World War Z: The Movie

A month or two ago I enjoyed watching World War Z on the big screen with a buddy of mine. The film was impressive. Pitt managed to offer summer moviegoers a manic, brooding, clever race against extinction with a satisfying ending. I was hoping for a better resolution than I Am Legend‘s infamous wrap, and wasn’t disappointed.

World War Z: The Book

I’d been duly warned that Brad Pitt’s World War Z, the movie  had precious nothing to do with Max Brook’s World War Z, the book. I’m now about two thirds through the book, and I’d say that’s an understatement. The movie featured a juggernaut Z plague (and frenetic, sprinting zombies ) that spread so quickly the whole world was nearly swallowed alive (er… dead) within the span of a few days. Blink, and you’re dead. The book… not so much.

It’s been said early zombie flicks weren’t really about the zombies. The movies were positioned as social commentary, dressed to kill—tackling uber themes like materialism and greed. In the same way, AMC’s The Walking Dead isn’t about zombies; it’s about people, relationships, and the fight to preserve our souls in the face of unthinkable circumstances.

Brook’s World War Z is subtitled “An Oral History Of The Zombie War.” It reads like a thoughtful collection of post-war interviews with survivors located around the globe. There is no formal plot (so there are no spoilers here!) , although piecing together the interviews slowly creates a human mosaic that answers the reader’s burning questions. The first third of the book gropes for the answer to perhaps the most important question: Not so much “Where did they come from,” but rather “How could this happen?”

How could such a sluggish creature take over a planet with technological prowess sic-fi could only dream of twenty years ago?

Interview after interview chronicles observer’s reluctance to believe the stark-raving truth: Dead people are being re-animated into walking plagues hungry for whatever they can sink their teeth into. Doctors are confronted with evidence they struggle to accept. Soldiers find themselves fighting stray enemies that will not die no matter how many bullets they spray into the mess; when they return home, they are admitted to psych wards. Villagers who share the truth are ignored, dismissed as superstitious and uneducated peasants.

When it becomes obvious to the powers that be that something horrific is going on, they can’t quite accept the facts. More time is lost. When leaders and politicians finally give themselves permission to admit the truth out loud, they underestimate the threat. When they choose to share the news with the public, they dub it an extreme form of rabies (and even approve a placebo vaccine to help prevent the panic that might have just saved a billion people).

By the time the world responds with the desperation required to meet the challenge, the undead have gained so much ground that unthinkable measures must be taken to save humanity—at the expense of millions of innocents. The message is clear: It didn’t have to come to this.

World War Z and me

As I read the accounts, I wondered about my own tendencies to minimize problems. To ignore stale air growing within teams and relationships. To respond half-heartedly to issues that require courageous action. I thought about the many times I was reluctant to call a spade a spade, naively hoping things would get better without me having to hurt people’s feelings short term. How the fallout was much, much worse than the initial risk would have played out.

World War Z and you

I’m guessing I’m not alone here. I’m praying for you, friend!

  • Is there someone you need to talk to, a conversation or decision you’re putting off because you’re afraid of losing face?
  • I wonder how many abusers would have been caught before their evil mushroomed if someone would have investigated that niggling hunch that something was amiss?
  • How many suicides could have been intercepted by the firm arms of courageous concern?
  • How many marriages could be restored in the early stages of deterioration by couples willing to ask, “Are you guys OK? No, really.”
  • How many teenagers could have avoided life-trashing mistakes by friends who cared enough to insist on talking them out of screwball thinking?
  • I wonder how many Christians’ walks with Jesus would still be red hot infernos if they refused to let the little things slowly slide into the grey that precedes darkness?

It doesn’t have to come to World War Z. Your problem doesn’t have to become a full-on apocalypse.

Call a spade a spade… before you have to bash in numberless zombie skulls with it.