'World War Z' Script (1st. draft) Leaked
Reproduced from an article at http://www.iesb.net
One of IESB's readers, the 'Angel of Death', got his hands on the World War Z script and sent in a review. See his thoughts below:
"World War Z, as a screenplay, is the greatest handling of the living dead since Romero’s quadrilogy. And the first zombie script to have me wondering “Can a zombie film win an Oscar?”
This script is done, there, at the level of perfection. The final greatness of this project is no longer in Straczynski’s hands: he’s done his job. He’s delivered a piece of screenwriting that, if translated correctly, will have affected a genre classic. We can all now only pray that this gets the director it deserves: Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Spielberg (Just hear me out - “Munich” Spielberg), Soderbergh – someone capable of handling a political thriller/David Lean style epic with an edge, which just happens to have a zombie outbreak as a backdrop – and that it is, by God, not messed with…
From perusing the novel’s first few pages, I found myself wondering that old anxious thought of “How the hell are they going to make this into a movie?!” It just seemed far too expansive and too much of a straight-fact reporting of an event, however brilliant in the execution and detail I was seeing, to be translated into film. Guess that’s why they didn’t hire me.
Straczynski brilliantly finds a way into adapting the novel, drawing on a technique employed in the past in such films as Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch” and, to a more obvious degree, “Zodiac” the film is about the events which ostensibly led to the novel’s writing, with a surrogate for the author as our hero. In this case, the commission of a report on the recently contained zombie outbreak which ravaged our world in the film’s story.
The script begins with GERRY, a United Nations investigator, being charged with writing up the aforementioned report in a post zombie apocalypse ravaged world by a friend and superior, ROBERT MCENROE. The job will be a thankless and incindiary one – writing a report no one will want to read, uncovering truths no one wants uncovered… But Gerry is the perfect man for the job, having written similar reports in the past and having no political axes to grind.
Gerry’s reluctant at first, feeling he should spend every waking moment with his wife KARIN and their children now that the state of the world is less turbulent – but is ultimately swayed by a very simple and poignant point: the task would be one of the most normal undertakings anybody has attempted in a long while. Or at least that’s what we are led to believe thus far…
The visual representation of this ‘’post-war” environment is striking, profound and eerie. Power is slowly being restored. A great many places are all but desolate wastelands. Rooms are lit with candles, etc.
Those of you who wanted a more expansive exploration of this idea from “28 Weeks Later” are in for a real treat with this film – it embellishes that to a gut wrenching and highly detailed degree, simply epic in its attention.
Gerry’s journey takes him all over the world in an attempt to piece together what caused the outbreak and who was responsible for its handling turning out so badly. Questions which, in today’s political climate, could very easily get a nosy person killed – by our own government. A threat Gerry faces in the script, as in any self-respecting political thriller.
His quest begins in China where he meets with a doctor who witnessed the first reported attack and subsequent fire bombing of the Chinese village where the incident occurred. The doctor’s recount is enough to shake Gerry into taking him up on his urging to go see a colleague of his who knows how the infection spread beyond China. Gerry’s progress is challenged by subtle insinuations of forceful deterrence from various officials, but he presses on nonetheless, and this next illumination of the manner in which the undead phenomenon escalated solidifies his desire to persevere and uncover every facet of the truth behind the most horrific disaster in human history.
Paranoid about the horrors of organ trafficking? You’ll be very afraid when you see what that leads to in this universe. (Of course, once the film’s released, it might result in a decided decline in the practice, which wouldn’t be bad…) And so begins the second act.
Throughout this, we’re treated to astounding and terrifying flashbacks of the plague via testimony by the various officials and civilians Gerry questions during the course of his reporting:
…just when you thought it was safe to back in the water – zombies emerging from the Florida ocean and obliterating beach goers (if you go out and buy the novel, I strongly suggest reading it at home, behind locked doors)…
…A testifying witness laying eyes on the sight of a mother devouring her infant son – and countless other images of such primal terror, I couldn’t believe I was getting in one film…
And whenever Gerry feels it might be time to throw in the towel – either due to his own reservations or continued pressure from McEnroe to ease off – we’re treated to a flashback of Gerry’s own personal struggles during the zombie crisis as he and his family fled North (the reason provided giving sublime credence to the ever popular notion which many a Romero character has had before) which spur him forward further and further as he’s reminded of the suffering humanity experienced and the service his reporting will ultimately perform.
Perhaps the most startling revelation occurs at the script’s half way point wherein Gerry uncovers the nugget that our very own Central Intelligence Agency was presented with a report of the encroaching plague by the Israeli government, who first identified the threat, and dismissed it as hoax – a perfectly understandable reaction, but for the overwhelming evidence to the contrary in this situation…
As his reporting comes to an end, Gerry is treated to a fateful encounter with the Vice President . The VP tries to strong arm him into writing something that will please all parties, giving an official position that will have audiences howling at the brilliant satirical shadings sprinkled throughout.
And as the second act comes to a close, Gerry is giving a final ‘warning’ by ‘the Administration’ which could seriously influence his decision to submit his report in its current state - getting dangled over the lion’s pen (literally) and sent a message that’s hard to dismiss…
All this ultimately leads to not only the report’s submission in all its penetrative glory, but a final character break-down sequence and revelation that is simply shattering and the final word – an absolutely perfect visual demonstration and assertion - on George Romero’s view of “We’re them and they’re us.” It will shake you to your core. All I say is, you’ll never look at soup the same way again…
Finally, the origin of Max Brook’s novel is cemented at the film’s end in a clever and satisfying way, leaving you with a warm and fuzzy feeling usually reserved for a courtroom drama and, as I said before, recalling that earlier piece of investigative moviemaking, “Zodiac.”
The interweaving of flashback throughout the screenplay is superb. The script is riddled with Oscar speeches you’d expect to find in “Good Night and Good Luck,” “Syriana” and other films of the like. The characterizations are razor sharp and the imagery is searing. The thematic layering is mature and subtle and of the highest caliber.
Needless to say, I’m now something of a fan of J. Michael Straczynski and Max Brooks.
This is definitely not something fat headed teens will be renting and watching at sleep overs either. It is simply too sophisticated.
Horror fans, zombie fans, and fans of classic cinema need to send up a thousand prayers that this is handled reverently and expertly – if it is, it will be the horror film to beat for years to come after its release. One for the books. Second only to Romero’s trilogy – the progenitor of the phenomenon – the best living dead story since he created the genre."
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Revised First Draft - April 30, 2007
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