REVIEW: ‘Warm Bodies’ gives undead twist
Smitten zombie loves girl for more than her brains
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:02
Now there is an original idea: a zombie that can disinter its supposedly lost humanity. It’s a terrific little twist on zombie lore that dictates that once bitten by a zombie, the victim will eventually become one. Already I find myself intrigued by “Warm Bodies.”
I did panic for just a moment when both leads looked eerily similar to Bella and Edward from “Twilight,” though.
Thankfully, my fears of watching a bad movie proved irrational. If I didn’t know any better, director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine purposely aped the awful elements of “Twilight” while simultaneously giving said elements a more appealing angle so he could improve them. The results speak for themselves: “Warm Bodies” is generally clever, endearing, and humorously self-aware.
Eight years have passed since mankind has been hit with a flesh-eating apocalypse of staggering proportions. The human population has grown progressively smaller and hope grows smaller each passing day. But amidst the ruins of civilization, a disillusioned and bored zombie named R, played by Nicholas Hoult, shuffles along in an abandoned airport amidst his rotting comrades. He just wants to be alive again, and eating the brains of humans allows him to improve his limited communication skills and feel their memories as well.
In an attack on a human stronghold, R assaults and devours the brain of Perry, played by Dave Franco. He gains his memories and quickly proceeds to fall in love with the fallen man’s love interest Julie, played by Teresa Palmer. It turns out she belongs to the same brigade as Perry. Fearing she will be eaten by his friends, R smears blood on her and takes her back to his home in the airport.
Though initially terrified and bemused by a zombie that can utter a few words, the two souls slowly grow closer — with a little help from Bruce Springsteen, of course. R then begins to register a pulse and regain his humanity with the continuous human contact.
The pair soon realizes this phenomenon and its potential affect on the other undead, but Julie’s father Grigio, played by John Malkovich, sees R and the other corpses as dangerous. As the leader of the human resistance, convincing him greater threats loom won’t be easy to do.
“Warm Bodies” has an entertaining and witty script at its core. Adapted from Isaac Marion’s novel, Jonathan Levine chooses to lampoon some of the more outlandish conventions found in the zombie subgenre to great effect. R admits during some narration that the walking dead move incredibly slow and that safety is found in their raw numbers. Otherwise, they’re shuffling targets. He also comments on how nice of a watch Perry has as he takes a bite out of him. The dead evidently have pretty good tastes.
Most of the jokes clearly hit, but occasionally some amateurish dialogue does find its way into the proceedings. It’s a case of material working better on paper rather than on-screen where the action is. Sometimes R speaks a tad too much through narration, and Malkovich’s character suffers noticeably from underdevelopment. Unfortunately, that translates to him coming off as awkward and stilted when he should be intimidating and calculating. After all, he is in command of the human army.
Nicholas Hoult does an excellent job with the material and almost single-handedly carries the film. He embraces the role of a flesh-eater with voracious glee and is clearly having a blast since he has so much more freedom to interpret how a zombie may act. Though initially jarring and unorthodox, R wins us over handily with his observations on daily life in a post apocalyptic world and gets us to root for him in getting the girl. Most guys in romantic-comedies are jerks, but R is one cool cadaver.
Teresa Palmer also performs admirably. She is somewhat hardened, but she maintains her feminine touch even though her ex-boyfriend got fatally mauled by a zombie and she gets abducted by said zombie. She loosens up considerably as the film progresses and we see just how good of a match she and R truly make. The chemistry between the two leads ebbs and flows naturally because of her strong yet underscored presence.
As a final bonus, there is a somewhat creepy atmosphere joined with several good action scenes. Everything looks and feels like the ruins of humanity, but it never becomes overbearing since this film at heart is still a romantic-comedy. It satisfies many of those genre conventions while still doing something different: Well-played.
Light and fun, “Warm Bodies” has something for just about everybody. In a bizarre twist, girls may actually be dragging their boyfriends to this one rather than the other way around, and nobody is going to complain by the time the credits roll.
– Sam McConkie is a senior in the technical and professional writing program at USU. He is a keen writer and has been a dedicated gamer for years. Sam can be reached at email@example.com