5 Reasons World War Z is Going to Flop

Who else thinks World War Z is going to be a flat-out disaster? Yeah, I didn’t think I was alone. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Now that the movie is a moderate box office hit, I can admit that I was wrong]

Vanity Fair just released a preview of their June 2013 exclusive with Brad Pitt, which provides more detail into what we already knew: the production has been a big, bloated mess. While there is a part of me that is morbidly curious to see the movie – and I hope, hope, hope that I am wrong and that the movie will be a fun thrill ride – this seemed like the best opportunity to outline why World War Z is prone to be a big, awful flop.

Here are five reasons why:

5. The movie is going to be nothing like the book

Even before the first trailer ever made its way online, it was clear that the movie was going to represent a huge departure from the Max Brooks bestseller. In the book, Brad Pitt’s character travels the world collecting stories from survivors of the zombie apocalypse; in the movie, understandably, he is at the center of the action.

Changes are to be expected in theatrical adaptations of books, and I’m the first to admit that the book would be very challenging to adapt in its true form, but is the movie going to represent anything more than a shell of its source material? And will fans of the book be open enough to support it and spread positive word-of-mouth?

4. Its release date

World War Z has a prime release date on June 21, 2013, just as children are getting out of school. Unfortunately, one of the most anticipated movies of the year – Man of Steel – debuting a week before and the Roland Emmerich action film White House Down launching in theaters the week after, immediately followed by Despicable Me 2 and Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger. Oh, and the movie debuts the same weekend as Monsters University, which is practically guaranteed to open to around $80 million.

In other words, World War Z is going to have come out all guns blazing to make a dent, but there’s no room to do it.

3. The movie was filmed without an ending

“We started shooting the thing before we locked down how it was going to end up, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” Brad Pitt says of the production. Really, you started filming without an ending? Paramount paid the price, too, resorting to “re-writing and reshooting 40 minutes of the film to find a coherent ending.”

That’s only half the movie. Ouch.

2. World War Z is, at its heart, a zombie movie

I love zombies. I think zombie movies are great. But with rare exception, they don’t make a lot of money. At least not the kind of money World War Z needs to make. Let’s look at some of the most popular zombie movies of the last decade:

Clearly, Paramount is hoping the most obvious comparison will be I Am Legend, which was marketed more as a Will Smith survival tale than your typical zombie film (in fact, that book is actually about vampires). The comparison is justified, as most people who watch the trailers for World War Z think it’s about an alien invasion and the movie definitely has more of a big budget disaster movie feel than it does a zombie flick. But again, due to its release schedule, this movie won’t have the same opportunity to open huge nor the room to have legs (I Am Legend debuted in December to $77 million).

1. World War Z cost $200 million, at least

I could be wrong. The movie could open relatively strong, on its way to a $150 – 200 million domestic gross. Brad Pitt is popular overseas, as are loud obnoxious blockbusters, so it could make some considerable cash in foreign markets. But according to Variety, the “budget ballooned to around $200 million” – and when marketing and print costs are taken into account, Paramount could be looking at a bill north of $300 million. Pitt likely has a nice back-end deal, further diluting profit margins.

Bottom line: World War Z is going to need to make a lot of money to break even, and with tough competition and presumably bad reviews (you don’t think people don’t expect a certain level of quality following the footsteps of “The Walking Dead,” do you?), it isn’t going to.

What do you think?

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Action Movies, Horror Movies, Movies, Science Fiction Movies, Top 10 Movie Lists



    I have to disagree with number 2. First, you name how much they made, but don’t mention cost. There is no comparison to what, if any, profit or loss was. If you look at 28 DAYS LATER, you have 82 million, which I assume you posted as what it made. But if it cost between 7 and 8 million to make, then that’s a profit of close to 75 million. Not too bad. Although I am a bit frightened about the rumors about WWZ, and fear they will go down the path of I AM LEGEND, with too many CGI characters and totally taking a good script and ruining it. (I read a couple of the scripts they morphed together and one of them, although not real close to the masterpiece short story from Matheson, was entertaining) I still think WWZ will be successful. One thing about zombie movies and zombies, they never seem to die out.

