A movie with bad press prior to its release is a studio's worst nightmare. Whether it's reshoots or an actor fighting with a director, negative circumstances can often derail years of hard work and waste millions of dollars.
That was the dilema "World War Z" faced last year, when the Brad Pitt vehicle about a zombie apocalypse was forced to delay production after the filmmakers realized the ending didn't work. The finale was scrapped, re-written, then re-shot, causing the project to go overbudget. This happened after numerous reports that had Pitt fighting with director Marc Forster over the direction of the film.
Blockbuster tentpoles that take this turn almost never work out in the end, so it may be surprising to hear that "World War Z," based on the novel by Max Brooks, is actually pretty good. Despite a few hiccups and plot holes along the way, the film does exactly what a big-budget movie about the end of the world is supposed to do: terrify and entertain you.
This Friday, Pitt's years of hard work will finally come to realization, as "World War Z" hits theaters nationwide. Ahead are 10 things you should know about the movie before going to see it.
1. This Is Definitely Brad Pitt's Movie
Not only did Pitt produce the film -- his production company, Plan B Entertainment, secured the rights to the Brooks novel back in 2008 -- he, of course, stars in it. Pitt is one of the few flexible A-listers we have working on-screen today with the wherewithal to pull off a wide range of characters. While Pitt's Gerry Lane isn't exactly multilayered (at least, compared to previous roles, like Benjamin Button or Tyler Durden), Pitt still brings the perfect amount of humaness to a man looking to save the world, his family, and himself.
2. The Zombies Are Frightening ...
Audiences will have their first zombie encounter early on in the film, as people begin getting attacked on the road. While we don't get a full-on look at one of these creatures until later, we do get to see what happens when a regular human is bitten. Basically, they start writhing and convulsing on the street, like their spine is trying to leave their body. It's pretty gruesome (at least for a PG-13 rating), even more so because we see it through the eyes of Gerry (Pitt), along with his wife and two young daughters.
3. ... Except When They're Not
In the final act, the zombies become a bit goofy, clumsily throwing themselves against walls and chattering their teeth. It's a switch in tone from the film's first half, which treats the zombies more like the brain-eating killers they actually are.
4. Still, There Are Genuine Moments of Terror
The film successfully mixes elements of action and horror, which is not an easy thing to do. The first two-thirds of "World War Z" features several scenes where Pitt is crawling around in the dark while zombies ominously walk around him. There's also a heart-pounding night sequence that takes place on an abandoned military base in South Korea, where Pitt finds himself face-to-face with the killers.
5. If You Don't Like to Fly, Close Your Eyes
We won't spoil what happens in this scene (though, if you've seen one of the trailers, you already have a good idea what we're referring to), only to say that there is a sequence in the film's third act that will not go over well with people who are afraid of airplanes. Seriously, it's terrifying.
6. The Movie Differs a Lot From the Book
Fans of Brooks's novel should not go in expecting a shot-for-shot adaptation. The biggest diference here is that, unlike the book, the movie is not a first-person account of what's taking place. Instead, the story centers around Pitt's Lane, a former United Nations employee looking to find a cure to stop the zombie outbreak and get back to his family.
7. There Is Plenty of Action
If you're looking for the large set pieces that have come to define movies of this scope, you'll find them here -- there are plenty of scenes featuring groups of zombies fighting armies, taking down helicopters, and climbing over giant walls to attack a city. However, to those who may be experiencing summer movie destruction fatigue, don't worry -- this film won't beat you into submission with action sequence after action sequence. Unlike most apocalypse films, this one starts out big and ends on a smaller, more emotional note. Speaking of which ...
8. The Re-Shot Ending Works
The highly publicized re-shot ending (the original one featured a climactic battle scene) fits in well with the film's emotional core. In fact, if you're not already aware of the production problems this movie has faced, you likely won't notice it. Even the goofy zombies don't distract too much from the overall story.
9. Matthew Fox Fans, Beware
The "Lost" actor is in the movie, but not as much as you'd think. He presumably had a bigger part in the film's original ending, however, he wasn't asked back for the reshoots last year, and is now just credited in the film as "Parajumper." Ouch.
10. Brad Pitt Deserves a Lot of Credit for (Finally) Pulling This Together
While Pitt's arguably responsible for some of the film's earlier issues, the movie still turned out OK in the end. Really, "World War Z" could have ended up a complete disaster. Instead, Pitt managed to salvage the story he already had prior to re-shoots, then hired Damon Lindelof to help come in and re-write a workable ending. While there's no way to tell if the film will make back its reported $200 million budget -- and if it doesn't, Pitt will certainly take a lot of the blame -- as a movie, it deserves to be viewed separately from all the negative press it has received.