Among all the movies ever released about the zombie apocalypse, World War Z is probably one of the most successful. Landed on Netflix in 2023, it’s perhaps the best answer the streaming platform had to HBO’s The Last Of Us, and people have indeed enjoyed the vision. The movie is loosely based on the horror novel of the same name published by Max Brooks in 2006, but its ending is different and deserves to be explained: how do they stop the zombies, and how did Gerry understand the solution? Let’s understand it.
You can watch the official trailer for World War Z here on Youtube.
World War Z ending explained: how do they stop the zombies? How did Gerry understand?
In World War Z, zombies are violent, fast, and seemingly unstoppable. They act rapidly, move like a crowd, and can conquer entire cities in minutes. If they bite you, you turn into a zombie in about 10 seconds. The lab at the World Health Organization even tried to experiment with them, injecting anything in them, trying to understand if someone can heal from the zombie condition, but apparently, nothing works.
However, Gerry notices something important: few, rare people seem invisible to zombies. They can be surrounded by raging infected ones, but none will bite. Segen appears to be one of them: she’s bitten by a zombie, but Gerry amputates her arm. From that moment, zombies no longer seem interested in her. That’s why, initially, Gerry wants to bring her to the WHO, hoping they can develop a vaccine.
But once they are there, Gerry understands what all the people ignored by the zombies have in common: they are all ill or severely injured, and for that reason, they aren’t targets for the zombies. In other words, the “zombie virus” (at least that’s what scientists believe it is) needs a healthy individual to spread and won’t care about ill people. If you are healthy, zombies attack you, but if you are sick or injured… you are basically not worth being infected from the zombies’ point of view.
Of course, when Gerry formulates it, it’s just a theory that needs to be proven. That’s what happens when Gerry enters the infamous B-Wing at the WHO: he needs to collect some lethal pathogen and come back safe, but he ends up blocked in the lab with a zombie out of the door and many others waiting for him, so he just takes a random pathogen and injects it on himself. After some minutes, he feels confident: he opens the door, and the zombie gets close to him, but he’s not interested in biting him. His theory is confirmed: if you are infected by a serious virus or severely injured, you are invisible to zombies. “It’s camouflage,” as he explained earlier.
He exits B-wing, the doctors inject an antidote into him, and that brings us to the ending of World War Z, which is simply explained: the world will develop a “zombie vaccine” that consists of a non-lethal version of a severe illness (the movie mentions a mix of meningitis, smallpox, and H1N1 flu), which will turn you into an ill person but won’t kill you (the vaccine is supposed to infect you with a low viral load).
That doesn’t represent a final solution, of course. It just gave humanity some time and a chance to fight. But, as Gerry’s voice narrated in the end, the war is still on.
Some questions answered
The movie’s ending is quite different than Max Brooks’s 2006 novel. It’s worth highlighting that the novel isn’t really a narrative work but more a description of how the world will become if a zombie apocalypse really occurs: it describes the geopolitical situation in many countries around the world, and it doesn’t provide closure to the zombie infection. In the novel, humans remain at war against the zombies forever, winning some battles and losing others.
The development of a sequel has been discussed for years. At some point, the movie was also in early development, but then Paramount canceled the project in 2019. Disappointing many fans, in fact. Even because the director appointed was rumored to be David Fincher (who afterward focused on Netflix’s series Mindhunter). As of 2023, no World War Z sequel is in the plans.