Come for the Syracuse Orange sports talk, stay for the discussion about zombies. Pretty sure most blogs should work this way.
So I've got a few things stuck in my craw that I've decided are worth your time. First up, let's discuss World War Z.
If by chance you're not familiar with the book World War Z, I cannot possibly do enough to recommend that you click here, purchase it, wait patiently by your mailbox for it to arrive, read it immediately and then twirl around on your front lawn with your arms extended towards the heavens once you're done. Then read it again.
As far as zombie books go, it's the Holy Grail. While 99% of them are you basic "outbreak, survivors band together, travel zombie-infested lands and make it/don't make it," WWZ takes an entirely new approach. It's an oral history of the Zombie War. So if zombies started emerging right now and slowly but surely took over the planet while humans did what human do best, destroy themselves...this book takes place years later when humanity has fought back and reclaimed its planet.
Like any great zombie story, it's dripping with metaphors. Every story is about something far greater than flesh-eating monsters. Class warfare, racism, national pride, celebrity, religion, human nature, good vs. evil, torture, the nature of government...that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the topics really at play here.
The writer, Max Books (son of Mel Brooks) is an old pro at zombies, having written The Zombie Survival Guide. The amount of research and thought he puts into the book is remarkable. He provides realistic interpretations of how America, Israel, Russia, North Korea, Pakistan and China would react to zombie outbreaks and he gives individual characters such fantastic depth and resonance. Whether he's explaining the massacre that was the Battle of Yonkers or retelling the tale of a downed pilot alone in the Louisiana swamps surrounded by zombies, it's gripping stuff.
The book is written in the voice of a United Nations Postwar Commission agent in search of the truth about what really happened during the war. While he's the one voice who ties it all together, one would hardly call him the main character. He's always with the storytellers but never actually telling the story. If you've ever watched Red Shoe Diaries, and I know you have, sinner, the setup is a lot like that (minus the gratuitous nudity and with the addition of a lot of gratuitous gore).
Anyway, I always thought the project would have worked best as a mini-series. My ideal way of making the book would have been to partner up with HBO and create a 10-episode miniseries, with each episode delving into one of the many stories the book takes such care to break down. So many set pieces to discover. So many great one-off performances that could be mined. And you wouldn't lose the integrity of the book.
And that's why I was always concerned when I found out Brad Pitt bought the rights and the producers were dead-set on making it into a 2-3 hour movie. Even if they were able to pull it off, so much of the book would have to end up on the cutting room floor. Shame.
And that's before I found out that, according to the initial synopsis released last week, they were changing the entire story altogether and turning it into your run-of-the-mill zombie movie. UGH.
"The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself."
As you might imagine, the Internet freaked the F out over this.
Now, it's worth keeping in mind that the person who wrote this synopsis was probably a PR flack who doesn't know the intimate details of the story or script, so it might not be 100% accurate. That said, it does seem unavoidable that what was once a collection of fantastic short stories told after-the-fact is now a Brad Pitt action movie.
They've even given Brad Pitt's character a wife and children, none of whom existed in the book. I'm sure they did this because we have to "care" about Pitt's character and "up the stakes" and all that crap. In theory, they're right. However, ultimately adding those characters doesn't matter if the stuff we're really here to see is crap (See: I Am Legend) . Do you know how many people die in this book? Spoiler Alert: HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS. I don't think we need the stakes raised all that much.
Anyway, I'm disappointed although not shocked. I'm still more excited for this than almost anything else out there right now (save for Dark Knight Rises). I just fear that the more I learn, the less excited I'll be.
On the TV side of things, we're inching closer and closer to season two of The Walking Dead. Here's the trailer:
With TWD, I think most of us are in "wait and see" mode. As we've discussed before, Season One of the show succeed in spite of itself. The ratings were fantastic because audiences are THAT desperate for awesome zombie entertainment, not specifically because the show was so great. Because after the first episode (which was great), every episode that followed seemed to disappoint. Even the finale didn't deliver what we might have hoped.
And so, while the news that showrunner Frank Darabont has left the show in the middle of putting together the season is surprising, it kinda isn't.
Despite the fact that Darabont put all kinds of blood, sweat and tears into getting TWD on the air, the show wasn't exactly blowing audiences away under his watch. Two post-pilot episodes that he wrote were disappointing and both veered the show wildly from its graphic novel roots.
I don't know if it was him or the producers in general, but there was too much time being put into figuring out how the zombie outbreak happened, when in reality, it doesn't matter nor should we ever really find out why. The mystery is ALWAYS better (Right, Lost fans?) and this show is less about "Why and How?" and all about "What are we gonna do now?"
Darabont's departure doesn't mean everything's awesome now. It's still a giant question mark. But we'll know soon enough if the folks behind the show have worked out the kinks, sped up the action and remember what people really love about zombie stories.
The Atlantic says its best: "The Walking Dead is a good show that should be a great show." It could also, however, be gone before you know it if they don't figure out how to make it great.