Brad Pitt holds a phone and a crowbar in 'World War Z'.
(Paramount Pictures)

Will ‘World War Z’ 2 Fight Its Way Out of the Tomb of Development Purgatory?

Alright, zombie aficionados, gather around the campfire. It’s time to dissect the undead elephant in the room: Will there be a World War Z 2? The thrills, chills, and blood spills of the 2013 zombie blockbuster have left audiences (well, not all) clamoring for a sequel. 

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But after years of tantalizing whispers and promises, fans still wonder whether that sequel will ever claw its way out of the grave of development hell and into the bright lights of movie theaters. So, let’s jump into this zombified rabbit hole, shall we?

A quick recap of the original outbreak

Released in 2013, World War Z is the zombie apocalypse flick that had even the skeptics perched on the edge of their seats, popcorn forgotten. Based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks, the film stars Brad Pitt, who portrays Gerry Lane with the kind of world-weary charm only a father who’s seen one too many global calamities can muster. The movie takes generous liberties with its source material—because who needs the slow burn of storytelling when you can have zombies scaling walls in Jerusalem like participants in the world’s most horrifying Spartan Race?

The plot zooms around the globe, from South Korea to Israel to Wales, faster than a viral tweet, with Gerry as our UN investigator-turned-savior, untangling the mystery of a zombie pandemic that spreads faster than gossip in a high school cafeteria. Director Marc Forster crafts a film that’s less about the lumbering, groaning undead of yore and more about sprinting, swarming zombies that would make Usain Bolt look like he’s jogging.

The film’s sound design matches the visual spectacle—every moan and scream is calibrated to keep the audience enticed, if not hiding their faces behind a pillow. Now, back to the topic at hand: Despite its success, the whispers of a sequel have been as hard to pin down as the undead themselves. 

A trail of breadcrumbs

Fast forward to today, and the World War Z 2 trail is colder than ever, though there was some initial excitement. Since the original film’s finale left plenty of potential for a sequel, discussions of a followup began to circulate around Hollywood. Moreover, considering the film’s success, it seemed natural to expect part two. And the zombie genre has proven to be a fertile ground for franchises. So, fans eagerly waited for updates, encouraged by the creators’ and actors’ promises of a sequel.

However, despite the anticipation, the project has been plagued by a series of setbacks, including script issues, budget concerns, and scheduling conflicts with its star cast. Though the first film, a box office behemoth, had set the stage for a sequel of epic proportions, the production process quickly devolved into chaotic creative clashes, budget woes, and scheduling nightmares. As the production lurched from one crisis to another, the budget ballooned like a grotesque, hungry zombie, leaving studio executives clutching their pearls in dismay. 

In February 2019, the World War Z sequel received what appeared to be its death blow. Paramount Studios officially canceled the project due to budget concerns and creative differences. This was a significant setback, especially considering that the original World War Z film cost $190 million to make. Moreover, China’s ban on films depicting zombies or ghosts added another layer of complexity. With China being a crucial market for Hollywood, the potential lack of Chinese audiences cast a shadow over the sequel’s commercial viability.

The director’s dance

The once-promising sequel began to resemble a zombie apocalypse of its own, with every decision seemingly leading to another near-fatal disaster. Moreover, directors came and went, each leaving their mark on the script, which morphed into a Frankenstein’s monster of plotlines. 

Traffic chaos 'World War Z'
(Paramount Pictures)

Juan Antonio Bayona (A Monster Calls) was initially set to direct, with Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) set to pen the script. However, he left to tackle Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, because who can resist dinosaurs? Then, David Fincher, the maestro behind Fight Club and Se7en, was reportedly in talks to direct, reuniting with Pitt. 

The mere thought had movie buffs and casual fans alike in a frenzy. Despite this, the Fincher-Pitt reunion seemed to be more wishful thinking than reality. Reports surfaced that the project was shelved due to budgetary concerns—the old Achilles’ heel of Hollywood.

What the stars of World War Z had to say

Mireille Enos, who starred as Gerry’s wife, Karin Lane, in the original film, expressed interest in returning to the franchise. She spoke on The Big Ticket podcast: “We were all lined up to go. We had Fincher, we had a beautiful script, and then it just didn’t happen.” 

Even Brad Pitt, the main actor and a leading producer during the sequel’s development, remained optimistic about the project, telling Variety, “We’re going to do our best and see what we get out of it.” And while details about the planned sequel remain scarce, we have some clues about what World War Z 2 might have looked like. David Fincher had some ambitious plans, hinting at a story that would have focused more on character development.

Pitt expressed his excitement about Fincher’s idea for the picture in an interview that took place in 2019, just a few months after the sequel was canceled. He said, “Ooh…it was good. It was really good. We had a really strong story, which [Fincher] shepherded. The things he had planned for it just haven’t been seen before.”

World War Z in other media

While World War Z 2 has yet to come to fruition on the big screen, fans of the franchise have not been entirely deprived of continuing the story. In 2019, a video game based on the original movie was released, effectively serving as a semi-canonical sequel to the film.

The game expands the story across the planet, allowing players to embark on first-person combat missions to end the undead threat. The game has been well-received, with IGN praising the challenging, heart-pounding scenarios of its 2021 expansion pack.

The future of World War Z 2

Despite the numerous setbacks, the dream of a World War Z sequel is not entirely dead. With the zombie genre still going strong and the original film continuing to captivate audiences, there could still be a chance for the sequel to rise from the ashes. Still, it will require imaginative problem-solving and a fresh approach to overcome the obstacles that have hampered its creation thus far. What happens to this zombie franchise in the future is anyone’s guess.

(featured: Paramount Pictures)

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Faith Katunga
Faith is a freelance journalist with an insatiable curiosity for all aspects of current events, from the global economy and fashion to pop culture and travel. She watches an absurd number of cat videos on Instagram when not reading or writing about what is going on in the world. Faith has written for several publications, including We Got This Covered, Italy Magazine, TheTravel, etc., and holds a master's degree in Fashion Culture and Management.