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The novel and film adaptations of World War Z differ drastically from each other. The two have storylines that only have one common factor between them, which is zombies. The two adaptations have almost no similarities, as those working on the movie took a large amount of “artistic liberties”. Any changes made do not affect the characters a large amount, though, as no characters from the book are in the movie.
The novel and the film greatly differ in their approaches towards main characters. The book uses an interview format, which involves getting stories and perspectives from multiple people while the war is going on. Using this format allows the book to delve deep into the personalities and experiences of those who lived through the war. The movie, however, takes a less varied approach. Instead of following multiple characters, the film follows the escapades of Gerry Lane, an ex-UN operative with two daughters and a wife. The movie was excessively changed to appeal to the masses, or “Hollywood-ified”. That process removed depth from the movie, but potentially made it more exciting to watch.
The two versions of World War Z are also different in how they describe the spread of the plague. In the movie adaptation, Lane and his family were completely surprised by the plague. Gerry, his wife Karen, and their daughters were simply sitting in their car, waiting for the heavy traffic in Philadelphia to pass. Chaos suddenly occurs, as explosions happen all throughout the city and people run screaming in the streets. Although this approach seemed appropriate in the movie so the viewers don’t instantly become disinterested, the book took a more gradual approach. In the novel, it is told almost straight away that the infection began in China. From there, it slowly spread outward to other countries who had the opportunities to prepare themselves for the inevitable wave moving towards them (all in vain, however). Modifying the spread of infection changes both the plot and overall timing. In the book, the infection spreading slowly rises suspense, and gives the reader an opportunity to think about what will happen in the coming pages. In the movie, the action comes quickly and fast at the expense of suspense and mystery.
In the book version of World War Z, zombies were extremely slow. The fastest they were recorded to walk was approximately one step every 1.5 seconds. That choice made the book less action-filled, as there was often no reason for anyone to shoot or go out of their way to do anything to a zombie when it could easily be outrun; most of the time in the book, the problem was more the pure numbers of the zombies than their aggression. This also added a slight amount of realism to an otherwise fictional book: one would assume that body parts would not work the same when the person has no control over them and there is no blood flowing at all.
The movie takes the opposite approach. The zombies move blindingly fast, with perfect coordination and agility. That strays from the book completely. Those creating the movie, again, modified certain aspects of the book to make the film more enjoyable. In one particular scene of the movie, Gerry is on a mission to find the source of the zombie outbreak. As Gerry and his escort team are attempting to be stealthy, his wife calls his long-range phone. The ringing is extremely loud, and the group is immediately swarmed by running zombies. One could ,imagine this scene in the novel would go something like this: his phone rings, and all the zombies are alerted; but alas, they cannot run. After running quickly back to the large brown plane, they would stay there until the zombies lose interest in the ringing noise. This would likely have been too boring or uninteresting. for the movie.
In the book version of World War Z, it takes a prolonged time for those bitten to turn into zombies: anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Their eyes slowly become cloudy because of repeated damage and no tears. In the movie version, however, those bitten turn in approximately twelve seconds each time; additionally, their eyes immediately become cloudy. This change was presumably made for both action and logic. This change was made for the action so those bitten can instantly attack the main character, and logic because it falls under the same category of the plague spreading quickly. It would make no sense if the plague could spread quickly but it takes days or weeks for people to turn.
In conclusion, the book and film versions of World War Z are virtually incomparable. There are no common characters and the very basics of the infected are completely changed. Though both the book and the movie were well-received, there really is no reason for them to have the same name.
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