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World War Z: Zombies, zombies everywhere
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
Somehow during the early part of the 21st century zombies in popular culture became downright…dare I say!?…respectable.
It wasn't too long ago that zombies were mostly confined to the movies and even then could only be seen on TV late at night or via VHS. Now, the dead attract a much wider audience as one of the most popular series on television is The Walking Dead and the upcoming feature film World War Z out now has a reported $200+ million dollar budget* and stars none-other than “Mr. Movies” himself Brad Pitt.
The modern zombie movie was created by George Romero and John Russo with their film Night of the Living Dead in 1968. While Night of the Living Dead is a masterpiece, most zombies movies that would follow over the next 30+ years were cheaply made and substituted blood and gore for story and plot. T
That was up until the release of 28 Days Later in 2002. Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland, 28 Days Later replaced the slow-moving zombie with cheetah-fast people infected with a rabies-like "Rage" virus. Here, a Great Britain is decimated by this plague and a small band of survivors are looking to get out of an overrun London to a peaceful countryside where the military says they're still in control.
What would follow over the next 10+ years would be many, many zombie movies. Some of these would feature fast zombies and some the slow ones. A few of the movies like Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend and REC would be good, but the vast majority would be bad. Very bad. Very, very, very bad.
The zombie genre would take a big step towards respectability with the release of the comic book The Walking Dead in '03 and TV series based on the comic in '10.
Since Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman originally wanted to create a comic that would have been a direct update/continuation of Night of the Living Dead story. In fact, the original name of this comic was to be Night of the Living Dead. Luckily for him, though, he retitled and released his creation as The Walking Dead.
If he would have kept the Night of the Living Dead title, I don't think any producers would have wanted to take a chance on a TV series that could be argued it too was in the public domain like the source material.
While The Walking Dead comic was and is popular, The Walking Dead would really only enter the public's consciousness with the debut of the TV series of the same name on AMC. That series continues to be watched by tens of millions of people with each showing and is consistently one of the most watched weekly series on cable and network TV.
And now comes the next step in the zombie domination of all media; the big-star and big-budget film World War Z (WWZ).
Based on the book of the same name, WWZ takes place on a world slowly being overrun with the speedy dead. As humanity faces down extinction, it's up to Brad Pitt and what's left of the armies and governments of the world to fight back, find the source of the zombie plague and the answer to the dead.
Interestingly enough, the original WWZ novel (2006) takes place AFTER humanity has already won the war with the zombies rather than during the war as the movie does. In the book, the Brad Pitt character travels the world recording a history of the battles from with the dead, rather than actually doing any of the fighting himself.
World War Z is currently playing in theaters. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.
*To put $200 million number into perspective, the original George Romero zombie trilogy that sparked all this zombie mania had a COMBINED budget of around $5 million. TOTAL.