A Brief Review of World War Z

I saw the movie version of World War Z last night. Although it was mostly for entertainment, I was also conducting in-depth academic research for my article on political ignorance and the undead, my planned contribution to Economics of the Undead: Blood Brains and Benjamins, edited by Glen Whitman and James Dow! The article builds on my forthcoming book Democracy and Political Ignorance, and explores the portrayal of political ignorance in literature and movies on the undead (public ignorance and the resulting public policy errors play a major role in many such stories).

But the beleaguered taxpayers of Virginia need not worry about my charging this movie ticket to my academic expense account. That’s because Hollywood basically turned Max Brooks’ fascinating political and psychological story into a standard-issue action/horror movie. Moderately fun to watch, but barely more intelligent than the zombies themselves. I would offer a more detailed critique. But Daniel Drezner (author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies) has already done all the heavy lifting for me [warning: his article contains plot spoilers, not that the plot is all that good].

I understand that some changes had to be made in order to convert the book into a movie. For example, there had to be a central protagonist that the audience can identify with (the character played by Brad Pitt), as opposed to the melange of separate stories in the book. But it’s a shame that the adaptation process essentially stripped the story of nearly all its intellectual content, and much of its internal consistency as well.

If you’re in the mood for some relatively mindless zombie-like entertainment, the movie will do. Otherwise, stick to the book.