Warm Bodies is a twist on the Zombie genre, based on the 2010 book of the same name by Isaac Marion. It is a Zombie-Romantic-Comedy at heart, with a dash of action sprinkled in. Taken at face value, this movie is a fun time and a nice film for a date with your undead significant other. If you’re one who likes to looking for deeper meaning there is plenty to talk about after seeing Warm Bodies.
With the premise of a zombie and a living girl falling in love, you have to have an open mind going into this movie. Many people will simply shut it down because they seem to be “Twilight-ifying” zombies. It is not like Twilight in any sense except that it’s a romance in the supernatural genre. It’s unfair to categorize every supernatural romance from now on as being like Twilight.
Jonathan Levine directs Warm Bodies, and was also the director behind 2011’s dark comedy 50/50 starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. As confirmation of this movie’s quality, Rotten Tomatoes has made Warm Bodies “certified fresh” and not rotten, despite the rotting zombies in the movie.
The film keeps close to the novel’s story and uses quite a few lines from the books itself, which is a treat for readers. We first meet a zombie named ‘R’, played by Nicholas Hoult, who is quite a different zombie than you may be used to. Well, different yet still very much undead. Through voice-overs we hear how his undead brain races round, even if thoughts don’t always make the journey from inside his skull and out of his mouth. His best friend is ‘M’, played by Rob Corddry, and after a routine hunt, R sees Julie, a living girl played by Teresa Palmer, and something stirs in his chest. The story follows his romance with Julie, and the consequences of this strange situation.
I really liked this movie! Despite its strange premise, the romance is also well-founded, organic, and believable – when you look past the undead part. The movie is a great blend of action, romance, and laughs, without shying away from the guts and glory of zombies. There is something for everyone in this movie, without it feeling like a mess across movie genres. While the marketing has tended to focus on the romantic comedy aspect, this movie also tells a coming-of-age story. Zombies are, in a way, used as a vehicle to comment on life today, with R and Julie finding what it means to live. R and Julie struggle to break away from the only way of life that they have known.
The gore was of course reduced in order to meet PG-13 guidelines. But, the zombies still look creepy as ever, especially the “boneys” which add that extra creep factor (they just aren’t “Walking Dead”-creepy). The only negative is that the boneys are CGI, and they aren’t of the highest quality. They aren’t the worst quality, but they aren’t the best, which you may or may not find distracting.
It’s sweet that the movie pays homage to Romeo and Juliet, with the names R, Julie, M and Nora, and also with a balcony-esque scene, but don’t be mistaken – it is still very different from that familiar story. There are two great montage sequences that I enjoyed because they made the movie have an 80’s movie vibe. I also think the coloring in the movie is wisely used. For example, there is a great contrast between R’s grey reality and the vibrant colours of his dreams. Also, there are some great wide scenic shots of R walking through empty landscapes and cityscapes that are particularly visually pleasing.
Teresa Palmer does a great job portraying Julie as a hardened, strong young woman, but with a sense of vulnerability. Nicholas Hoult gives a great performance, despite his limited on-screen lines, since most of his lines are voice-over. Instead, he must rely on facial expressions, gestures, and body language, like in old silent movies. He shows a great range of emotions with only sparse words and true acting techniques.
Rob Corddry as M, and Annaleigh Tipton as Nora, both provide some great laughs in this movie. Although Rob Corddry sometimes grunt-whispers his words like he’s a zombie with a secret, it’s not a big deal. John Malkovich as Julie’s Father, General Grigio, is great, though his role is very small in the movie. Had the screenwriters taken the character in the same way as the book, I would have wanted Malkovich to play Grigio a little more emotionally detached. But Malkovich does great with the written movie role.
The two groups of living and dead may seem different, but are more similar than either side cares to admit. People weren’t that much different before the zombies appeared, as shown in a little poignant imaginary sequence R has at the beginning of the movie. People were occupied by the technological devices in their hands that no human interactions were happening anyways. Even though all those luxuries have been stripped away from the surviving human population, we see through Julie’s strained relationships with her boyfriend Perry, and her father, that humanity hasn’t changed. Relationships take a backseat, until R and Julie meet and find themselves drawn to each other. Something special is discovered and it just might be the one thing everyone needs.
You can watch the first four minutes of the movie below:
Warm Bodies is in theaters now!