David Fincher is being courted to direct the sequel to the much-maligned zombie thriller.
David Fincher is in real talks to direct the sequel to World War Z. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I am excited by this development. You might remember WWZ as that zombie movie starring Brad Pritt that everyone apparently paid to see and then declared their undying hatred for it. I’ll allow that I wish they hadn’t bought the rights to the title of Max Brooks’ outstanding novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Regardless, the film wasn’t the book. And you know we can’t adapt a property at anything less than .999 faithful. When news broke that Fincher would maybe, just maybe, sign on to direct, social media reacted as only social media can: by shitting bricks and booing loudly while looking for windows.
The movie was fun! Okay, yes. Its pre-production was a mess. And yes, it encountered many challenges on its way to the screen. So what? It had my favorite onscreen death of the year when the would-be curer of the disease stumbled on a plane and shot himself in the head. It also had the best reaction face to getting a zombie-bit hand chopped off. And, despite not remotely being the book, it does feel like each scene captures the spirit of the book. It’s a collection of terrifying moments in a zombie outbreak. And, they are effective moments. The running of the horde down the street at the opening of the movie is terrifying. It fully triggers my Parental Anxiety.
Even amongst my own here at FSR, I’ve been the only one defending the development. And, look, I get it. Back in November, the father of the modern zombie era, George A. Romero called out WWZ — and Brad Pitt — as the cause of death on the Dead franchise in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. When The Man Himself says your film is a problem, what do you do?
“I’ve sort of dropped out of it…I think really Brad Pitt killed it. The Walking Dead and Brad Pitt just sort of killed it all. The remake of Dawn of the Dead made money. I think pretty big money. Then Zombieland made money, and then all of a sudden, along comes Brad Pitt and he spends $400 million or whatever the hell to do World War Z.” — George A. Romero
We’ve seen this scene many times, including in Romero’s own Day of the Dead. The moment: the experiment turns on the scientist and devours its maker. I have this vision of Romero seeing himself as a director surrounded by a horde of soulless, cash driven tentpole filmmakers tearing him apart to scavenge the remains. And, enter stage right, none other than Brad Pitt playing the role of the surprisingly good looking Zombie Brutus, leader of the undead bastards. How’s that for a breathless hot take of internet hyperbole?
World War Z had a reported production budget of $190,000,000. Nevermind the ad campaign, which I remember being somewhat extensive. That sort of cash bomb can suck all the oxygen in the room away from other smaller projects looking to turn a modest profit. Romero’s point is 100% correct. Even still, WWZ had Brad Pitt’s dreaminess going for it and that action packed zombie romps can crush. Or, maybe I’m just projecting? For all the crap people heap on the movie, millions of people paid to see it. Its worldwide box office haul was roughly $540,000,000. Box office results sure as hell don’t correlate with cinematic quality, but it definitely equals profitability.
And profitability is something Fincher knows about. His aggregated box office has him in the $2,000,000,000 Directors Club. Even when you chop out the estimated total budget of $675,000,000 from those earnings, he’s still in the positive by a tidy sum. But! He’s no sell out. He makes tough movies, well off the beaten path of your typical filmgoer. He just does it with such style and well-known actors that they still come out to see the thing.
Cash money aside, he’s got a great working relationship with Brad Pitt. Seven, Fight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are legitimately excellent films. I’m a huge fan of Pitt’s acting. My favorite is still The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And his! Pitt’s three Fincher films make for an impressive collection of performances. On top of that, Fincher not only has a knack for planning and delivering the requisite footage to showcase a complex narrative, but he’s done it once before with Pitt in Fight Club. And two of those Fincher/Pitt collaborations are adaptations of novels. In fact, six out of Fincher’s last six films have been based on novels. The man understands how to adapt a story.
How can you not be excited to have a guy at the helm of this project who can trick you like he did in The Game? Who can give you one of the meanest villain’s you’ve seen with Gone Girl? How about the terrifying quiet menace of John Carroll Lynch in Zodiac? Or, shoot, how about the fact that he directed the third best Alien movie? Think about the nastiness of those aliens and then about the horror of the murder scenes in Seven. He’s got the skills to bring us a tense, nasty, thriller of a zombie sequel.
David Fincher signing on to direct the sequel would be legendary. What if Fincher’s contribution leads to a revitalization of the property? The first movie will never ever have had anything in common with the original novel other than the title. No matter what, that will never change. But, what if he goes all in? What if we get a partial adaptation of the Oral History of the Zombie War? What if it’s great? What if it’s the Tokyo Drift of the future World War Z franchise? It isn’t surprising that the studio went after Fincher. He’s a dream candidate for the film execs. It’s surprising he said yes. And because of that, we could get a mother flipping David Fincher zombie film which reunites him with his best star, Brad Pitt. Your soul is dead if that doesn’t excite you.