Last year, word leaked out that production on World War Z had spiraled out of control. This cloud hung over the film through the reshoots and the press tour, but the zombie action flick weathered the storm to end up grossing an impressive $66 million domestically over the weekend. It’s the biggest opening weekend for producer and star Brad Pitt, and it looks like Paramount is happy to have a new franchise. THR reports that the studio, unsurprisingly, is developing a sequel. Ironically, part of the reason for the reshoots was because the original movie was too bent on setting up future installments rather than telling the immediate story.
Hit the jump for to learn the original ending of the film and the changes screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard made to the picture. [Warning: spoilers ahead]
According to Huffington Post, Lindelof and Goddard wrote the new ending, but they also added some much-needed human moments in a movie that still has too few of them. The following scenes were added to World War Z:
- Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos), being awakened by their daughters, Rachel and Constance.
- The family in the kitchen eating breakfast as reports of the first “rabies” (i.e. zombie) outbreak is announced on the television.
- Lane, who is driving the family from Philadelphia to Newark, New Jersey, in a commandeered RV, has to pull over to treat Rachel’s asthma attack.
- Lane phones Karen during a plane ride from South Korea to Jerusalem.
And then there’s the new ending. The turning point is when Gerry and Israeli soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) are on the plane fleeing Israel. In the final cut, the plane crashes after an on-board outbreak, Gerry and Segen survive, drag themselves to a World Health Organization facility, and our hero discovers that the secret to surviving the apocalypse is to become sick with a serious virus like meningitis because zombies can sense illness and will avoid “weak prey”. The film ends with Gerry sending out the word that everyone should infect themselves with a non-lethal but still threatening disease, and thus become invisible to the undead. Gerry is reunited with his family, who were living in a refugee camp in Nova Scotia. Making sure not to kill any franchise potential, Gerry says in voice over that the war hasn’t been won yet and the fight is just beginning.
The original ending was dark beyond all reason, especially when you consider this was always going to be a PG-13 movie due to the budget required by the scale of the action. According to Movies.com, the plane leaving Israel was headed towards Moscow, it arrives there safely, and then shit gets crazy:
The elderly and the sick are executed and the healthy people, including a very shaken Gerry, are immediately drafted into armed service, though not before one particularly nasty Russian soldier takes Gerry’s cell phone. The story then jumps forward an unknown amount of time and we catch up with Gerry, who now has a full beard and has been a part of Russia’s zombie-clearing squad at least long enough for it to have changed to winter. He looks almost dead inside, but the reality is that over this time he’s become an experienced and ruthless zombie killer, and he’s the leader of his own equally capable unit.
Even without Lindelof and Goddard’s family-time additions, this turn is darker than anything that came before. It almost feels like the original writers were aware of The Walking Dead, and wanted to one-up the AMC TV series/comic book in the willingness to depress the hell out of the audience.
I encourage you to click over to Movies.com to read their full synopsis of the ending, but to run through the major plot points: Gerry discovers that cold is what stops the zombies, and he tells the Russian general that they need to put out the fires, huddle up, and let Russia win the war the same way it always wins wars: letting the hostile weather take care of invaders. Zombies freeze, Russian forces plus Gerry and Segen win, and then it’s on home to the family…except not.
Do you remember the paratrooper who helps rescue Gerry and his family from the building rooftop? If that guy looked like Matthew Fox, it’s because he was Matthew Fox in a role that was almost completely excised from the picture. In the original ending, Karin has shacked up with Fox’s character in the Everglades because they’re in a camp where you have to trade to survive, and since Karin apparently has no skills whatsoever and everyone at Paramount forgot that a big tentpole film shouldn’t be a total bummer, she sells her body. She doesn’t explicitly tell Gerry this when he calls her to tell her about how cold will stop the zombies, but Fox’s character calls him back and says Gerry should just create a new life for because Karin is now Random Paratrooper’s woman. The movie ends with Gerry, Segen, and Gerry’s friend from the Russian military, Simon, crossing the globe and coming back to America to get Gerry his family back. They arrive in the U.S., and the film ends with Gerry many miles and at least one movie away from his goal. I didn’t like World War Z, but reading over these changes, the original product could have been so much worse.
Again, I strongly encourage you to read Movies.com’s report, which also mentions how the script had brought in the “Lobo” from the novel.