Wednesday, 17 April 2013

World War Z

The problems surrounding the entire production of World War Z have been very well documented over the last year. The expensive adaptation of Max Brooks' best-selling novel has been hampered by lengthy re-writes, on-set feuds, re-shoots and a reported budget in excess of $400 million. All of which have contributed to audience expectations becoming virtually non-existent.

It also appears as though the marketing campaign for the movie is just as muddled, which is evident from the two one-sheets currently doing the rounds:

The first one is arguably the main theatrical poster and focuses on the film's leading man, Brad Pitt, as he surveys the apocalyptic carnage from the safety of a helicopter.

The threat here is anonymous, it could be anything, there is no acknowledgement of a viral outbreak, which suggests that the studio may not have confidence in the film's premise. The imagery relies on scope as opposed to intricate plot-points, in an attempt to emphasise a global threat. However, those unfamiliar with the source material are not offered any worthwhile information that will allow them to differentiate this film from a generic action movie.

Here's one from China:

Notice any similarities between these two posters? That's unfortunate isn't it. Well, at least the guy in the Chinese film looks ready to fight back.

The problem with an annonymous threat is simple, it could be anything or anyone. This is all well and good, but this is a zombie movie and so it's pretty easy to determine what the threat is.

World War Z is relying on scope to entice audiences into seeing the movie, assuming we're interested in another 'city under siege' type movie. From the posters, there doesn't seem to be any differences between the two premises, aside from the location.

So why should we be excited to see World War Z?

In a word, Zombies!

It should be an epic movie about a zombie outbreak, but if it's not conveyed clearly to the audience, nobody will really care. Granted this is a particular focus on the posters, but even the trailer is pretty vague on the actual zombies. They seem more alive than humans and their athletic ability seems second to none! They also seem pretty difficult to distinguish in a crowd (and there's plenty of those from the looks of the trailer), so if we can't really identify the threat, what's the point?

In fairness, the second poster for World War Z is ever so slightly more effective. Visually, it is quite impressive with humanity's hope for survival being symbolised in the helicopter being dragged down towards its inevitable destruction.

This time, the sun is setting and isn't shining brightly (as it was in the X-Men: First Class poster), and is also accompanied by an overcast sky. Both of these features represent ominous signs for humanity (albeit slightly cliched ones) and are symbolic of the narrative's apocalyptic scenario.

Perhaps the most obvious representation of the apocalypse is the makeshift human ant-hill, largely because they are heavily silhouetted and appear threatening as they clamber towards the helicopter.

Those familiar with the source material will assume that these faceless people are the zombies.

But are they?

There is absolutely no indication that these people are a threat, we just assume that they are because of the zombie premise. It is very feasible to suggest that they are simply desperate to be saved and in this scenario, the helicopter would represent hope and safety.

Once again, this is my main criticism of the poster, it is too vague. There is no concrete information about the threat, these people are anonymous and the danger is unspecified. Yes, it can be argued that we are those anonymous people, which would be a perfectly valid point. However, this is a zombie apocalypse, there is no point shrouding it in mystery, unless as previously stated, you have very little confidence in the premise.

To conclude, I am unimpressed with the current marketing campaign for World War Z, largely due to the confused approach and unspecified focus. Establishing the premise as a zombie apocalypse immediately provides the marketing team with an opportunity to focus on the human stories that will drive the narrative.

However, they have not achieved this and it seems as though they have failed to establish the main danger in general, especially considering that this is a global catastrophe, which is not evident at all. They seem to have opted for a far more mysterious approach to the disaster, but in doing so they have become bogged down by too many unnecessary questions that should have been answered from the start.

World War Z is due for release in the US and UK on 21st June 2013. The film stars Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, James Badge Dale and David Morse.

Here's the synopsis:

As a zombie pandemic traverses the globe, United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) travels the world trying to find a way to stop the pandemic that is defeating armies and collapsing governments.

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