Why David Fincher's World War Z II Would Have Been Brilliant

As early as January 2012, the concept of "World War Z" spawning sequels was in motion. This big-budget zombie film starring Brad Pitt was, like so many blockbusters, meant to spawn a long-term saga that would please audiences and studio executives alike for years to come. However, nearly a decade after "World War Z" first hit theaters, no sequel has emerged, with a prospective second installment getting canned at the start of 2019. In some circumstances, the loss of yet another blockbuster sequel wouldn't be an enormous crime, but the proposed "World War Z II" wasn't just any blockbuster sequel. This would've been a David Fincher directorial effort and any unmade feature from that director is well worth mourning.

Specific details on the story and action sequences of Fincher's "World War Z" sequel are largely nonexistent. However, this director's lengthy attachment to the production and key facets of his creative process, not to mention vital elements of the first "World War Z," make this an unmade motion picture that tantalizes the imagination of cinema devotees. Though we'll never know if his "World War Z" would've measured up to classics like "Zodiac," there are countless reasons to be forlorn that Fincher never got a chance to realize his vision for this "World War Z II."

David Fincher's track record

The greatest loss with the proposed "World War Z" sequel is, of course, the loss of a new David Fincher movie. One of the great American filmmaking discoveries of the 1990s, Fincher has been a consistently remarkable director across multiple decades. Titles like "The Social Network" and "Zodiac" have become modern classics for a reason, while the propulsive pacing of his works makes them gripping entertainment you can't tear your eyeballs away from. He takes bold tonal and visual swings in films like "Gone Girl" that would be admirable even if the resulting movies weren't terrific. Even weaker efforts like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or "Mank" offer viewers plenty of unique imagery and performances to chew on.

A new Fincher film is always an event. Even in the case of "World War Z II," which would've functioned as a big franchise exercise for Paramount Pictures. Even within such confines, the mind reels with what Fincher could've delivered, especially if he leaned more into realizing the zombies in this universe as truly terrifying rather than just a CG swarm. Countless big blockbuster sequels never get off the ground, but when it's one like "World War Z II" that was supposed to be helmed by a filmmaker of Fincher's caliber, that's extra tragic.

David Fincher's mastery of fun genre entertainment

While David Fincher has become an award-season darling with his most recent features, he's also not the kind of guy who makes films that mistake rigidity for thoughtfulness. Some of Fincher's best works are also delightfully ridiculous. "Gone Girl" certainly has plenty on its mind, but it's also full of blood and salacious twists. His earliest works like "The Game" or "Panic Room" were the best kind of pure popcorn thrillers. Fincher may have been nominated for the best director Oscar multiple times, but he's also the kind of guy who directs movies in which Jared Leto gets set on fire.

Fincher isn't afraid to deliver fun genre entertainment without skimping on quality filmmaking. That's a combination that could've been perfect for a "World War Z" follow-up. Fincher could've given this zombie movie real brains but also delivered the sort of violent mayhem audiences want when they shell out money to see zombies on the big screen. Juggling detailed camerawork and storytelling with oodles of over-the-top genre fun has been a staple of Fincher's career. The world of cinema is poorer for not getting to see what he could've done with the opportunity to apply that penchant to a blockbuster chronicling a global zombie outbreak.

There's room for improvement on the original

The first "World War Z" isn't terrible, especially compared to all the pre-release hullaballoo over its challenges in getting its third act just right. Despite looking impossibly handsome, Brad Pitt does make for an appealing everyman in the middle of the zombie chaos. Meanwhile, the final thirty minutes (the part of the story that was so difficult to crack) are the highlight of the movie, as "World War Z" goes back to the earliest days of zombie cinema to make something smaller-scale that relies on tension rather than big explosions. These kinds of scenes make "World War Z" a serviceable blockbuster, though an unfortunate over-reliance on CGI and forgettable supporting characters, among other shortcomings, also keep it from fulfilling its potential.

David Fincher's proposed idea for a "World War Z" sequel would not have had to follow in the footsteps of a perfect or even just perfectly fun summer blockbuster. Instead, it would be a successor to a film with its share of standout elements, and also one that shows clear room for improvement. Without having to worry about living up to a sacrosanct predecessor, as he would have if he was tackling a sequel to "The Matrix" or "Mad Max: Fury Road," Fincher would have been able to concentrate on following his creative vision. Plus, the good parts of the original "World War Z" could show someone like Fincher the kind of potential this universe of global zombie mayhem has.

