Book Review: World War Z: The Art of the Film

Book World War Z: The Art of the Film
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PLOT: World War Z is the eagerly awaited film starring Brad Pitt. The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to annihilate humanity itself.

World War Z: The Art of the Film is the official illustrated companion to the movie, and features a wealth of stunning production art, design sketches and storyboards, alongside the full shooting script.

REVIEW: With WORLD WAR Z now in theaters (read The Arrow’s review HERE), Titan Books has released a making-of companion book called "World War Z: The Art of the Film", a paperback volume of 160 pages which includes the script as well as a ton of eye-catching concept art intercut with photographic stills, storyboard sequences, computer modeling pieces and illustrations by Seth Engström, Kim Frederickson, Robbie Consing and others.  The book is also peppered with some interesting quotes from director Marc Forster, 2nd Unit director Simon Crane, producer Jeremy Kleiner, animation consultant Andrew R. Jones and many others involved in the making of this blockbuster film.

Flipping through “World War Z: The Art of the Film”, I found that the majority of the pages are devoted to the screenplay (written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof). The book itself is divided into 11 sections (not counting the final section, which is a single-paged acknowledgements portion), with each section focusing on the key locations where the action takes place.

On these pages, the screenplay is mixed with concept illustrations of burning cities, military action, ransacked supermarkets, underground bunkers, deserted buildings and rampaging zombies, as well as beautifully photographed set photographs. The design of each page is arresting and I often found my eyes wandering from reading the screenplay to checking out the art and photos, but I was able to quickly find my place in the script again due to the well-designed layout. Yes, the artwork is distractingly eye-catching, but that only makes the book more worthy of a second read-through.

Since the screenplay takes up a majority of the pages here, I need to take a moment to comment on it. While the main focus of this book is “The Art of…”, I quite enjoyed the inclusion of the screenplay as I was curious how much of it translated well to the screen. While the screenplay feels familiar when compared to other zombie-themed fare, the well-written human dynamics here elevate it above most other similarly-themed works. Sure, there’s not a lot of character development here, but it’s a fun read that heightens the experience of taking in this book.  

One section would be particularly fascinating to fans of the design of the films rampaging zombies, and that section is appropriately titled ‘Zombies’ on the contents page, but carries the title ‘Zs’ in the book. While in the film the zombies don't get a lot of close-up face time, mostly seen in wide shots as a swarm of decaying, scrambling bodies, the conceptual art here is nothing short of stunning. Some of them I can honestly say are downright nightmare-inducing. I can only hope they recycle some of the Z-designs for the sequel and give them some decent screen time.

Two pages of the book are dedicated to ‘Tools’, some of the makeshift weapons used to fight the zombie horde. Simon Atherton, who worked as Weapons Master on the film, gives a little insight into the ideas behind some of these ‘Tools’, sharing that…

I’m staring at things going ‘That would make a great zombie weapon,’ you know, as we wander through the sports department.”

Yeah, we’ve all done that, so we can identify!

There is also a section devoted to ‘Shooting Greenscreen’ which includes some behind the scenes photos of the sets and zombie action, giving us an idea of the scale of some of the effects work utilized in the making of the film.

While some readers may want to learn more about the actual making of the film and its notoriously troubled production, I can only say that this isn’t the book for them. Really the title says it all as “World War Z: The Art of the Film” focuses on the stunning production art, design sketches, storyboards and photography from the film, with the only insight on the making of the film coming from a few small quotes from some of the key members of the production team. If you’re looking for commentary you may find yourself underwhelmed, but if you enjoy seeing how a film comes together from script to conceptual art to screen (or are just interested in reading the screenplay), then this is a perfect read for you.


Extra Tidbit: Will you be picking up WORLD WAR Z: THE ART OF THE FILM?



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