  • 28 Days Later and I Am Legend are not zombie flicks. Shaun Of The Dead is a comedy about zombies, but i wouldn’t consider it a horror movie like typical zombie movies Romero spawned.

  • skunkybeaumont

    The disconnect from the book and the inevitable bad reviews because of that disconnect are the worst things going for this movie. I can only pray that it’s saved by a good story and amazing action.

  • Joe Falion

    I am Legend is a vampire movie (or the book was at least). I agree that WWZ will be horrible, but it will by no means be a box office flop. The world is full of people that just love crap Hollywood movies like this starring their favorite heart throbs.

  • Rob

    I predicted to my friends a month or two ago that World War Z would herald the end of the current fascination with zombies in Hollywood, at least for the main stream audience. Enough is enough. It’s a cool concept that has been beaten to death and reanimated way to many time in the past decade.

  • eriksamdahl

    I wasn’t implying that 28 Days Later was a flop – as you say, it was a box office flick. My point was that most zombie movies have a very clear ceiling, and that’s well below the base cost point of World War Z. Thanks for the comment – I have many of the same fears.

  • eriksamdahl

    You’re right, Shaun of the Dead is not the best comparison, but it is probably the most well regarded zombie movie of the last decade nonetheless.

  • eriksamdahl

    You could very well be right.

  • eriksamdahl

    28 Days Later is most definitely a zombie film; and I Am Legend, even though the book is about vampires, is about zombies. Very CGI-bad zombies, but zombies nonetheless.

  • I still beg to differ. 28 Days Later is about a virus that induces ultra-violent rage in humans. Infected people don’t die and come back to life in the movie, they just turned into mindless killing beasts. Same thing with I Am Legend: the K-Virus transforms people into vampire-like monsters and they even conserve some human behavior and reasoning. They maybe feed on human flesh but the sum of all the particular features they show are not typical to zombies.

  • I would also agree with you as well. I love SotD too and its a fresh look at the genre in the overwhelming sea of zombie films around.

  • eriksamdahl

    Yes, if you get technical about what defines a zombie, then perhaps those two movies are not really zombie movies. But at a basic level – both are about humans-turned-mindless-creatures that like to bite/eat people. From the average moviegoers perspective, those are zombies. 28 Days Later especially plays out like a zombie movie.

    Now I’m realizing I didn’t factor in the Resident Evil movies.

  • I see your point and i agree that a notable aspect of a typical zombie is that it eats living human flesh. But i still think, in my own opinion, that the most important and essential feature is that they are undead. Romero movies pointed that out in the first place; he focused largely on them rising up from their graves, hands bursting through soil and grass. That was the first, truly shocking detail that stupefied viewers. This is also the first reference that literature (movies, books, RPGs) points out; they’re back to life after being dead. Then after that comes the fact they got the munchies for human flesh/brains, which is also mandatory to have our good ol’, authentic zombies, just like you mentioned.

    I agree that 28DL plays like a zombie movie. But since infected people are not undead, i won’t consider it about zombies. Also, i don’t mind you keep from including RE movies. I can tolerate the first one, but the following sequels are worst than a pile of turd. This said, i like this little debate we’re having, its very entertaining =)

  • hunter

    A PG13 Zombie Apocalypse movie pretty much says it all. i wont even waste my time watching this pop action on DVD.

  • Bill

    28 Days Later and I Am Legend ARE NOT Zombie films but yes I agree that World War Z is going to flop and good, it deserves to!

  • michael

    I am legend is not a zombie film, they are vamps…well they are in the book.

  • Dee

    Did you also predict, along with everyone else, that Titanic would be a flop?

  • Robert

    The creatures in I Am Legend are hurt by the sun… Therefore zombies

  • robert

    I mean vampires* lol

  • Charlie

    I saw WWZ this past weekend, and the PG-13 rating is the only thing that made this movie just meh. They were looking for a bigger audience (more people=more money), hence the PG-13. A solid R rating could have made this movie great.