An opportunity to adhere more closely to the original novel

One of the greatest complaints about the original "World War Z" concerned how it left its source material behind. Granted, it would've been difficult to translate this initial novel by Max Brooks into a feature film given that it concerned various anecdotes from around the globe about the zombie apocalypse. Most notably, this book takes place after a zombie war, with these stories being a reflection on what has transpired in this lengthy fight with the undead. The "World War Z" movie departed from this by having Brad Pitt experience the zombie outbreak as it unfolds, building a story based on a single protagonist.

Given how much money "World War Z" made, it's doubtful Paramount Pictures was looking to have Fincher abandon all aspects of the original "Z" movie that angered fans of the source material. However, "World War Z II" could've placated some of those readers in several ways, including working some of the stories told in the novel into the plot of this sequel. With this follow-up, "World War Z II" could alleviate fan concerns about the original film and still make an enjoyable blockbuster for the general public. Of course, this intriguing opportunity vanished the moment "World War Z II" went under at the start of 2019.

A reunion with Brad Pitt

Most auteurs have that one movie star that they click with better than any other. Akira Kurosawa had Toshiro Mifune. John Ford had John Wayne. As for David Fincher, Brad Pitt hasn't just been the centerpiece of some of his most lucrative movies, he's also been the anchor for some of the most acclaimed titles in the director's filmography. Their first collaboration, "Se7en," was the breakthrough directorial effort for Fincher, while "Fight Club," became a cult phenomenon. The duo even yielded "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the first Fincher movie nominated for best picture.

Since "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Pitt and Fincher have yet to find another movie to work on together. Their hiatus appeared to be coming to a close with "World War Z II," which would've seen them reunite for a significantly more expansive project. Even with lots of CGI zombies running around, the mind reels at what Pitt could've done under the direction of Fincher, as he's evolved as a performer since "Benjamin Button." Fincher could've worked wonders with an older but no less charismatic Pitt.

A lower-budget World War Z film

Although the original "World War Z" was a box office hit with a $500+ million worldwide gross, it wasn't quite as profitable as it could have been. Thanks to those lengthy reshoots, "World War Z" ended up costing $190 million to produce. Even though the film made enough cash to jumpstart a franchise, financier Paramount Pictures was eager to keep future installments on a tighter leash financially. When news of "World War Z II's" demise broke, The Playlist reported that Fincher had been planning to make the film with a smaller budget than its predecessor. No exact figure on a proposed budget was disclosed.

Working with a smaller pool of cash, Fincher might've been able to push the envelope a little bit more than if he was working with the costs of the initial "World War Z." Of course, this doesn't mean the sky was the limit in terms of what Fincher could produce here. The filmmaker was still supposed to be a PG-13 movie that would appeal to global audiences, so there's no way he could've gone hog-wild. But financial restrictions might've opened the door for Fincher to try out new, exciting concepts as a filmmaker. There were certainly enticing ideas ingrained into the prospect of a leaner, cheaper "World War Z" movie.

A potential blockbuster for David Fincher

David Fincher has not had the greatest experiences working on big-budget blockbusters. He's been very open about how he had little creative control on his feature-length directorial debut, "Alien 3," but at least that movie got made. Fincher got thrown off "Mission: Impossible III" early on in its pre-production. Years later he would attempt once again to deliver a blockbuster by signing on to helm a "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" remake for Walt Disney Pictures. The bizarre combination of Fincher with the Mouse House would not last. Fincher would eventually walk away from the project after casting disputes with the studio.

After all these problems, you'd think Fincher would never even go near a big-budget blockbuster sequel assignment, but on paper, "World War Z II" did have some appealing qualities to it, namely in that he'd have recurring leading man Brad Pitt around on this production. In an ideal world, Fincher would've finally delivered a blockbuster sequel that was truly his vision with "World War Z II." Alas, "World War Z II" would eventually get dropped, continuing Fincher's relentless troubles in the world of blockbuster filmmaking.

Auteurs and zombies often make a great combo

Putting a zombie in your movie doesn't automatically make it good. However, it certainly never hurts to have the undead around in your film, especially if it's a feature being helmed by a beloved auteur. Great filmmakers have often flourished working with the undead. Just look at Danny Boyle. Boyle had already established himself as a notable director with "Trainspotting," but he rose to a whole new level of notoriety by tackling zombies in "28 Days Later." Filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho increased his global prominence by directing "Train to Busan." Even Edgar Wright's goofy comedy "Shaun of the Dead" managed to put many serious zombie films to shame with its inventive filmmaking. 

