World War Z This past Friday HeyUGuys was invited to a special presentation of World War Z, still in the early stages of post production. Director Mark Forster and Producer/Star Brad Pitt were on hand to present 18 minutes of footage, from various portions of the movie, highlighting mostly the action beats.

Playing out like an extended trailer, the footage began with Pitt’s character Gerry Lane and his family stuck in the middle of Philadelphia traffic. As his wife and two children engage in a car game to pass the time, a motorcycle policeman sideswipes the driver’s side mirror as he speeds thru the gridlock. Gerry steps out of his car to investigate the damage, and looks up to see a large fireball explodes in the distance. Gerry wanders back to his car and family as a second motorcycle policeman (seen in the first trailer) screams at Gerry, “Get back into your car RIGHT NOW!”.

Before he can order him a second time, a garbage truck strikes the policeman sending him flying into the air. The out-of-control truck rams through the traffic and ignites a panic in the streets. Without thinking twice, Gerry shifts his car into gear and begins to chase after the truck as it barrels its way down the street. As Gerry and his wife struggle to keep their children calm and buckled up another car suddenly slams into the passenger side of their sedan and knocks them to the side of the road.

As the family reels in the aftermath of the accident, panic has now engulfed the streets. Gerry pulls his family out of the car and watches in horror as he discovers the source of the mayhem…Zombies. Further up the street a Zombie bashes in a car window and pulls a man out onto the street before biting him on the neck. In only a matter of seconds the man is consumed by the virus and quickly becomes a Zombie himself. As the camera pans out to a wide shot of downtown Philadelphia, the devastation becomes clear and the title card hits as the scene ends.

Unlike the Zombies in other interpretations like Walking Dead or Shaun of the Dead, these zombies seem to only seek to spread their virus. While many of them attack those who are still living, none were shown eating flesh or tearing anyone to pieces. The first few minutes of footage was intense and kinetic, and kept the focus on Gerry’s family while still highlighting the large scale of the film.

In the wake of the attack Gerry links up with an old UN colleague who arranges an escort for he and his family to an off-shore aircraft carrier. Once aboard the ship the stakes of the film become immediately clear. Various government entities consolidate and calculate the damage to the world at large. The President is dead, along with most of the Joint Chiefs and staff. They have no idea where the virus originated, nor do they have any clue or hope of stopping it. What is left of the government reaches out to Gerry asking for his help in containing this threat. While Gerry is hesitant, the only way the Government will keep his family safe is to help find an answer to the mayhem.

Gerry is taken to Israel where he meets with a man who seemed to know about the attack ahead of time. The man explains how he works for the Israeli government as the “10th man”, essentially the intentional dissenter to ensure that Israel is prepared for anything, no matter how improbable. When the other nine began assuming use of the word Zombies was cover for something else, the 10th man assumed they meant real Zombies. Gerry is taken to the Jerusalem Salvation Gates, two of 10 portals into fortified Israel. The 10th man explains “Every human being we save is one less Zombie to fight.”

As the footage wraps up we are shown the Zombies overwhelming even the large gates at Jerusalem. Helicopters swarm in with gunners trying desperately to stop wave after wave of bloodthirsty Zombies, but to no avail. The swarm piles on top of the fallen Zombies and uses their corpses to climb the walls and invade the city, this is followed by the clip from the first trailer as the swarm topples a bus.

What military force remains is sent in to defend the city. We see a small group of soldiers as they battle a small group of zombies in tight quarters. After shooting down the attacking zombies one jumps out of nowhere and tackles a female soldier. She shoves off the Zombie and shoots it as it falls to the ground. When she lifts her had she immediately notices there are four large gashes from the Zombie’s teeth. Gerry quickly grabs a large knife from the soldier’s belt and slices her hand off in one clean stroke. As the room falls silent and time seems to screech to a halt, Gerry begins to count. “one thousand one… thousand two… thousand three.” After reaching a count of 8 he assures the bitten soldier “you’re not gonna turn! YOU’RE NOT GONNA TURN!” seemingly knowing that if the transformation does not happen within a time frame, then he has somehow prevented the virus from taking hold.

As the remaining soldiers and Gerry run to a rescue helicopter, they watch in horror as the swarm of Zombies throw themselves off the cliffs and tackle the helicopter, causing it to crash in spectacular fashion. The sheer hopelessness sinks in and the footage ends.

Overall the footage presented definitely pushed the spectacle Pitt and Forster were looking for. You truly get the sense the entire world is fighting the Zombie herds and the scale is something to behold. While everything in the footage shown was paced at a breakneck speed, hopefully the final product will allow for some in the audience to catch their breath.

Immediately following the screening, Director Mark Forster stuck around to answer a few burning questions about the film, and set the record straight with regard to many online rumors.

When asked what his philosophy was in approaching the film, Forster said

 I wanted to very much base it in reality and make it something that could actually happen today at any given moment… At the same time, I love the 70’s movies from George Romero. In those the Zombies were a metaphor for consumerism, in ours they are mainly based in more of biology. I’ve always loved the swarming or flocking of ants and fish and that’s how I created this image. I feel like today, the metaphor is more of overpopulation… there are less and less resources to sustain on this planet. And some of these images come from that idea of like forming the tower in Israel or the tsunami, it’s sort of this feeding frenzy for the last resources.

Rumors of production troubles have plagued World War Z throughout it’s development. From reports of Forster and Pitt not getting along, to the 7 week reshoots, Forster cleared the air regarding all the woes:

[In] a lot of these big productions you constantly have mass hysteria. 1500 extras, 3 weeks in a row every day, same in Malta same in Philadelphia. So these big productions always have lots of things that are hard to handle, I wouldn’t call it troubled. There was never a communication break down or anything like that so that was false reporting. We re-shot our ending, but it’s something that when we came back and put the movie together we realized that ‘oh, this ending would work better for the movie’ [so] we as filmmakers, Brad and I presented it to the studio and they were on board. We went out, shot it and apart than that I wouldn’t say it was a troubled production. I think that’s the wrong word for it.

Forster went on to say,

I wouldn’t say it was rushed into production. I think that’s not necessarily the right way to talk about it. We were developing the script, a film on a massive scale from scratch, and on these kind of productions you are never completely prepared. You could practice a movie for a year and still think ‘I could do this I could do that’ so there’s never really enough time to really prep something on that scale. I think we walked in there and we were very prepared, we finished shooting on time, we didn’t go over schedule. That is a sign for me, I didn’t add more days to the shooting schedule, we actually were on time in that sense, and usually that’s the first sign that things are getting out of control. I think I felt like at the end, the main thing was the ending everything else I thought really worked.”

Despite the subject matter being synonymous with violence, Forster confirmed the film will be cut for a PG-13 audience.

It was always the intention to make it a PG-13 movie, it will not be ultra gory or bloody

World War Z will release 21 June.