'World War Z' & more alternate endings
How does a simple zombie movie rack up a $200 million budget? Three words: Reshoots, reshoots, reshoots.
As EW’s Geoff Boucher reported in his World War Z cover story this past March, the film originally built to a climactic zombie battle that was to be shot in Budapest. But after filming was underway, Paramount decided to bring in a pair of new screenwriters — ex-Lostie Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard of The Cabin in the Woods — to reshape the movie’s third act.
The Budapest sequence was largely left on the cutting room floor– but thanks to Movies.com, we now know what would have happened in it if the studio hadn’t changed directions:
Instead of heading to Wales, Brad Pitt’s plane deposits him in Moscow, where he joins a military squad devoted to ridding the world of the undead. Meanwhile, his family hides out in a Florida refugee camp, where his wife (Mireille Enos) trades her body (!) to a soldier played by Matthew Fox (!!) in exchange for his protection.
The theatrical version of World War Z ends with Pitt discovering a vaccine that makes people invisible to the zombies and reuniting with his wife and kids. The scrapped version — which seems much more sequel-ready than Lindelof and Goddard’s take — ends instead with Pitt finally returning to the States, setting off on a journey to win back his wife. Oh, and there’s no mention of the vaccine.
Given the way DVD extras work these days, it stands to reason that some semblance of the Moscow/Budapest sequence — which was at least partially shot — will end up on a future release (and, therefore, the Internet) eventually. And once that happens, World War Z will take its place among the most notable films that have unveiled their alternate endings — at least some of which are better than what actually ended up onscreen.
I Am Legend (2007)
This scrapped 4-minute sequence is the gold standard of alternate endings — a conclusion that adds depth and context to everything that’s come before it, and one that avoids the predictable martyrdom that marks the film’s actual ending. It’s also more in keeping with the tone of Richard Matheson’s original novella, which ends with Robert Neville (played in the film by Will Smith) learning that in the mind of the “monsters,” he’s the one who’sa monster.
And then there’s this monstrosity, in which Bill Paxton intervenes before Old Rose sends the Heart of the Ocean to a watery grave. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes on the Collector’s Edition DVD (shut up, guys), I’d think it was a parody. “THAT REALLY SUCKS, LADY!”
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Then again, bad alternate endings might be a James Cameron specialty. Sure, this conclusion would have saved us from a pair of increasingly bad sequels — but who wants to see badass Sarah Connor as a contented grandmother? Nobody, that’s who.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
You thought the version of this movie that made it to theaters was nuts? Well, it’s got nothing on this original ending, which features Ashton Kutcher turning into a baby and strangling himself with his umbilical chord. I’m putting it on my “favorites” list, just because it’s so completely bananas.
The downside: Dante dies. The upside: No Clerks 2.
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
How to wreck a rom-com in one step: Have your heroine make all her friends believe she’s dead. No wonder this never made it past the focus-group stage.
Wait, remember when I called that I Am Legend clip “the gold standard of alternate endings”? I lied — Clue did it up right, releasing three different theatrical cuts that each ended differently. On DVD (and, generally, when the movie is shown on TV), all three of those endings are shown sequentially. And while there’s good stuff to be had in each one, I’m partial to Ending C, which includes both the greatest improvised breakdown of all time (“I hated her so… much… flames… on the side of my face…“) and Mr. Green’s epic final line (“I’m going to go home and sleep with my wife!”).