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Tony’s Review of “Warm Bodies”

(Image Credit: Summit Entertainment)

A film by Summit Entertainment (the company that brought us “The Twilight Saga”), based on a book, starring a girl that looks like Kristen Stewart in a blonde wig, and it’s about a girl who falls in love with a dead guy?  This sounds familiar.  What am I getting myself into?!  Wait… this movie’s good?

When I first saw the trailers for “Warm Bodies”, I was conflicted to say the least.  I’m getting sick and tired of the zombie genre.  There’s been nothing new and intriguing since “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later”, and films like the “Resident Evil” franchise are just beating a dead zombie horse.  Also, the film is by the same company that did “Twilight” (I think we all know how I feel about that series) and there are a lot of similarities betweent that story and this one.  But the trailers looked so good, and it looked like a new take on the zombie story, I couldn’t help but have a desire to see this.  My wife, a somewhat-fan of the Twilight movies herself, agreed that it looked like something worth viewing, so we bit the bullet and went opening night.  And I’m happy to say this film surpassed my expectations.

Taking place in the near future, it has been eight years since the zombie outbreak and the world has been completely overrun by zombies, called “Corpses” by the living.  General Grigio (John Malkovich) is the leader of one of the last human towns, completely surrounded by a high wall to keep the zombies out.  On the other side of town is a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), R being the only part of his name he can remember, who spends his days wandering around the airport and living in one of the planes.  R stumbles around like every other zombie, sitting next to his best friend M (Rob Corddry) and having “almost conversations”, and avoiding eye contact with Boneys, the skeletal zombies that all zombies eventually become.  General Grigio’s daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer) is part of a group of young soldiers sent outside the safety of the town’s walls to get medicine for the other survivors.  At the same time, R, M, and a group of zombies are wandering around looking for humans to eat and come across Julie and her friends.  After attacking the group and eating the brains of Julie’s boyfriend Perry, R sees Julie and is immediately fascinated with her.  While the other zombies are attacking the rest of Julie’s friends, R smears his blood on Julie’s face to mask her scent from the other zombies.  After taking Julie back to his plane, it becomes apparent that R isn’t like most zombies and completely shatters Julie’s perception of “Corpses”.  He can utter a few words from time to time, he collects things such as records and snow globes, and has no intention of eating Julie.  While Julie adjusts to being around a zombie and finds enjoyment with R’s company, R has a few moments alone where he eats more of Perry’s brain he held onto in his pocket.  For zombies, the brain is almost like a drug, giving them the memories and emotions of the person when they eat it.  After Julie becomes more comfortable with R, we start to see some changes in R.  He’s able to speak more clearly and starts to regain his humanity.  And his connection to Julie is having an effect on the rest of the zombies, seeing similar changes in them.  Now Julie and R try to get in touch with her father in the hopes of convincing him that the zombies are somehow becoming cured.

As I already said, I was really unsure about this film because of its parallels to the “Twilight” films.  To recap, it’s the same studio, another book-to-movie adaptation, a love story between a human girl and an undead boy, and even Teresa Palmer looks like a blonde Kristen Stewart.  But I was pleasantly surprised that just about every complaint I had about the “Twilight” films was not present in “Warm Bodies”.  The actors were all great, the script was sharp and witty, the direction of the film accentuated the overall tone of scenes, and the characters are likable and feel realistic even in the unrealistic events such as a zombie apocalypse.  Nicholas Hoult does a terrific job portraying a zombie we’ve yet to see in film.  Normally we have zombies of varying speeds who are single minded in their hunger for human flesh.  Hoult and the other actors in this film are portraying zombies who still have a touch of their previous lives, with some still performing their jobs as best as they can.  R is a typical zombie in that craves flesh to survive, but we also see him able to open the door to his airplane, turn on a record player to listen to music, and give the audience a running internal monologue.  It was changes like this that helped keep the movie fresh and avoid slipping into the usual zombie movie traps.  In taking on a new interpretation of a well-known cinematic creature, film makers run the risk of going too far and giving the audience something they can’t recognize.  If you just rehash the same stuff as before, the audience will get bored.  If you completely rewrite the lore and characteristics of the creature, the audience has nothing to connect to and it seems “unreal”.  Here, “Warm Bodies” played a great balancing act, giving us “standard” zombies, but blending in the new aspects such as vocal communication and reasoning.  And instead of this being a story about humans fighting to just survive (like every other zombie film or TV show), the point of this story is to actually give us some resolution to the situation, a cure for those who are zombies.

Due to the blatant and understandable comparisons to this and “Twilight”, there’s one comparison that gets overlooked.  You may have heard some people call this a “Zombie Romeo and Juliet”, and that’s a perfect description.  Romeo and Juliet isn’t just a comparison, it’s constantly referenced throughout the film.  The characters’ names are variations of Romeo and Juliet characters, the lead male character kills someone close to the lead female character, and they even recreate the iconic balcony scene.

The only complaint I have about this movie is such a small one, and it’s that a lot of the audience may not be expecting this film to be as funny as it is, and be turned away from it.  The same thing happened with “Cabin in the Woods”, so many people expecting it to be one thing and being unpleasantly surprised when it turned out to be something else, even though it was still a great film.  Summit is obviously banking on the “Twilight” audience shifting over to this film, so the trailers really show this to be a romantic film, hiding other aspects of the movie that might turn off the “Twilight” crowd.  Yes, it’s a romantic movie, but I’d call it more of a horror comedy than anything.  It is apparent when you watch the trailer that there are funny moments, but there are many laugh-out-loud moments, and the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.  To compare it to “Twilight” again, “Twilight” took such a ridiculous story and tried to play it as seriously as possible, but “Warm Bodies” knows full well that it’s a crazy premise and has fun with that several times.  You’ll get your romance, you’ll get your horror, but the comedy is what will stand out and be what you remember on the way to your car after the credits roll.

“Warm Bodies” is very unique and might have breathed new life into the zombie genre, no pun intended.  The zombie genre is not going anywhere any time soon, and that’s apparent with the trailer for “World War Z” being the major trailer before the film.  Hoult and Palmer have a great chemistry together, and Rob Corddry steals several scenes with hilarious zombie one-liners.  The movie will run the gauntlet of being funny, scary, romantic, and emotional, something you almost never get with this genre.  This is a movie I’m considering seeing again in the theater and I highly suggest to anyone to do the same.  This is a perfect date night movie, but a date night isn’t necessary to enjoy it.

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