When the world ends, we’ll all be looking for romance with a zombie. Right?
What They Say:
A funny new twist on a classic love story, WARM BODIES is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human – setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world.
Based on the novel of the same name by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies is a new feature from Jonathan Levine starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry and John Malkovich. While Levine has a few films under his belt with this release, the only one that some people may remember is the recent 50/50 film he worked on with Joseph Godron-Levitt and Seth Rogan. Levine may be a somewhat unusual choice for this kind of material but the film is one that works well for those that haven’t dealt with a lot of action of heavy special effects since it’s kind of straddling a few different genres in a way. What Levine lucks out with here is some pretty good casting overall, a fun script with just a few flaws and a suspension of disbelief that’s easy to carry if you just go with it. While some of it may be more difficult for the hardcore zombie fan to really get into since it’s not really a zombie film, there’s more than enough to like here.
The story takes place eight years after something went down, which is never made clear, but the end came and it looks like a large amount of humanity died off. The resulting of all the chaos was that in this particular city, the surviving humans have walled themselves in and are holding out the best that they can, but supplies are dwindling and morale isn’t quite what it should be. Outside of that part of the city, there exists two kinds of things that dominates the landscape. One is the basic dead zombie types, though they’re not exactly your classic zombie. The main focus is on an airport where we see them stumbling around, going through routines and experiences since they don’t know what else to do. In addition to them, there are the Bonies, which were once like them but have gone even further around the bed. The dead have a hunger and it’s pretty powerful, but when they get to a certain point, they start pulling their own skin off and eventually become the mindless Bonies.
We get to learn about all of this through our lead character of R, as played by Nicholas Hoult. He’s been in this place for an age and has pretty much no memories left of who he was before, though he thinks his name started with an r. He’s got a friend in M, played by Rob Corddry, as they almost have conversations sometimes with a few grunts in a row. The inner dialogue we get from R is a lot of fun since it’s self aware and a little bit embarrassed by what he has to do to survive. And the fact that they all walk so slow. But that’s just used at certain times since they can move fast when needed and seeing them hunt in packs to get food is a lot of fun to watch, since they have that hunger and don’t want to become like the Bonies, which they come across often enough. But in the middle of all of this, R just wants more out of this life but doesn’t know what it is he wants.
Enter Julie, played by Teresa Palmer, and her group of supply run people from the city as they end up getting attacked by R and his friends. The fight is kind of fun in its own way with the tight quarters and surprise, but where it twists is when R sees Julie and it’s like his world just changes completely. It’s an incremental change, but he works to protect her and hide her in his place at the airport, which is one of the airplanes on the tarmac. Julie’s surprised, scared and shocked, but the continued exposure seems to change R and she slowly comes to recognize it since he actually talks more and more as it goes along. The commercials and trailers give away far too much of the movie and admittedly you know where it’s going to go overall, but it’s enjoyable watching how the two spend time together cooped up for a bit and come to realize different things. R’s gaining emotions and Julie is starting to understand there’s more to the walking corpses out there than she thought.
Their journey takes them through a few different things and some of it is pretty fun even if unusual as they go and do some cruising in a convertible and R even gets a chance at driving. Music is an interesting aspect here as R is a collector and we see the wide variety of things he’s brought into the plane, almost as a kelpto, as it includes a really good record collection. Though he’s only able to come up with a few words, which is more than he was capable of before he met her. And his dialogue is what to watch here as you see how it grows and progresses over the course of the film since it’s the way to see just how much he’s changing. And the same with the others in his circle as he and Julie really do start a change here. The nature of the relationship is awkward to be sure, since she’s freaked out at first and does come to acceptance his different nature fairly quickly, but in the time they have to tell it here, you have to make a few concessions to things.
While there are a couple of areas that bothered me a bit (where did she get a weed whacker? Why didn’t she tell her father outright what was going on when she got back?), the majority of the film is pretty enjoyable once you accept the premise and know that you won’t get certain answers. What makes this work better than it might have otherwise, since it almost has that wink and a nod feel to it because of the narration, is that Nicholas Hoult really hits the right tone through his expressions. So much of it has to be told through his eyes, pauses and general demeanor. They do digitally alter his eye color to stand out by being different as one of the corpses, but the combination of his expresses and the grunting really does make him very engaging. Adding in the inner dialogue that we get and he carries the film very well and actually makes me curious to see how he’s going to handle Jack the Giant Slayer when it arrives. Teresa Palmer does well as the main human we deal with here, but she does feel like the weak link. Rob Corddry does well as M, bringing a similar kind of approach that R has, but he’s just a bit more worn down and goes through the change in a slightly different way than R does, especially when it comes to the Bonies.
When I first saw the concept for Warm Bodies, I was wholly behind it and really started looking forward to it. The trailer sold me more, though it felt like it told too much of the storyline, and then getting the first four minutes just added to how much I wanted to see it. While it may play out predictable in some ways, and they may not really be zombies in the classic sense, it’s a fun twist on the undead craze that continues on in so many ways over the last few years. It doesn’t feel like it lingers too much on things, there aren’t a lot of stupid moments that make you roll your eyes and the narration aspect of it worked better than one might expect. What largely made it work for me was the performance that Hoult turns in as the lead. It’s not an easy role and it’s one that you can see change over the course of it, even if it is just a touch uneven at times. There’s a lot to like here and it’s the kind of movie that you’re surprised got made, but will definitely make you smile and enjoy it in the midst of so many more violent works out there, engaging as they are. I’d easily recommend this for a rental and would encourage a theatrical viewing of the concept sounds like it’s up your alley.