Again, a zombie by itself won't make your movie an instant classic. However, zombies are creatures full of potential in everything from the delivering scares to informing a melancholy atmosphere that hinges on the recognition of our own mortality. It would have been exciting to see what a filmmaker as bold as David Fincher could've done with the underlying possibilities ingrained in zombies with a "World War Z" sequel. The odds are good that he would've followed in the footsteps of Boyle, Sang-ho, and Wright, among many others, in showing what a good combination zombies and auteurs are.

An expanded supporting cast

Brad Pitt was the leading man in the original "World War Z," but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone among the general populace that could name other pivotal actors in the film. That's less of a comment on the quality of the performances given by the supporting cast and more of a byproduct of "World War Z's" narrative structure. Pitt's protagonist, Gerry Lane, goes on a globe-trotting adventure to figure out a potential solution to the zombie epidemic. Our hero doesn't have a steady supporting cast to play off of. Instead, he's always just moving from one group of potentially helpful souls to the next. Save for his wife and daughters, supporting players rarely last long in their screentime.

This incidental detail could've been a boon for whatever Fincher had planned for "World War Z II." Without having to carry over a barrage of beloved supporting characters from the original film, Fincher had the freedom to establish his own supporting cast for Pitt to interact with. Even better, the frequently exemplary casting of Fincher's films means these new figures in the "World War Z" universe could've been played by some phenomenal performers. The lack of memorable supporting players in "World War Z" was a bit of a drawback for that feature. However, it could've helped pave the way for some intriguing possibilities for "World War Z II."

Recurring collaborators

Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and the works of David Fincher are no exception. Throughout his filmography, he has been supported by recurring crew members that have proven integral to his productions. For instance, Darius Khondji and Jeff Croneweth have been go-to cinematographers for Fincher's films. Starting with "The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have served as the default composers for Fincher's films. The presence of familiar artists even extends to the edit bay, where Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall have often worked on the director's projects.

"World War Z II" never got far enough along in production to secure major crew members like cinematographers and editors, let alone announce the presence of folks like Khondji or Reznor and Ross. However, it's doubtful Fincher would've abandoned people who've become such key players in his creative process. The precise editing of Baxter or the evocative imagery of Croneweth's cinematography would've been a welcome presence in any movie. However, those elements would've been especially embraced in a blockbuster sequel to "World War Z." Losing "World War Z II" didn't just mean the loss of a new Fincher movie, it also meant moviegoers were deprived of witnessing new contributions from essential behind-the-scenes artists.

Passion for the material

A sequel to "World War Z" is not the kind of movie one associates with being a "passion project." That's not exactly what "World War Z II" was to David Fincher, but it's also clear that this director was extremely committed to this potential blockbuster. First connected with the project back in August 2016, Fincher's most substantial comments about "World War Z II" came a little over a year late. The filmmaker noted that he was working on the sequel, but that he wasn't ready to roll the cameras on it until the script was as good as it could be.

Just slapping up a poster for another "World War Z" film starring Brad Pitt would probably have been enough to get some moviegoers into theaters,. However, Fincher wasn't angling to take the easy route. He kept toiling away on the film, even while simultaneously reporting for duty as one of the key creative voices on the Netflix show "Mindhunter." By the time "World War Z II" was canned in February 2019, Fincher had been attached to the production for nearly three years. Filmmakers of Fincher's caliber don't just stick around on films for that long unless something's really gripped them about a project. It's a shame the world will never know what it was about "World War Z II" that inspired such passion.

A potentially iconic marketing campaign

David Fincher movies are almost as fun to anticipate as they are to watch. Fincher's 21st century films have inspired some truly incredible pieces of marketing — a remarkable feat given how Fincher has so loudly criticized the advertising for some of his earliest films like "Fight Club." The days of that sort of subpar promotional blitz are long past, though, as titles like "The Social Network" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" managed to deliver some of the very best movie trailers of the 2010s. These trailers functioned as impressive feats of filmmaking unto themselves. They perfectly sold you on an upcoming film while also working just fine as standalone pieces of art.

This trend wasn't limited to quiet, thoughtful dramas like "The Social Network," as the marketing for the grim thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" indicates. "World War Z II" may have been a big-budget genre film, but it had as good a chance as any 21st century Fincher film to score a trailer as good as the one for "Gone Girl." Even if "World War Z II" ended up disappointing, the track record of recent Fincher movies would make one hope that the film could at least deliver an iconic trailer or poster that people would still be talking about years later.