Huffington Post, Lindelof and Goddard wrote the new ending, but they also added some much-needed human moments in a movie that still has too few of them. The following scenes were added to WORLD WAR Z:
- Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), being awakened by their daughters, Rachel and Constance.
- The family in the kitchen eating breakfast as reports of the first “rabies” (i.e. zombie) outbreak is announced on the television.
- Lane, who is driving the family from Philadelphia to Newark, New Jersey, in a commandeered RV, has to pull over to treat Rachel’s asthma attack.
- Lane phones Karen during a plane ride from South Korea to Jerusalem.
And then there's the new ending.
In the finished film, Gerry (Brad Pitt) and Segen (Daniella Kertesz) board an aircraft just as it's leaving an overrun Jerusalem. A zombie outbreak happens, Gerry throws a grenade, the plane crashes, he and Segen survive. They go to a World Health Organization facility and Gerry comes up with a way of using a treatable terminal illness to camouflage humans from zombies. He reunites with his family in Nova Scotia and mankind now has the upper hand on the undead. A happy ending, for the most part. Making sure not to kill any franchise potential, Gerry says in voice over that the war hasn’t been won yet and the fight is just beginning.
But Movies.com is reporting that the original ending wasn't so happy, stating that the plane leaving Israel was headed towards Moscow, and after it arrived there safely things went south quickly.
The elderly and the sick are executed and the healthy people, including a very shaken Gerry, are immediately drafted into armed service, though not before one particularly nasty Russian soldier takes Gerry’s cell phone. The story then jumps forward an unknown amount of time and we catch up with Gerry, who now has a full beard and has been a part of Russia’s zombie-clearing squad at least long enough for it to have changed to winter. He looks almost dead inside, but the reality is that over this time he’s become an experienced and ruthless zombie killer, and he’s the leader of his own equally capable unit.
The Movies.com report goes on to detail even more, but here are the quick plot-points: Gerry discovers that cold is what stops the zombies, and he tells the Russian general that they need to put out the fires, huddle up, and let Russia win the war the same way it always wins wars: letting the hostile weather take care of invaders. Eventually this gives them the upper hand in the battle. Gerry takes this turn toward the offensive to retreat. He then picks up the phone he retrieved from the soldier and calls his wife, Karin.
And this is where it gets depressing. Movies.com reports...
Gerry reaches Karin. He explains to her that the cold is the way they'll win battles, which does her no good because it just so happens she and the kids are in a refugee camp in the sweltering heat of the Everglades. They're in the type of camp where you have to have something to trade to survive, and it just so happens the one thing Karin had to trade was herself. She doesn't explicitly tell Gerry this, but after she hastily hangs up the phone we see that she's in some kind of reluctantly consensual relationship with the soldier who rescued them from the rooftop at the beginning of the movie.
And do you remember the paratrooper who helps rescue Gerry and his family from the building rooftop? If that guy looked like Matthew Fox, it’s because he was Matthew Fox in a role that was almost completely excised from the picture. Did you wonder why they bothered to cast someone as recognizable as him in a role that was pretty inconsequential and had almost no lines? That's because his real payoff wasn't until the end.
Fox's parajumper soldier then calls Gerry back and explains to him that he should just stay wherever he is and start a new life like he and Karin have. Gerry refuses to accept this, though, and he embarks on a rage mission to get back to his wife and daughters. Trouble is the nearest port that won't be frozen is thousands of miles away, so there's a montage of Gerry, Simon and Segen crossing various terrain until they ultimately end up on a boat. They're now off of the Oregon coast and they attack the American shore like it's D-day. And that's how the movie ends. Not with Gerry having discovered a cure, but with him storming across the United States of America to get Karin back.
Talk about bleak! I can understand why the studio chose to go forward with a new ending, especially considering they had always had a PG-13 rating in mind and the original ending too the story to some dark places. It'll be interesting to learn how much of this was shot (Movies.com seems to think a lot of it was) and if we'll ever see that footage on future DVD/Blu-Ray releases.
WORLD WAR Z is in theaters now.