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'World War Z': A conversation

June 27, 2013
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As a co-author of the book “Know Your Zombies” (which, for the record, was not a National Book Award finalist), I felt obligated to catch the movie version of “World War Z” at the multiplex.

But I wasn’t going to go it alone. I took along Sam Stall, an IBJ contributor who also co-wrote a zombie book. His, the novel “Night of the Living Trekkies,” wasn’t nominated for a National Book Award, either. But it’s very fun.

Here’s a transcript of our post-“Z” conversation which, warning, contains major spoilers.

Sam: Where are you on the whole “slow zombie/fast zombie” debate?

Lou: Either one can work. But it’s one thing to be able to run at the speed of a healthy human being…

Sam: It’s another to be turbocharged, like they are here. It was almost like they could fly. It was a lot like the ones in “I am Legend,” that horrible Will Smith movie.

Lou: If you don’t want to see “World War Z,” you could get part of the effect by watching “Dawn of the Dead” on fast forward.

Sam: Did you see the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”?

Lou: No.

Sam: It had fast runners like these. Very helicopter-y. It’s worth watching.

Lou: Well, as someone who’s written a zombie book, where do you think it fits in the pantheon?

Sam: An also-ran. The book was fantastic.

Lou: Same plot?

Sam: Absolutely not. In the book, there’s, like, 15 different stories. They chucked it. The cure in the book is “Kill them all.” It’s got a big scene in Newark, that’s about it.

Lou: But [author] Max Brooks’ check cashed.

Sam: I resent in movies where someone sustains a horrible, horrible injury and five minutes later, they’re running around like it never happened. I call it the “Prometheus” effect.”

Lou: Pitt does wince once, afterwards.

Sam: I guess I missed that.

Lou: When you have a pole through your gut, it’s nice to know there’s only a few-day recovery period.

Sam: I like that the daughter needed an inhaler. They didn’t have a scene where she used it. But it served its purpose. It got them to the pharmacy.

Lou: I thought all the pillaging there was fairly realistic.

Sam: By the way, if there is a zombie invasion and you do have to pillage, remember that you’re just a clueless dope at the mercy of the people who are two steps ahead and are already in survival mode.

Lou: What I wonder is, after the raiding takes place, what’s still on the shelves? What won’t even desperate survivors take? Carnation Instant Breakfast maybe? I’m thinking someone’s living off Flintstones chewable vitamins.

Sam: You know what should be the first thing grabbed? That bacon that’s good at room temperature. At least they didn’t go to a gun store. Never go to a gun store during a zombie apocalypse because the guy who owns the gun store is in there.

Lou: “World War Z” does do an effective job of giving a sense of how overwhelming it would be. How quickly things turn into just running and being scared.

Sam: Am I wrong or did Jerusalem fall because some woman pulled out a microphone?

Lou: It did seem like karaoke wiped out Jerusalem.

Sam: …and nobody was monitoring what was happening on the other side of the wall?

Lou: That was deeply dumb. In a sequence that was otherwise pretty cool—doing something thanks to special effects that other zombie movies haven’t been able to do. They do whatever it takes to get to their target, which makes sense.

Sam: Who played the wife?

Lou: I don’t know her. But I like that she wasn’t another 24-year-old hottie.

Sam: But her job was to just stand around and be morose.

Lou: I think the thing we both groaned about was when, as soon as Pitt is missing for two days or whatever, the military kicks his wife and family off the aircraft carrier.

Sam: There are a bunch of places in the movie like that…where people do or don’t do things just to build dramatic tension.

Lou: And the military wastes its precious fuel to move them to another place where they seem to be well taken care of. It’s not like they dump them in Newark. By the way, as someone from Jersey, I did like that Newark, during the plague, actually looked like an upgrade. I just wish the solution—the fate of mankind—didn’t come down to a coin flip.

Sam: And why was there no comment about the weasels who let the one-handed woman and the guy with the stake through his gut go on the big mission at the end when there were healthier people who could have done it? These are the same people who keep the scariest zombie woman…

Lou: …with bug eyes that makes her look like she came out of the 1940s’ “I Walked with a Zombie”…

Sam: Why would you have that in your office? And with the other main zombie, you could almost see the coach off to the side saying, “Think raptor.”

Lou: The whole ending felt like “Jurassic Park.” That’s not necessarily a criticism. I do like that they resolved the movie. I didn’t like the, “Hey wait, it’s not over yet. There could be a sequel.” But what’s the plot of the sequel? How do we exterminate mass numbers of stupid things?

Lou: There were some nice little touches: The zombie at the end with the wedding band on….

Sam: I didn’t see that. It must have caught me mid-yawn.

Your thoughts?

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